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Lon Chaney Jr's signature role is still one of his best performances. 'The Wolf Man' is an undisputed horror classic.
Infofreak18 February 2004
Lon Chaney Jr lived under the shadow of his famous father, but in 'The Wolf Man' he helped create a horror icon that has lasted for over sixty years. Chaney had already shown that he could act in 'Of Mice And Men'(1939). In 'The Wolf Man' he gives another excellent performance, but this movie was both a blessing and a curse to his career I think. It forever labeled him a horror actor, and frankly he made a lot of lousy movies after this. Some good ones too, don't get me wrong, but too often he was given b-grade material to work with. Maybe his drinking problem had a lot to do with it, I don't know, but apart from a strong cameo in 'The Defiant Ones'(1958) and a great performance in Jack Hill's cult classic 'Spider Baby'(1964), he rarely was given a role as good as Larry Talbot in this movie. Chaney is surrounded by a very strong supporting cast including horror legends Claude Rains ('The Invisible Man') and Bela Lugosi (sadly only a cameo), Ralph Bellamy ('His Girl Friday'), and frequent costar Evelyn Ankers (she and Chaney made a great on screen couple but apparently hated each other off screen. Such is Hollywood!). Many people complain about the casting of Rains and Chaney as father and son. I agree it's totally unrealistic, but I don't think it hurts the movie at all. The lack of Lugosi is a bigger problem. There was more footage of him but unfortunately it wasn't used in the final cut. It's too bad as more scenes between Lugosi and Chaney would have been a treat. Of course they worked together a few times after this, but mostly in lesser movies. The real scene stealer in 'The Wolf Man' is Maria Ouspenskaya who plays the gypsy woman Maleva. She's just terrific, and gives the most memorable performance after Chaney. 'The Wolf Man' has had an enormous influence on just about every subsequent werewolf movie. Much of the lore seen on screen here isn't in fact traditional, as many people assume, but created by the talented Curt Siodmak ('Donovan's Brain') who subsequently wrote the horror classics 'I Walked With A Zombie'(1943), and 'The Beast With Five Fingers'(1946). 'The Wolf Man' is an undisputed horror classic, and just as entertaining and interesting as it ever was.
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Insert Clever Werewolf Joke Here
Shield-316 September 2001
It wasn't the first werewolf movie (that honor goes to `Werewolf of London'), but it was `The Wolf Man' that gives us most of the werewolf mythology we still cling to today.

As with most classics, `The Wolf Man' draws its power from a combination of elements. First, there's Curt Siodmak's plausible and intelligent script. Siodmak said he was given a title, a star and a start date, and from there he consolidated and invented the werewolf myth into a cohesive, logical format.

Then there's the actors, a veritable who's who of 1930s-40s Universal horror. Lon Chaney joins the pantheon on great horror actors on this one, playing the tormented Larry Talbot. He manages to give Larry a tragic quality, a man trapped by a curse he doesn't understand or deserve. Chaney also generates considerable chemistry with the luminous Evelyn Ankers, which is surprising considering the rumors that the two practically hated each other. And then there's the always-excellent Claude Rains, who doesn't look very much like Lon Chaney's father, but still exudes quiet authority and authenticity.

Topping off the whole package is a healthy dollop of atmosphere: foggy forests, Gothic mansions and crypts, colorful Gypsy encampments. Each bit of design enhances the sense of mystery and dread that surround Larry Talbot, and burns `The Wolf Man' into your memory.

I'll never walk a foggy forest at night again!
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The Werewolf as we know it...
Universal Studios had an impressive list of successes in the horror genre starting in 1931 with Tod Browning's "Dracula". The myth of the werewolf, was firstly adapted in 1935 in "Werewolf of London", but the movie failed to get the public's attention in the same way as the "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" series of movies. However, the moon shined for the wolf in 1941, when a second attempt was done with a completely new story. "The Wolf Man" had a great reception and soon was considered among the finest of the Universal Studios' movies of that era and it is probably the last of the Classics as the horror movies of the 40s started to have lower budget and production values.

"The Wolf Man" is a classic tragedy where a man becomes a beast that must kill every time the full moon shines on the sky. Lon Chaney Jr. is Larry Talbot, who returns home to Wales after spending years in the U.S.. Not only he'll have to adapt to the life in countryside and improve his relationship with his father (Claude Rains); now he'll face the curse of the werewolf after been bitten by the gypsy Bela (Bela Lugosi).

I have always thought that the previous "Werewolf of London" was a vastly superior film in terms of acting, direction and even make-up; however, the film's plot is not captivating and in the end not very attractive. On the other hand, Curt Siodmack's script for "The Wolf Man" is a brilliant masterpiece of horror and fantasy. So perfect that it makes up for all the film's other flaws, as it has an unnatural charm that is simply mesmerizing.

