Tag Archives: Lon Chaney

Throwback Thursday: “Movie Monsters,” by Alan Ormsby (1975)

Alan Ormsby’s “Movie Monsters” was a 1970’s children’s book that wound up in my young hands by the start of the 1980’s.  I suspect that my older brother must have ordered it at school from Scholastic Books (remember them and their in-school sales bulletins?)  So by the time it filtered down to me, it already had the “big kid” book mystique in addition to featuring monsters — I was pretty enamored with it even before I sat down and read it through.

And it was a gem.  God, I loved this book.  (And I wish I’d happened across this on the Internet before Halloween, which was less than a month ago.)

There was a nice rundown of each the major Universal Studios monsters, in language that was easily comprehensible to a young kid.  And that was the first time I’d gotten a complete and detailed picture of the movies.  (They were well before my parents’ time.  And even today, I’m surprised to realize I can’t remember seeing any of Universal’s Gothic monster classics on television.  I’m really only getting started on them now, in my 40’s.)

There was a section of the book devoted to how a kid could create monster makeup out of common household substances, like … vegetable oil?  Baking soda?  Flour?  I forget.  [Update: it was corn starch!  No wonder my costumer friend laughed at me when I told her about this book and told her it suggested corn syrup.]  There might have been food coloring involved too; I really can’t remember.

And there was another section devoted to monster-themed magic tricks, as well as the script for a play that you could put on in the backyard.  Damn, this book stimulated my imagination.  I remember reading about Lon Chaney and Lon Chaney, Jr. and wanting to be them.

Other 70’s and 80’s kids remember this book too.  “Mr. Karswell” at the “and everything else too” blog has uploaded a bunch of pages from it; you can find them right here.  And there’s another neat rundown by George McGowan over here at “Collecting Classic Monsters.”

There’s actually another book like this that I’d love to run down and post about — “Movie Monsters From Outer Space.”  That one, I think, was published in the early 80’s, but that generic title makes it a bit hard to hunt down via Google.  If anybody out there has any links or more info about it, I’d be grateful if you sent it my way.

 

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The End

A few thoughts on “The Wolf Man” (1941)

So I finally watched “The Wolf Man” (1941) for the first time a few nights ago, and I indeed had a lot of fun with it.  Sure, it’s tame by today’s standards, and bit corny too, but it was interesting watching Lon Chaney, Jr. for the first time and seeing the granddaddy of all werewolf films.

Here are a few things that jumped out at me while watching the film and reading a bit about it afterward (and, yes, I do realize that most people already knew these things):

  1.  I knew I recognized the senior Talbot — it’s actor Claude Rains, who was none other than Louis in the following year’s “Casablanca.”
  2. Chaney was a big man.  He is almost always both the tallest and broadest character on screen, and for some reason that surprised me.  Maybe it’s because that in the posters and other media I’ve seen, the Wolf Man always seems smaller in comparison to Dracula, Frankenstein or the Phantom of the Opera.  I half expected the diminutive Rains to become the Wolf Man, while Chaney’s character would become the hero who has to protect the girl, etc.
  3. This is weird … but Chaney bears has a strong resemblance to my best friend from early childhood, Shawn — who also grew up to be a big guy like the actor.  It’s uncanny.  It’d be nuts if Shawn were his great grandson, and we just never knew it.
  4. It was a little odd seeing Rains cast as Chaney’s character’s father, as he didn’t seem much older.  Rains was only 17 years older than Chaney.
  5. The old gypsy man is played by Bela Lugosi.
  6. Rains is easily the best actor here, followed by Maria Ouspenskaya as the old gypsy woman.
  7. This seminal film was not the first Universal Pictures werewolf movie.  That would be “Werewolf of London,” which preceded it by six years.  That movie is the one that inspired the 1978 “Werewolves of London” song by Warren Zevon, as well as John Landis’ 1981 masterpiece, “An American Werewolf in London.”
  8. The Wolf Man monster was made famous for a certain onscreen transformation that represented groundbreaking special effects for its time — the gradual transformation of the monster’s face on camera.  But that key effects sequence didn’t appear here in the 1941 original — only in its several sequels.
  9. The movie was released on December 9, 1941, just two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

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“The Wolf Man” (1941)

Here’s what looks like a publicity still for “The Wolf Man” (1941); this is part of my efforts to monster up the blogosphere a bit this Halloween.

For some reason, it seems weird to me that the classic Universal monster movies came out before America entered World War II.  They really ARE old movies.

I had a children’s book about the making of the Universal classics when I was a kid.  I remember reading how Lon Chaney, Jr.’s makeup had to be applied — each hair was apparently placed there strand by strand.  And audiences back then were quite thrilled with the result.

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