WEREWOLF OF LONDON/THE WOLF MAN: A DOUBLE BILL OF ‘UNIVERSAL PICTURES’ HORROR MOVIE REVIEWS FOR HALLOWEEN BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
WEREWOLF OF LONDON. (1935) DIRECTED BY STUART WALKER. STARRING HENRY HULL, VALERIE HOBSON, WARNER OLAND AND LESTER MATTHEWS.
THE WOLF MAN. (1941) WRITTEN BY CURT SIODMAK. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY GEORGE WAGGNER. STARRING LON CHANEY JR., BELA LUGOSI, EVELYN ANKERS, CLAUDE RAINS AND MARIA OUSPENSKAYA.
These two fantastic old classic horror films were the first two ‘werewolf’ movies from UNIVERSAL PICTURES, which at one point back then was making a pretty healthy living from its series of monster movies.
Although the second film, THE WOLF MAN, was more commercially successful than its predecessor WEREWOLF OF LONDON, I think they’re both equally good and, if anything, I might even have a softer spot for WEREWOLF OF LONDON.
Warren Zevon wrote his famous song, WEREWOLVES OF LONDON, about the old movie in 1978 and I’ve always loved that song. It’s also just been a very dear film to me over the years, and I loved getting the DVD of it as a present from a friend a couple of Christmases ago.
WEREWOLF OF LONDON is the story of renowned English botanist Wilfred Glendon, who gets bitten by a werewolf in Tibet while on a mission to locate the elusive mariphasa plant. The plant is incidentally (but rather importantly) supposed to be an antidote to the bite of the monster so, when he returns to England to his beautiful mansion and his lovely wife Lisa, he gets pestered for it non-stop by the mysterious Dr. Yogami, who claims to have met Wilfred while in Tibet. Hmmm. How very odd…
In THE WOLF MAN, Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot, gets bitten by Bela Lugosi, of all people, as a gypsy/werewolf who can’t help his murderous impulses when he attacks a young girl whose fortune he’d been telling. In trying to save the girl, Larry gets bitten. Which is a terrible shame as he’s only just returned to his lovely ancestral home in Wales for the first time in twenty odd years to reconcile with his estranged Pops, played by Claude Rains. Some homecoming, huh…?
Anyway, both men do their utmost to stifle their newly-acquired lycanthropic impulses but once you’re cursed, you’re cursed. You can’t fight it. Come the full moon, they’re both growing hair on their faces and bodies where there was, shall we say, less hair before and prowling about the delightfully fog-wreathed streets of London, in Wilfred’s case, and the woods of Llanwelly, Wales, in Larry’s, searching for pretty young female victims to maul. Although any auld fella will do in a pinch…!
It’s such a pity as well, as both men are decent, noble honourable chaps at heart and they each suffer terrible agonies of remorse after they commit the gruesome crimes for which they’re really not morally responsible.
Well, I say they’re both decent chaps but Larry does engage in some rather deviant sexual practices, namely voyeurism, which is how he meets the lovely Gwen Conliffe, daughter of the local antique shop owner.
Well, I’m only kidding, of course, as the voyeurism was an accident and not deliberate at all, but it does bring about his meeting with Gwen who, even though she’s engaged to another man, quickly falls in love with the handsome and charming Larry and would go to the ends of the earth to save him from the curse if she could.
Wilfred Glendon is similarly blessed in his marriage to Lisa, but he’s forced to neglect her dreadfully while searching for a cure for his grievous affliction. And he’d better be warned, there’s an old childhood chum of Lisa’s waiting in the wings to snap her up if his neglect of his bright, lively sociable wife becomes too much to ignore. It seems that being a werewolf is somewhat detrimental to a fellow’s love-life…!
My favourite scenes in WEREWOLF OF LONDON involve Mrs. Moncaster and Mrs. Whack, two tipsy old biddies straight out of Dickens who rent a room to poor old Wilfred, who’s looking for a private place to wait out his ‘turning’ into a werewolf. Just like Christopher Lee as Dr. Charles Marlowe did in I, MONSTER in 1971, you might remember. It’s apparently standard practice for gents afflicted with occasional bouts of monsterism…!
Anyway, Mesdames Moncaster and Whack make a terrific double act as they try to work out what’s to be done about Mrs. Whack’s less than sociable tenant. Funniest scenes in the film, you mark my words, duckies…!
It’s also wonderful to see Bela Lugosi, star of the UNIVERSAL PICTURES DRACULA movie of 1931, as the gypsy/fortune-teller/werewolf in THE WOLF MAN. He plays the son of Maleva, a gypsy woman who has had to come to terms with the fact that her beloved son’s life has, of necessity, to be a painfully difficult one. Poor Bela! Sometimes I feel sad when I think about him and his wonderful old movies.
The settings are all deliciously misty, atmospheric, mysterious and gothic and the special effects are fantastic for their time. All you lovely horror fans out there could do a lot worse than watch these two marvellous old films back-to-back as a sort of UNIVERSAL PICTURES Halloween spooky movie marathon. Much as I have just done myself, haha. But always remember:
‘Even a man who is pure of heart, and says his prayers by night;
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright…’
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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