Like a Greek tragedy, the saga of Larry Talbot and his curse works in so many levels that is no surprise that it is the film that not only type-casted Chaney, but also serve as basis for all the future werewolf films. Siodmack basically creates the Werewolf myths out of thin air and gives them form with masterful care. Who can forget Maleva's (Maria Ouspenskaya) words? The "Wolf Man" rhyme is now one of the most famous quotes in film history.

Claude Rains is superb as Sir John Talbot, and gives the role the dignity that requires. Probably Lon Chaney Jr. had a limited range as an actor, but he was the perfect Larry Talbot with his sad looks and overall tragic appearance. Against all odds, Chaney embodied the wolf man and made the part almost mythical. The rest of the cast was definitely not as convincing as those great actors; however, Maria Ouspenskaya and Bela Lugosi are terrific as the gypsies who will play an important part in Talbot's future.

Jack Pierce's make-up is definitely the other star in this movie. The legendary monster maker created a piece that is now considered legendary. The wolf man's make-up is more beast-like and primal than the subtle one that Henry Hull used in "Werewolf of London", but that is because both werewolves are very different between them. While Hull's character was the darkest side of his persona, Chaney's wolf man is a beast that posses his body, and Jack Pierce captured that essence with the limited technology of his time, creating an immortal masterpiece in make-up history.

"The Wolf Man" may not be a perfect film, but the captivating storyline and the mystique surrounding it definitely have earned this movie a huge reputation as one of the best of the Universal Studios films of the 30s-40s era. While there may be better werewolf movies out there, this one will always be remembered as THE definitive werewolf classic. 8/10
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The Rising Of the Moon
telegonus31 October 2001
As werewolf movies go The Wolf Man is probably the best. It was written by Curt Siodmak and directed by George Waggner. The script, though it gets the job done, has altogether too many wolf and dog references in it for comfort, many in the first fifteen minutes. A horror movie should never at the outset tell you that it is a horror movie. The title and and cast often give this away anyway, I grant, not to mention lobby cards and reviews. But the idea is or should be to draw the viewer in slowly, enabling him to acclimatize himself to the people and atmosphere so that the horror can, as it were, creep up on him. For all its excellent qualities The Wolf Man does not do this. Otherwise it works fairly nicely.

A thoroughly Americanized Larry Talbot arrives at the estate of his British father, Sir John (A baronet? I wish they'd made this clear). Aside from the fact that he is three times larger than his father and altogether different in temperament (shy and fumbling as opposed to assertive and incisive), the two hit it off well enough. Larry has returned from the States due to the death of his brother, and Sir John clearly wants Larry to take his place (whatever it is) in the village. Larry spies on a young woman through a telescope (Sir John is an astronomer), and goes to her shop, where he buys a cane, with a wolf's head, and asks her for a date. She agrees, but when they meet later on she brings a friend, just in case Larry gets too, well, wolfish. It is autumn and the gypsies are in town. Larry his girl and her friend go to a fortune teller to get their palms read. The palm-reader sees death in the friend's hand and urges her to go. Later on, in the form of a wolf, he attacks and kills the girl, and is in turn killed by Larry with his cane; but Larry is bitten by the wolf, which guarantees that he will become one, too. In time Larry does indeed become a werewolf, but as with everything else in his life only goes half-way. While the animal that attacked him was a wolf, Larry becomes only partly wolf in appearance, though when the transformation occurs he is wholly wolf in spirit, yet walks on two human, albeit furry legs. He is more or less adopted by the dead Gypsy fortune teller's mother, who looks after him, and has a way of turning up in her wagon at appropriate moments. She also recites a poem about werewolfery (or lycanthropy if you will), which I shall not repeat here and which everyone in the village seems to know by heart. Sir John, being a man of science, does not believe that his son is a true werewolf but suffering from some form of mental illness. Yet when the moon rises Larry turns into a werewolf and goes on rampages.

