After his brothers death, Larry Talbot returns home to Wales; re-establishing his relationship with his estranged father and town locals. After settling in Larry is soon attacked by a viscous creature resembling a wolf. Larry soon learns he is infected with a terrible curse and will transform into a werewolf. Reeking havoc on anything or anyone that comes in this monsters way.
The Wolf Man is a 1941 Universal classic of the Golden Age of horror films. It features Claude Rains who played the invisible man in 1933’s The Invisible Man, Lon Chaney Jr. as the wolf man, Evelyn Ankers as Gwen, Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva and an appearance of Dracula himself; Bela Lugosi as Bela. That’s right Bela Lugosi plays a guy named Bela because he’s Bela Damn Lugosi!
Not The First
Although The Wolf Man is a grade A classic monster movie, it is not the first Universal “wolfman” film. 1935’s Werewolf of London was the actual very first werewolf film but it wasn’t as much of a commercial success like Dracula, Frankenstein or The Invisible Man. So in the midst of this massive horror trend, Universal remade the wolf man. Altering the story and changing the monsters appearance.
Werewolf of London’s wolf man has a more minimalist approach to the look. Showing more of the actors facial features which means requiring less time in makeup. 1941’s The Wolf Man looks were actually what the movie intended but due to complaints from the actor, the minimal look was then used. The wolf mans make up took many hours to apply and it is rumored that Lon Chaney Jr was nearly tortured in his preparation for the wolf man scenes. At times having to sit in the makeup chair while everyone went to lunch to having actual small nails driven into his skin in order to hold the wolf fur in place. Like Boris Karloff as Frankenstein, Lon Chaney Jr would rise to legend due to this look. Returning to the role two more times though not as Larry Talbot. Chaney would also play the parts as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy in other roles. But it was The Wolf Man that would launch Chaney Jr into a successful career in horror.
Monster Movie Without A Monster
I’ve thought long and hard about this movie. Like a good five minutes of thinking while a sit on a toilet. The Wolf Man is different from all of the monsters. Dracula is evil in that he murders and lives for the taste of blood. Frankenstein is emotionless. Tragic in his own right but emotionless in his terror. The Invisible Man is power hungry. The Phantom of The Opera is a terror in the name of his passion for art and perfection. The Mummy is murderous in his attempt to rekindle his romance. Dr. Jekyll is evil in his attempt to be knowledgeable and brilliant and then The Creature from the Black Lagoon is just an animal. Then you have the werewolf. A man cursed by something he doesn’t want. Kills because he can’t control it. He’s a tortured soul that kills beyond the of realms of his consciousness. Larry Talbot isn’t a monster at all! He’s a prime suspect for a man gone crazy! It’s enough to say that the werewolf might not even be real!
In the very beginning of the movie we get a message about lycanthropy. “A disease of the mind in which human beings imagine they are wolf-men.” The film pretty much tells us that werewolves aren’t even real and people imagine they are! It’s all a stupid legend passed down from diverse places, So what we get from this title is that there’s going to be a guy that thinks he’s a werewolf. Holy schnikes! You can literally see the ending of this movie right here. WHAT BRILLIANCE!
Larry is a victim of being influenced by outside sources telling him he’s a dog! Upon returning to his home town in Wales, Larry is constantly berated with the lore of the werewolf. He’s probably never heard this crap before. So this guy is all jacked up because he lost his brother and he’s not close to his father. His mind and heart is full of remorse and memories of him and his brother competing to who can pee the farthest from the toilet! He doesn’t even know what is reality. His mind is vulnerable and then he starts hearing about these crazy werewolf legends. He’s susceptible to the lore and believes it like one of those stupid flat earthers watching youtube!
He hears this poem about the lore of men turning into a werewolf: “Even a man who is pure at heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” It’s dictated to him over and over again so it’s planted in his worrisome brain. He buys into the lore by purchasing a silver headed cane with a wolfs head inscribed into it. Why would he need this cane. He’s not old nor is he physically disabled. You think it’s because he’s trying to impress Gwen but it’s not. He carries it around because he’s vulnerable and thinks werewolves are real.
Then one night, Larry escorts these two ladies to a gypsy camp for a fortune reading. He sneaks off into the woods with one of the women while the other is attacked by a drunk crazy gypsy man. Larry runs to the screaming woman and kills the gypsy man with the cane. Upon killing this man, it becomes the trigger that pushes Larry over the top. Say so long Larry, you’re off on a full moon cruise. In his mind, he believes this man he killed wasn’t a man but a wolf. Disheartened and on the verge of going full scale insane, Larry goes to the tomb of the dead gypsy man. He watched as the mother of this dead man recite some crazy gypsy voodoo poem about “being free from a curse.” Oh man, Larry has this curse now! The lycanthropy mental disorder is coming into full effect. He even goes to this gypsy woman for answers and she enforces his belief that he is a werewolf. Of course she’s gonna tell you this, she’s some crazy old reefer smoking gypsy woman that uses nature as her personal shit station! She actually believes in this curse. It’s like being told your stupid by people that actually believe you’re stupid.
