The Wolf Man (1941) Poster

(1941)

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  • After living in the United States for the past 18 years, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) returns to Talbot Castle, the family estate in Wales where werewolf legends still prevail among the uneducated townsfolk. One night, while visiting a gypsy camp to have their fortunes told, Larry and his two friends—Jenny Williams (Fay Helm) and Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers)—are attacked by a large wolf. Jenny is killed, and Larry is bitten, but he is able to kill the beast by beating it with his cane, which bears a wolf's head made of silver. When the police go looking for Jenny's body, they do find wolf tracks, but they also find the body of Bela (Bela Lugosi), the gypsy fortune teller, lying next to Larry's cane. When things don't seem to be adding up, people begin to doubt Larry's sanity. The only one who seems able to help him is Bela's mother, the gypsy Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), who informs him that he is turning into a werewolf.

  • The Wolf Man is based on a screenplay by German-born writer Curt Siodmak. A remake, The Wolfman (2010), was released in 2010.

  • 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.

  • Larry sees the pentagram on Gwen's palm, so he allows his father, Sir John (Claude Rains), to bind him to a chair so that he can't get loose. When Sir John leaves to join the police looking for the murdering wolf, Larry bids his father to take with him the silver wolf cane. Later, Larry somehow gets loose and, as the Wolf Man, begins to roam the woods. Meanwhile, Gwen sets out to look for Larry, although warned by Maleva that 'he will find you.' As predicted, the Wolf Man sees Gwen and pursues her. Just as he attacks her, however, Sir John catches up and beats him to death with the cane. When the Wolf Man is transformed back into Larry, Sir John is horrified that he has killed is own son. In the final scene, Colonel Montford (Ralph Bellamy) deduces that the wolf must have attacked Gwen and that Larry came to her rescue.

  • No, there was one other full-length werewolf movie prior to Universal's The Wolf Man—Werewolf of London (1935) (1935). There was also an 18-minute short, The Werewolf (1913), released in 1913. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a fire in 1924, and any copies are also presumed lost.

  • Not very. Much of what modern viewers think of as "traditional werewolf lore" was invented by Hollywood. In real traditional folklore, werewolves were made by being cursed or (more often) deliberately making a pact with the devil. Werewolves changed into regular wolves, could change at will, and were mortal and could be killed by conventional means. The notions that one became a werewolf by a bite and changed involuntarily when the moon was full were invented by the Werewolf of London (1935), a box-office flop at the time, but now regarded as a minor classic. That movie was also the first to feature a bipedal wolf-man creature, probably done partly to avoid having to use a trained wolf and for dramatic effect. The Wolf Man screenwriter Curt Siodmak created the plot element of a silver bullet being the only thing that can kill a werewolf and werewolves being repulsed by wolfsbane. Later films would invent the detail that werewolves are immortal, as a way of justifying bringing the character back for multiple sequels, and also adding other (fictional) details for dramatic effect. Eventually, these ideas became so prevalent in pop culture that they are now mistaken for real, traditional folklore.

  • Altogether, five times (including this one). The Wolf Man was followed by Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944) (1944), House of Dracula (1945) (1945), and Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) (1948), in which Chaney played relatively minor roles as Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man.

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