We skipped watching a movie last week to watch the Red Sox drop yet another game to the Orioles. As much fun as we had in Fenway, I think, all things being equal, I’d have much rather stayed home and watched this movie than watch the horror show that is this year’s Red Sox. Still, it was fun, and in the process I learned about something that might finish out this project later in October. I’ll hold that until another post, for now, let’s move on to the Wolf Man.
Although the term wasn’t used back then, you could consider this version an early example of a reboot. A few years earlier Universal had attempted a movie of the werewolf legend with Werewolf of London, but it didn’t perform as well as they hoped, and so this is take two.
Lon Chaney is iconic as Larry Talbot, the man cursed to turn into a wolf at the blooming of wolf’s bane (the transformation under the full moon was added to the legend later, probably to simplify the mythology). He’s very moving as a man cursed, and impressively scary in the throws of that curse. Makeup effects are nowhere near what they are nowadays, but they do a great job nonetheless.
O loves that they set the movie on the moors in Wales, he’s liked the idea of a creepy, foggy location like this since we read Hound of the Baskervilles. Then the story goes into Larry Talbot’s romantic interest in Gwen, and his interest wanes a bit. It comes back with their trip to the gypsy fortune teller (Bela Lugosi as Bela, the fortune teller), and the wolf killing Gwen’s friend Jenny. He’s a little confused over the whole wolf’s bane blooming as trigger concept, so it definitely confirms my suspicion the full moon by itself makes for an easier trigger to grasp.
Lon Chaney’s performance reminds me why I liked this movie so much. This is probably the closest the later Universal monster films came to the tortured antihero concept they nailed in Frankenstein. You really feel for Larry Talbot as he’s consumed by guilt over what he’s done. A quick spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen this and want to, skip the next paragraph.
I didn’t catch this when I was younger, but now when I see Larry insist his father bring the cane to the moor, he knows he’ll break free when he transforms. He clearly knows this has to end, and he wants his father to be the one to free him from the curse. It’s an exceptional performance, and Claude Rains complements him well.
Spoiler’s over. You can really make a case for Claude Rains as one of cinema’s greatest supporting actors, and The Wolf Man fits nicely into his repertoire of strong secondary performances, he balances Chaney nicely in the scenes they share. Bela Lugosi also plays a small cameo into a nice foreshadowing of the tortured soul Larry will become once he is cursed.
Overall, O enjoyed the movie, but thinks it’s the weakest of the three we’ve watched so far. I can understand where he’s coming from, tortured souls aren’t really a nine year old’s speed. So far the Mummy is way out ahead, with the Creature from the Blake Lagoon a close second, and The Wolf Man bringing up the rear. Next week, Bela Lugosi returns as we watch Dracula.