Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Friday, April 25, 2008

THE WOLF MAN


THE WOLF MAN (1941). Director: George Waggner.

After the accidental death of his brother, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) comes home to the ancestral manor in Europe and falls for Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers), the pretty daughter of an antique dealer. Unfortunately, at a carnival with Gwen, Talbot is also bitten by a werewolf, Bela (Bela Lugosi), whom he kills. Bela's mother, the gypsy woman Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), knows that Talbot is now under the same curse as her late son and tries to help him. The Wolf Man is not a great picture -- Curt Siodmak's screenplay doesn't hold up to much scrutiny -- but it is fast-moving and entertaining and has an extremely interesting cast. Claude Rains really classes up the movie as Talbot's father, Sir John (who figures in the moving conclusion). Warren William, Ralph Bellamy, and Patric Knowles play, respectively, the family doctor, a policeman, and Gwen's fiance. The wolf man makeup by Jack Pierce is very good, but no explanation is given for why Bela turned into an actual wolf and Talbot into a wolf man. While the "August moon" figures in a poem on lycanthropy recited (seemingly within five minutes) by three different people -- which is unintentionally comical -- the full moon aspect of the legend really doesn't play a part in the story. Unfortunately Maleva also recites the same elegy -- "the way you walked was thorny" -- three times as well. Still, this is well-acted, atmospheric, and quite watchable. Lon Chaney (he had dropped the "jr." by this time) only gives an acceptable performance, however. NOTE: For a sneak peek at the new Wolf Man, click here.

Verdict: Not a bad classic horror flick; the cast certainly helps! ***.

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