The Wolf Man is quite well made on what appears to be, for its studio, a generous budget; fog swirls everywhere, and the landscape is dominated by gnarled, leafless trees. It's tone is evocative of the Sherlock Holmes films, though not of course the content. There are so many good and bad things in the picture they're difficult to enumerate, and are often jumbled together. Of the bad, the casting of Americans Evelyn Ankers and Ralph Bellamy as Brits. Neither give a bad performance, but they don't belong in this film. It's difficult enough to keep one's disbelief in suspension with Lon Chaney on hand, but the addition of these two is a bit too much. Claude Rains, as Sir John, is a great asset to the movie, giving it a touch class and gravitas. His occasionally supercilious manner is in keeping in with the part he plays; and though he doesn't look at all like Chaney's father, he acts it. Maria Ouspenskaya and Bela Lugosi make marvelous gypsies, and they play their parts sincerely, with none of the hamming one might expect. Chaney's Larry Talbot became, after his Lennie in Of Mice and Men, his most famous role. He is sincere if somewhat phlegmatic in his 'normal' scenes, and early on, before the wolf-bite, lacks the joi de vivre he ought to have, as he is supposed to be a carefree young man. Chaney never seemed carefree. On the other hand his tragic, deeply lined face, sad eyes and prematurely middle-aged appearance suggests a troubled soul,--not an easy thing to fake--and in this regard he is magnificent in the part. His worry, over the prospect of another werewolf transformation, and the damage it will cause, appears genuine, and to a degree seems to come at times from outside the character he is playing, which as we know Chaney had serious personal problems, is a case of art imitating life, and the result is a kind of sad serendipity.
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The Definitive Midnight Monster.
Spikeopath4 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Out of Universal Pictures comes The Wolf Man, directed by George Waggner and written by Curt Siodmak. It stars Lon Chaney Jr, Claude Rains, Warren William, Ralph Bellamy, Bela Lugosi, Patric Knowles, Maria Ouspenskaya & Evelyn Ankers.

"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 Talbot (Chaney) returns to his ancestral home in Britain after learning of the death of his brother. Looking to solidify his relationship with his father, Sir John (Rains), Larry also starts to fall for local antique shop girl Gwen Conliffe (Ankers). While purchasing a silver wolf headed walking stick from her he hears of the werewolf legend; about how a man turns into a wolf at certain times of the year. Later that night Larry takes Gwen and her friend Jenny (Fay Helm) to a gypsy fête out in the countryside, from where Jenny then gets separated from the other two and is attacked by a wolf. Hearing her cries Larry comes to her aid and kills the animal, but during the mêlée he was bitten and soon he finds that the legend of the werewolf is not merely hearsay.

In 1935 Universal Pictures were still on a crest of a wave with their forays into horror. However, their release of Werewolf Of London was met with poor box office returns and critical indifference. Rightly seen as a fine film now, it was back then deemed too similar to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931 Paramount Pictures) and some way away from the tone of Frankenstein, Dracula & The Mummy. It seemed that there was no cinematic life in some poor lycanthrope. Forward 6 years then, and springing from the brain of Curt Siodmak (Wolf Man has no direct literary source), a legacy was about to be born.

The Wolf Man, the character, in the pantheon of Univeral Monsters, is as iconic as his stable mates who blazed the trail 10 years previously. The film itself is a classic of sorts, but a long way from being a truly great movie. Good? Yes of course. Just not as awe inspiring as the legacy would have us believe. Waggner's movie is shot on a B movie budget, with himself only being a modest studio director: lets be honest here, he wasn't, for example, fit to shine the boots of Messrs Whale & Browning. His direction is competent here but devoid of any visual flourishes or boldness of vision. There's also many flaws to be found on revisits, not just the continuity errors that scream out that a rush edit happened, but also in instances within the story. Notably; we are first asked to believe that the small in stature Claude Rains has sired the oak like Lon Chaney; then the big question of how come when Lugosi's wolf attacks Jenny, it is actually a wolf, but Chaney's is actually a wolf-man? Yes indeed.

But The Wolf Man is adored by many in spite of its flaws. And not just by people like me, who after viewing the film as a child was too scared to look out into the garden at nighttime for fear of some hirsute beastie coming to get me! As noted, the budget was B level, but there's nothing B level about the cast here. Rains, Bellamy & Ouspenskaya were class acts. Lugosi = respect and Chaney, with his slick transformation from amiable gent to tortured soul, put a marker down in horror cinema that is still remembered fondly today. The sets too belie the budget; where the Universal crew come up with a Gothic cobblestoned village, bordered by a moonlit and misty forest, where the gloom is only punctured by the glow of shotgun bearing villagers flaming torches. Now that's classic Universal alright, atmosphere goes a long way, and The Wolf Man has it in spades. Credit too has to go to Siodmak, two fold in fact. Most tellingly on why we forgive Wolf Man its problems is that the story is such a good one, so good in fact that most of it has been believed to be based on archetypal legend. Then there's the fact that our protagonist here is an average Joe, not an ignorant scientist or a cursed creature with dodgy family ties, an affable guy who whilst committing an act of bravery is doomed for his trouble. It's a nice veer from the norm of Universal Monsters.

