Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Wolf Man (1941)

Far from being a standard creature feature, The Wolf Man is more of a tragedy than a horror film.  Lon Chaney's Larry Talbot is very much the victim in this story; as the wolf man he can't stop what he's doing but he is wracked with guilt about it.  To add to Larry’s tragedy, Gwen (Evelyn Ankers), despite being betrothed to another, becomes very sympathetic his misfortune and cares more for him than her fiancé by the end of the film.  Evelyn is very good as Gwen, as is Claude Rains as Sir John Talbot; as Larry’s father he is very serious but always defensive of his son, not believing the fairy stories surrounding werewolves.

It is a very atmospheric film, with the marshes being very gloomy and misty, full of old gnarled trees.  Clearly the special effects of the transformations are not very, well, special; essentially we see his shins get hairy!  But since it’s not the effects that are the point of the film, it hardly matters.  I’ve mentioned the tragedy, but the film is also very much a fairy story also; everyone in the town seems to know about werewolves (though not believing in them), and everyone knows the rhyme: Beware the Judderman when the moon is fat! “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.”

A great movie, full of atmosphere, well written characters, well acted, and Bela Lugosi. What else do you need?