Tag Archives: The Wolf Man

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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Getting into the spirit of things …

I just need a Halloween horror playlist, though.  I’ve already seen this year’s “Castle Rock” and (of course) the second season of “Mr. Mercedes.”

“Vampire” (1979) and “The Last Broadcast” (1998) both come highly recommended by some horror-fan friends that I truly trust.  I also believe that I have never seen any of the classic Universal Studios monster movies in their entirety.  I’ve watched bits and pieces of a couple of them on television when I was a young kid, including “Creature From the Black Lagoon” (1954) and “The Invisible Man” (1933).  When I was a tot in the very late 70’s, the studio’s Gothic monsters were still very much a part of the zeitgeist … my older brother even had the Aurora model kits.  I finally enjoyed F. W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” for the first time a couple of years ago, but of course the 1921 German film preceded the Universal movies, which re-imagined Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” entirely in 1931.

I’ll probably start first by trying to hunt down a copy of “The Wolf Man” (1941).  That’s the one that other everyone always recommends.

 

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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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