Also impressive is the makeup by Jack Pierce and the lap dissolve effects by John P. Fulton. Dated now for sure, but the artistry shown by these guys back then is nothing short of amazing. Another point of reference to Chaney's eagerness to deliver was that he went all in for Pierce to work his magic. Henry Hull in Werewolf Of London six years earlier refused to succumb to the full makeup treatment. Chaney did, and immortality was secured as he turned into a horror star overnight. The Wolf Man was a big hit with audiences, so much so that the character would appear in 4 further movies as part of a creature feature ensembles (House Of Frankenstein et al); with Chaney playing him/it every time. Odd that such an iconic monster never actually had his own sequel really! Just one of the many strange and interesting things attached to this flawed but truly enjoyable movie. 8/10
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The Tragic Monster
BaronBl00d5 October 1999
The Wolf Man is a film about a man bitten by a werewolf condemned to live the life of his antagonist. Lon Chaney Jr. does an awfully good job transcending the traditional monster out to get everyone with a humane, sympathetic portrait of the titular lycanthrope. This is Universal Studios at its best with a good old-fashioned horror yarn, excellent acting, particularly by supporting cast members Claude Rains, Evelyn Ankers, Bela Lugosi, and the outstanding Maria Ouspenskaya as the old and wise gypsy woman, wonderful sets complete with swirling fog, and special effects that were new and fresh in 1941. This film is fast-paced and deserves its rank as one of the great Universal horror classics.
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Moody Tragic Werewolf Legend - A Universal Horror Classic
ShootingShark21 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Larry Talbot, a prodigal son, returns to his father's country estate. Following a visit with a friend to a gypsy fortune-teller, he is bitten by a werewolf and cursed to become one himself. Confused, frightened and unsure of what is happening to him, tragedy awaits ...

The Wolf Man is a classic Universal horror movie, every bit as influential as Dracula or Frankenstein, with a great gloomy script by Curt Siodmak and memorable performances from Chaney, the gorgeous Ankers, Lugosi and especially Ouspenskaya. Although it is predated by another film (Stuart Walker's 1935 Werewolf Of London), it pretty much invented the cinematic werewolf legend, which for me has always been one of horror's most interesting themes, both visually in terms of special effects and tricks and emotionally - the duality of man, only with scares. The movie works wonderfully on both levels; it's full of terrific moody fog-filled sets and shadows and Jack Pierce's famous makeup job on Chaney is tremendous, but it also deals with the tragedy on a grand Shakespearian level - Larry is doomed from the moment he is bitten and is as much an empathetic victim as a prowling monster. The film spawned three direct sequels and has influenced literally hundreds of horror films since (particularly An American Werewolf In London). A great old scary movie.
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larry talbot should have run for President
herbertweiner15 January 2003
Lon Chaney portrays psychological torment, guilt, and conflict so well in this film. These feelings are so absent in this century. Larry Talbot, in contrast to public officials and corporate executives, wants to do the right thing, and feels remorse at the suffering that he has caused. Chaney also does this in his later Inner Sanctum films. Maria Ouspenskaya is also great as Maleva, the gypsy. And the music is also marvelous. Films as these put contemporary horror films to shame. The former are fun and a pleasure to watch. This one is quite good.
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My favorite Universal Monster Movie
arthurclay8 June 2005
I can't tell you how many times I have seen it but it has to be over 40. Lon Chaney Jr. gives his best performance (he even acknowledged that in an magazine interview once) and is sensational. Not only can he act but he can act with a vengeance. Claude Rains is his loving and sympathetic yet as he puts it himself a stiff necked and demonstrative father who wants to protect his son from well, himself. Evelyn Ankers is outrageously beautiful and captivating. Chaney and her bond like crazy glue to your finger. And the funny thing is they despised each other in real life just like Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland did off the set of Robin Hood. It shows you that in those days actors and actresses really had to ACT. Chaney convinces you he loves this woman but cannot bear the unbearable burden of being cursed and damned to eternal life. Only 90 minutes long but there is enough there to thrill you and it was one of Hollywood's best horror films many consider it to be the best classic horror film ever made. I would say I would have to agree with them.
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A sympathetic monster
mermatt14 December 2000
The wolf man is the beast or Freudian "Id" in all of us -- the part of us we don't want others to see, the part of us we may not even want to see ourselves.

Lon Chaney, Jr., gives a touching and sympathetic performance depicting his struggle with the monster within him. Some critics were snide, pointing out that he came across too much like Lenny in OF MICE AND MEN, but to say that is to miss the sense of pathos he brings to his part.

The rest of the cast is an interesting mix of character actors, including Bela Lugosi who has a small but important part and Maria Ouspenskaya who recites the werewolf verses with such conviction as to make you think they are true.

This film is a fable about us all. We all have a spilt personality that can overtake us if we are not careful to know ourselves.
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The Definitive Werewolf Classic!
Giovanni Caci6 November 2005
I can't praise this movie highly enough, it is not only the best of the universal monsters series and one of the greatest werewolf films ever made certainly the definitive treatment, but also one of my all time favourite movies. Lon Chaney turns in an outstanding credible performance worthy of his father the legendary man of a thousand faces, actually the entire cast is outstanding, Claude Rains, Maria Ouspenskaya and Bela Lugosi.