Larry, believing that the curse is real; sees himself change into a werewolf. But we don’t see his face change. Only his feet. If Larry would have just looked into the mirror then that would have given him a clear mind. Through his psychotic mind, he moves about and even kills innocent people. But we’re seeing everything through Larry’s eyes. If the view of the film was through our own or someone like his father, it would be some crazy dude snarling and meandering like he had a bad back. When the gravedigger sees Larry, he doesn’t react like he’s seeing a monster. He’s reacting like he’s seeing a mysterious man in the woods. If you saw an actual werewolf, you’d piss your pants and run for safety.
So Larry goes on living with this disorder. Not believing it when people tell him he’s fine and going to the point where he forces his father to bind him up. He’s in denial. The only thing he has right is that he did kill those people. But not as a werewolf. There is no wolf man, never was and never will be. This curse will be his downfall.
In his moment of insanity Larry attacks the woman he admires and Larry’s own father comes to help. Literally replicating the same moment Larry had with the gypsy man. Larry’s father swings the cane at Larry multiple times in defense. Finally killing Larry and seeing his own son laying dead before him. To us we see the face of the wolf diminish and turn back to Larry, but to his father and everyone around him; it’s just the face of Larry. No hair, no fangs. Just the man. We’re still in the mind of Larry and see him changing because that is what Larry believes. The father is beyond struck. He killed his own son and has no clue why this has happened. But he won’t turn into a wolf like Larry. There is a good chance Larry even bit his own father. But that won’t matter. Mr. Talbot isn’t infected and neither was his son. There is no curse, just a troubled man caught in the snares of his lost mind.
HOW THE HELL COULD I MISS THIS! Larry isn’t even a wolf man! My entire life is shattered in knowing that my favorite monster doesn’t even exist in my own damn fantasy land! This ruins everything! The Monster Squad, Silver Bullet, Bad Moon, An American Werewolf in London, Trick r’ Treat, The Howling, Wolfen, Curse of The Werewolf! HELL! DOG SOLDIERS! Those movies are changed in my mind forever! Was I too blind by the “horror” element of movies that I lost track of what I’m seeing. “Oh yea Nathan, enjoy that guy getting eaten by the werewolf when all this time it was a metaphor so you could be a better person! Forget the bigger picture of the 1 1/2 hour movie you just watched. You fricken moron!” Sometimes they have an ethical and relative points to them? Deep seeded plots that are beyond the simple pictures on the screen? My gosh it’s like I’m cursed! The horror side of me that enjoys awesome blood soaked gore is fighting with the part of me that consciously finds plot and meaning in these movies. Am I as crazy as Larry Talbot, living in a world of denial! Everyone’s always told me that horror movies are for sick and twisted social jack offs. But how can this be, The Wolf Man proves this wrong. My gosh I can feel myself changing! Can’t go on… Must fight it… need to see more horror movies! Got to keep moving on… Got to keep going… Don’t let the world be left to horrible films like Resident Evil or The Nun. Underworld films… piles of over dramatic vampire shit. A wannabe director casting a wife that… can’t act. Oh man, I just pooped myself.
Ok, so I’ve woken up from my moment of the crazies. Wow, I don’t know if that entire crap with Larry not being the wolf man is true or not. But it doesn’t matter. All I know is that this movie is amazing and pure. The tones of the film are eerie and dark. It’s exciting and invokes your attention from beginning to the bitter end. I love the use of fog whenever we’re in the realm of the werewolf. I love Lon Chaney’s performance and give him tons of respect for playing the part of the Wolf Man. His father would be proud.
This is the werewolf film that would inspire all others to later come. An American Werewolf in London (and Paris if you like garbage), Bad Moon, Ginger Snaps and others all follow the same formula. A cursed person dealing with the effects of losing it and becoming a beast. Silver Bullet was a great mix in that it took a guy with a curse that actually accepts it and uses it to his own twisted agenda. That’s something I would do. I’d pick fights with gangs and challenge crazy Clinton political figures. Knowing they couldn’t kill me. Every night I’d be a wolf man and go party. It’s not a curse, it’s a blessing!
The Wolf Man did get a 2010 remake and I’m torn as to how I feel about that movie. I like the tones of the film. I even enjoyed the werewolf. How he ran like a wolf and was more ferocious was great. It doesn’t shy away from the fact that he really is a monster. The problem may have lied in it’s cheap effects and action sequences. I don’t want elongated killing scenes, this isn’t Jurassic Park! Also the garbage with his father being the villain was a unneeded twist. I give it props for it’s attempt to remake such a classic and iconic film.
Howl At The Moon
You can see the film as a metaphorical story or just for the basic horror film that it is. Like all movies, it’s meant to be art and entertainment. As a fan of horror, I see it as a monster film because I’m a kid at heart that loves monsters. But I can respect the deep seeded messages from the films. Not much, my brain can only handle so much. As intriguing as a film about a mans psychosis sounds, it’s just more entertaining to know Larry really was a werewolf and Larry really was a tortured man experiencing a curse. It’s kind of interesting but there is an insane similarity between this movie and Stephen Kings Thinner.
So on the sixth day of Horror Move Marathon, let us all howl at the moon and admire this classical ground breaking film!