The Wolf Man (George Waggner, 1941, USA)

The Wolf Man (1941) represented a resurgence of the Universal monster legacy into a new decade. Following the great success of DraculaFrankensteinThe Mummy, and The Invisible Man at the beginning of the 1930s, the films in the latter half of the 1930s were primarily spin-offs of those original films. The Wolf Man represented a new franchise. Directed by George Waggner and written by Curt Siodmak, the film tells the story of an American named Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) who returns to his estranged father's (Claude Rains) castle in Wales. He meets a beautiful woman named Gwen (Evelyn Ankers), and they attend a carnival wherein they encounter a mysterious fortune teller. Later that night, Larry ends up rescuing Gwen's friend from what seems to be a wolf attack, but he ends up being bitten himself. 

As the film progresses, we learn that Larry was bitten by the fortune teller's son, Bela (Bela Lugosi) and that he will turn into a werewolf. Lon Chaney Jr., son of the great silent actor Lon Chaney, is billed here as "Lon Chaney", capitalizing on his father's success. While he is not the greatest actor in the world, the performance we came to see is enhanced by the makeup work. Larry's transformation into a werewolf would prove very influential to future filmmakers. The highlight of the ensemble cast is the great and ubiquitous Claude Rains. Notably, The Wolf Man is one of a handful of Universal monster films without a direct literary source (the others being The Mummy and Creature from the Black Lagoon). The Wolf Man also has excellent sets - they feel otherworldly and establish the Welsh countryside very well. The heightened artificiality works in the film's favor, establishing a great sense of mood and atmosphere.  The Wolf Man is recommended for all horror fans.




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