The script by Curt Siodmak is marvellous, borrowing from genuine werewolf folklore and adding its own. The plot device of having the werewolf see the pentagram on the palm of it's next victim is truly ingenious and I don't know why it was never utilised in any of the sequels or any other werewolf films for that matter.

The score by Frank Skinner and Han J Salter is so haunting, and has a nice rich romantic sound to it, especially the cues used in the gypsy camp, if only The Wolf Man weren't a b movie it probably would have won an Oscar.

Lastly it must be said that Jack Pierce's make up and John P Faulton's werewolf transformations really go along way in making this film, who could ever forget the image of the wolf man walking through the fog shrouded forest in search of fresh victims.
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One of the best, under-appreciated horror movies ever
Comiccritic8320 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers


Still with me? Good.

Many people I know say that, of the classic Universal monster movies, that movies such as Bela Lugosi's "Dracula", the original Boris Karloff "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein" are the best of the classic monster movies. I must politely say that they're missing out one of the best horror movies from the 1940s: "The Wolf Man".

The story seems simple enough: after being away in California for eighteen years, Larry Talbot (the great Lon Chaney Jr.) returns home to learn to eventually take over the family estate, currently handled by his father Sir John (Claude Rains). While back in his hometown, Larry falls for Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers), the daughter of a shop owner and engaged to a member of Talbot's estate, Frank Andrews (Patrick Knowles). After buying a silver-topped walking cane from Gwen in the shop, Larry accompanies her and her friend Jenny (Fay Helm) to get their fortunes told by a band of visiting Gypsies.

Unfortunately, the fortune teller Bela (Lugosi) turns into a werewolf, murders Jenny and attacks Larry when he comes to help. Larry is bitten by the wolf before he kills it, only to have his wound heal the next morning and learn he's suspected of killing Bela with his cane by the police the next morning. While attending a festival the night after Bela's funeral, Bela's mother Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) warns him he's been given the curse of the werewolf by her late son's bite and gives Larry a silver pentagram charm to keep from changing into the beast within him. Larry instead gives the charm to Gwen to keep her safe, but when the moon rises, Larry changes into the Wolf Man and starts murdering any who comes in his path. But when Gwen is his next target, Larry must find a way to get away to keep from hurting those he loves - which may just cost him his life.

Of the pros, the cast works very well with their roles. While Lugosi, Ouspenskaya, Ankers and Rains highlight the supporting roles, it is - naturally - Chaney who gives the best performance. Unlike other monsters, Chaney's Talbot is kind-hearted man who turns into a creature against his will and happens to sever people's jugular veins by biting their necks. You gain sympathy for Talbot in the movie and his character became popular enough to be resurrected and appear in four other films following this.

The writing is brilliant, balancing character development with the scares and chills the movie gives off. The sets work fairly well and the musical score (done by the uncredited team of Charles Previn, Hans Salter and Frank Skinner) works well, setting the right moods for the scenes. The music is often beautiful, including a nice pulsing sound like a musical heartbeat when Larry first finds himself changing into a wolf, or heartbreaking, such as the theme heard when Maleva visits Bela at his coffin or when Sir John learns the identity of the wolf he's stopped.

On the negative side, though, we get some rather puzzling aspects. If Maleva had a charm to keep a person from becoming a werewolf, why didn't she give it to her own son Bela? Or, if she got it later, when and did she get it? Why does Bela even meet Jenny and tell her fortune shortly before he becomes a werewolf? How exactly did Maleva know how to return Larry from a werewolf back to human for a short time when she finds the Wolf Man and, again, not do it to Bela? And how do werewolves manage to dress themselves, anyway? Larry, wears an undershirt when he changes into a werewolf, but suddenly is wearing a dark shirt when he first becomes the Wolf Man. Oy.

Still, despite the flaws, "The Wolf Man" is one of the best horror movies, or movies in general, that Universal has ever done. It may not be a perfect movie, but it's a certainly excellent nevertheless.
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Lon Chaney, Jr. You'll love him, even as the monster.
Elswet26 November 2003
This is one of my favorite of all the Universal horrors. Even in 1941, this is not the original werewolf movie. It was already a remake, even at this early date. However, it is by far, the best of the older werewolf movies; the progenitor which has spawned nearly all other movies of this line. It lays down the basic laws concerning werewolves, gives you a history of lycanthropy, and leaves the rest to your imagination. While the effects left a lot to be desired, they are forgiven due to the incredible age of this classic masterpiece.

Lon Chaney was the veritable epitome of lovable; honorable, sweet, and intelligent Americanized man, who is open and endearing, lending these qualities to his character, and making you love him, even as he becomes this horrible, monstrous killer.

"Through no fault of your own.."

