While on a botanical expedition in Tibet Dr. Wilfred Glendon is attacked in the dark by a strange animal. Returning to London, he finds himself turning nightly into a werewolf and terrorizing the city, with the only hope for curing his affliction a rare Asian flower. Written by
Jeremy Lunt <email@example.com>
The secret to telling stories in any media, be it books, plays, TV or movies, is to make the audience care about the characters. The hero of `Werewolf of London,' Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull), manages to earn our sympathy: he's a botanist obsessed with his studies to the point where he neglects his beautiful young wife Lisa (Valerie Hobson). His ordered life disintegrates when he is attacked by a werewolf in Tibet; he realizes he is doomed to the lycanthrope's savage curse at the same time his wife begins flirting with an old flame, Paul (Lester Matthews). The logical foundation of Glendon's life flies apart, and he came face-to-face with his brutal animal nature.
`Werewolf of London,' like most of the classic Universal horror pictures, is heavy on atmosphere, lots of shadows and fog. The transformation sequences and the makeup are good, although not as proficient as `The Wolf Man' six years later. The Werewolf of London struck me as a more sinister creature than the Wolf Man in his deliberateness. The Werewolf would even wear a sort of disguise as he stalked the streets of London, using his intelligence, whereas the Wolf Man was a more savage, animalistic force that attacked anyone nearby. It makes you wonder who would win a fight between the two
And, as is usual for the old Universal horror films, the acting is very good. Henry Hull moves from stuffy academic to tortured soul, and brings us along for the ride (reminiscent of Basil Rathbone's deterioration in `Son of Frankenstein.') Valerie Hobson is luminous as always, and Warner Oland is quietly menacing as Dr. Yogami, who has an inside knowledge of `werewolfery.'
`Werewolf of London' will probably always be in the shadow of its successor, and rightfully so. There's nothing wrong with `Werewolf,' but there also isn't anything here that `Wolf Man' doesn't do better. It's just part of the horror evolution, a lesson well learned.
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