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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When someone talks about the Golden Age of Horror films at Universal, the conversation always revolves around Karloff, Lugosi and Chaney Jr. and their respective characters Frankenstein's Creature, Dracula and the Wolf Man respectively; so it is almost tragic that the first Werewolf movie made by Universal is terribly forgotten. That is the Werewolf of London.
Before I continue, the plot in short: Henry Hull plays Dr. Wilfred Glendon, a biologist who on a trip to Tibet gets bitten by a strange creature with disastrous consequences. Warner Oland is Dr. Yogami, a mysterious colleague that warns him about the Lycanthropy, the werewolf's curse. Things gets even more complicated as his wife Lisa (Valerie Hobson) starts to feel attracted to Paul (played by Lester Matthews), an old flame who just returned to England.
As someone who grew up not knowing of the existence of this film, I watched it believing it was a cheap movie to cash on The Wolf Man; after watching, all I can say is that boy I was wrong with those two statements.
Not only this movie was done 6 years before the classic werewolf movie, it presents a unique portrayal of the werewolf curse, showing it from a scientific perspective. The Lycanthropy here is not a curse rooted in folklore, it is a terrible disease that, paraphrasing Dr. Oland, "takes out the worst things of both wolf and man". The werewolf here has the intelligence of man and the savage brutality of wolf; and the way it is portrayed here is more than a nod to "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".
The movie is very atmospheric, like the earlier Universal films where the expressionist influence was still very present; it also includes awesome transformation scenes that I dare to say surpasses those from The Wolf Man. The make-up here, by Jack Pierce of "Frankenstein" fame, is outstanding and fits to perfection the tone of this movie in contrast to the more beast-like make-up created for Larry Talbot's adventure.
The acting is quite average for the most part, but I'm of those who believe that Henry Hull's performance was supposed to be that way, since he starts as an annoying selfish man that begins to appreciate what he loves as the diseases takes control of him (the scene of the prayer is very moving).
Oland and Hobson also give worthy performances, but the rest of the cast is not that lucky and I found Lester Matthews to be a bit annoying at times. Comic relief is well placed in scenes of a couple of old ladies arguing, that scene is a perfect example of how was comedy in those days and I think it serves well the purpose of lightening a bit a movie that would be very very dark.
The movie also has its troubles, not only the cast is average, the script gets very boring at times, and it seriously hurts the film. A bit of more care on the development of the story would had turned this movie into a perfect movie. Nevertheless, I must say that the dramatic and horror scenes were handled very well.
A terribly forgotten classic, I'm very glad that it is now available again since it is a movie that, while probably on the "love it or hate it" category, deserves to be watched at least once in a lifetime. 8/10
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