This movie is more than a classic. It is an absolute masterpiece of drama, horror, legend, and melancholy sweetness. This was one of the Universal horror classics which shaped the whole genre of horror as we know it.

I highly recommend Universal's The Wolf Man Legacy Collection DVD Box set. It is WELL worth the asking price.

It rates a 9.5/10 from...

the Fiend :.
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Even a man who is pure in heart...
plato-1129 December 1999
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.

If you haven't heard this piece of poetry before, you'll never forget it after seeing The Wolf Man for two reasons: it's spooky and just about everybody in the movie recites it at one time or another.Set in a fog-bound studio-built Wales, The Wolf Man tells the doom-laden tale of Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.), who returns to the estate of his father (Claude Rains). (Yes, Chaney's American, but the movie explains this, awkwardly.) Bitten by a werewolf, Talbot suffers the classic fate of all victims of lycanthropy. This is a classy horror outing, with strong atmosphere and a thoughtful script by Curt Siodmak-- well, except for the stiff romantic bits between Chaney and Evelyn Ankers. It's also got Bela Lugosi, briefly, and Maria Ouspenskaya, the prune-like Russian actress who foretells doom like nobody's business.
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TEXICAN-231 October 1999
I was ten when I saw this movie, and this is the only movie that has really scared me. The first time I saw the Wolf Man in full make-up, zip, I pulled the pillow over my head (I was on my bed). My father was watching with me and laughed (he saw this brand new in 1941). "Did I want it turned off?" I peeked out and, "No" everything was fine now. I finished my first viewing with awe at the make-up and transformations. I had seen other horror movies, dozens at that point, but, this was the first that had genuinely scared me. And thus began my love affair with the Wolf Man. Good music, creepy sets, good pacing, excellent cast and acting, believable storyline, transformations and make-up that DIDN'T have, or rely on, a computer to make them look good. Yes, computers have enhanced our viewing pleasures with better special effects, but, have they really replaced the Wolf Man's work, or for that fact, have they really replaced Willis O'Brien's work on King Kong. I own both, love both, and have viewed both at least a hundred time (seriously). If you want gore, blood and splatter, check else where. If you want class and quality, you can't get much better than The Wolf Man.
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Makes it harder to pick a favorite monster movie
Steve Pulaski31 October 2013
"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 poem recited all too often in The Wolf Man

The Wolf Man is the darkest Universal monster film thus far, dealing with heavy subject matter such as man vs. superstition, the lost of individualism, and the dark, spiritual transformation from a man into a creature of the night. Such traits also make it one of the best monster films Universal churned out. The film is almost a werewolf in itself: creepy, unpredictable, difficult to define, often beautiful and misunderstood, and hard to forget.

The film stars Lon Chaney Jr. in the career-making performance of Larry Talbot, who experiences a strange transformation cycle after being bit by a werewolf while defending a woman during an attack. The film begins with Talbot returning home to Llanwelly, Wales to reconnect with his estranged father (Claude Rains). Larry then meets Gwen (Evelyn Ankers), a beautiful woman who runs a local antique shop. In the process of getting to know her, he impulsively buys a silver-headed walking stick, which is said to represent the almighty werewolf.

After rescuing Gwen's friend from a late night wolf attack, which, as stated, led to him being bit, he talks with a gypsy fortuneteller (Maria Ouspenskaya), who states the person who bit him was her son (Bela Lugosi of Universal's earliest monster movie Dracula from 1931) in wolf form. With this realization in mind, Larry is informed he will soon turn into a werewolf, to live a dual life between man and superstition.

From the first frame of the film, you know what your in for with The Wolf Man. A film of many gripping scenes of suspense, careful performances, and beautiful makeup effects done by industry legend Jack Pierce. Consider Larry's transition from man to monster. The scene lasts mere seconds, but makeup-application and costume fitting took roughly ten hours to complete. The transition looks easy, but as always, the process was one of rigor and painstaking craft.

Lon Chaney Jr.'s terrifically straight-laced performance only elevates the believability of the film. Despite the strangeness of the concept, particularly at the time, Chaney Jr. chooses to assume a personality of seriousness and one predicated off of subtleties. It's easily one of the best performances in Universal's lengthy line of monster flicks, and deserves a mention alongside Karloff's Frankenstein and Lugosi's suave Dracula.

In addition, this is one of the few Universal monster films not directed by James Whale, but rather, George Waggner, who went on to direct Universal's color adaption of Phantom of the Opera just two years after the release of The Wolf Man. While I was consistently wowed by Whale's inclusion of massive and detailed sets and his infusion of wit to his material, I doubt he could've made The Wolf Man as well as Waggner. Waggner is concerned with atmosphere and tone, two things that weren't always in the forefront in American cinema. The Wolf Man serves as another film that makes it difficult to decide which monster film I enjoy the best.

Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Evelyn Ankers, and Maria Ouspenskaya. Directed by: George Waggner.
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Lon Chaney Jr.
egriffith-225 October 2005
Lon Chaney Jr. is a pleasant surprise.

The Wolf Man is one of those classic horror movies you watch in October expecting some campy fun.

To my surprise however, I discovered good dialogue, decent directing and 1st class acting to take it all home.

We expect this from Claude Rains of Casablanca fame, but the biggest surprise for me is the performance from Lon Chaney Jr. I'm still new to watching older films, and although I knew of his body of work, I had never seen one of his movies. After watching, I really thought he could have been the leading man in a serious film. His portrayal as the easy-go-lucky and likable Larry Talbout contrasts perfectly his later torn and desperate portrayal of man afraid of himself and worried about what he could do to the ones he cares about.

I recommend it as a Halloween/horror classic for anyone's collection.
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Here's a Bite for You
jcholguin8 March 2003
Whenever I see this movie, I am amazed that it seems so sad. Poor Larry Talbot "Lon Chaney, Jr" never asked to be a werewolf, he was just trying to fight off a wolf that happen to bite him. Little did he know that "Bela, played by Bela Lugosi" was a werewolf, how could something like this happen to a man? The only other person that believes Larry Talbot is a werewolf is Bela's mother, the old gypsy woman, Maleva, so wonderfully played by Maria Ouspenskaya. She tells him the old gypsy saying of "even a man that says his prayers...." which Larry won't believe, because it is a curse for life. You also feel so sad when Sir John Talbot played by Claude Rains ends up killing his own son with the Silver Wolf's Head cane. Sir John kept telling Larry that it was all part of his mental state, caused by that old gypsy woman. A movie monster classic that will live on in video, DVD, and late night TV. Just as a werewolf continues to live on, so will the memory of Lon Chaney's great role of a wolf!
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One of my personal favorites,and the best of the three Universal Horror Icons
Darth_Voorhees7 March 2003
Larry Talbot a young student,has returned from his trip to America. He meets his Father,who is sad over the loss of his brother. He needs help with a telescope. Larry takes a peek into a store's window,and meets beautiful Gwen,a storekeepers daughter who is engaged. Talbot rushes to the store,and they fall in love. They quickly go to a fair,where they meet Bela,and his mother Maleva. Bela is a werewolf,he attacks a girl,and Larry comes to the rescue,but is bitten and becomes a werewolf himself! Really good plot. Lon Chaney gives one of the best performances of his career. Really great! I love it! The best of the three Universal Icons. No wonder Chaney called this role his "Baby". It made him a star. Everyone say's he could never reach his father,but to that I say Ha! Great movie!


I only give this to movies I truly and deeply love!
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One of the All-time Best Horror Films
HarryC24 September 1999
Ignore those fakey sets and the dry ice fog ... this is a masterpiece. Chaney at his best ... a story that's as much a tragic romance as a monster flick. The transformation scenes may not be much by today's standards, but I remember being scared to death by them when I watched them on the ol' black and white TV back in my '60s childhood. Short on blood and gore and long on plot by today's standards.
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"You think I don't know the difference between a wolf and a man?"
bensonmum229 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The Wolf Man is one of the most iconic figures of horror. Volumes have been written on Lon Chaney's Larry Talbot, so there's not much more for me to add. I'll just say that I find Talbot's attitude toward his fate in The Wolf Man refreshing. It's not until the later sequels that I find Talbot's continued and repeated bemoaning of his condition tiresome. Unlike other movie "monsters", he doesn't desire or relish the idea of killing. Just compare Talbot with some of the other movie "monsters" of the period. Take Dracula for instance. He relished the idea of drinking blood and had absolutely no qualms about killing. Dr. Frankenstein, while a tragic figure in his own right, was responsible for his fate and knew exactly what he was doing. Karloff's I'm-Ho-Tep is a being that doesn't mind committing murder to get what he wants. In comparison, Talbot is a victim and a very tragic character. It makes the character more human and, therefore, easier to feel sympathy for.

The cast of The Wolf Man may actually be one of the best that Universal ever assembled. The acting is first-rate. In fact, the iconic Chaney may be the weak link. Evelyn Ankers is solid as the target of Talbot's affection. Maria Ouspenskaya steals every scene in which she appears with her understated performance. Claude Rains was a four-time Oscar-nominated actor. Bela Lugosi gives a nice, although too brief, performance as the gypsy, Bela. Few movies, horror or otherwise, can boast of a cast like this.

Finally, I just love these older movies and their non-CGI effects. It took real makeup and camera craftsmen to change Chaney into a werewolf. The stop motion transformation is almost as effective today as it was in 1941. And, there's a reason Jack Pierce's makeup from The Wolf Man is so well known – it works.
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A werewolf movie that's a lot more intellectual than you might expect
Adam Foidart25 January 2015
There are some serious flaws in Universal Studios' "The Wolf Man" but it's an enjoyable film whose influence still lasts to this day. The film stars Lon Chaney, Jr. As Larry Talbot. He returns to his ancestral home in Llanwelly, Wales after learning of his brother's death. Larry and his estranged father do not get along very well and it's quite the grim visit. Things take a turn for the better though when he notices the beautiful Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers). When Larry is attacked by a wolf, he manages to fight it off but the creature has made it's mark. Having sustained a bite from the beast, Larry soon begins transforming into a werewolf at night.

The biggest problem with the movie is that it features numerous continuity and editing errors. There are scenes where doors are opened twice or objects moved twice, scenes Larry's clothing changes between him being a man and being fully transformed and the inexplicable biggie: why is it that the first wolf man we see took on the appearance of a wolf but Larry turns into a wolf-man hybrid? One or two mistakes you can overlook as just simple gaffes but there are a lot of these and other strange inconsistencies in the film that are genuinely distracting. Because of everything that's actually really good in the movie these mistakes are particularly disappointing. It could have been a great film if the script had been polished up a bit and the editing had been better.

This movie would have been forgotten as a film trying to ride on the coat tails of "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" if it hadn't been for the protagonist Larry and the aspect of the werewolf curse. He's a sympathetic character that comes to a strange place and is taken aback by the town's weird obsession with werewolf legends (a legend that prior to the film was not very well known to American audiences). He's a charmer and when he gets afflicted with the werewolf curse (more on that in a second) you really see and feel the internal conflict he's faced with. Our character is literally and figuratively afflicted with a curse. The town's people do not know that it is only a matter of time before he turns into a raging beast and attacks but they still ostracize Larry because of a tragedy that happened while he was out with a young woman on the night he was bitten. The girl's mother blames him for what happened. Her logic is that Larry had no business taking out a woman who is engaged to be married in the first place (She has a point) and that he is the reason her daughter was out that night. He's already shunned by the town, but it gets worse. Half the people that surround him think that Larry's gone mad. Once that wolf that attacked him died, it reverted back to its normal, human form. Larry isn't really blamed for the death, it's ruled as accidental, but still. During the scuffle, they assume, Larry and the man exchanged a few unintentional blows with themselves as well as with the animal. He may be cleared of any wrongdoing as far as the law is concerned, but this doesn't mean that the people around him don't suspect his mental instability, not only because of the "accidental" death but also because of the psychological effect that the death has on Larry.

All of this is purely from a coincidental aspect because in reality, Larry is genuinely cursed. Not only does he turn into a monster by moonlight but he also knows ahead of time who he will attack next. On top of being responsible for the murders, Larry also has the added pain of wanting to warn his would-be victim(s) but is unable to do so because everyone thinks he's basically nuts. While I always look to the transformation sequences as the highlight of any werewolf film, this whodunit aspect is a terrific element I wish was more present in these stories because the beast is able to blend in with the rest of us during the day and this film takes that idea and puts a whole new twist on it.

The film is very iconic. The design of the wolf man is still recognizable over sixty years after the film's release and looks pretty good too. The film has some nice special effects with the transformation (though because this one predates a lot of modern effects they are kept to a minimum) and I love the atmospheric setting of the action. It's set in these terrific woodland sets full of mist. Even the script has its share of good quotes. The best is easily the poem that is repeated multiple times by the people of Llanwelly "Even a man who is pure in heart//and says his prayers by night//may become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms//and the autumn moon is bright." That's some good stuff right there. It's interesting too to see a werewolf movie that SURPRISE! does away with all of that nonsense about the full moon. A full moon never appears during this movie, Larry just transforms at night time.

For its historical importance and the interesting drama present, I do recommend you see "The Wolf Man". The recommendation is stronger still if you are a fan of horror films and for lovers of the old Universal Monsters, it's an absolute must. Granted it has not aged as well as some of the other black-and-white horror films of the time and by today's film standards you're unlikely to get scared. It also has a lot of technical problems but there's a lot more good here than bad. You may believe you know all there is to know about this classic, but there's a lot more going on here than you think. (Theatrical version on DVD, November 2, 2013)
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A monster movie with surprisingly little focus on the monster
rmillerxc24 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
The Wolf Man manages to tell an engaging monster movie story without showing too much of the actual monster, which allows for much greater character development than I anticipated before watching it. Instead of focusing on the wolf man itself, the focus is instead put on the internal struggle of the film's main protagonist, Larry Talbot. This internal conflict makes Larry a character that is easy to empathize with, as we all have had moments in our lives when we believe we see or hear something that in reality is nothing but a figment of our overactive imaginations. The scenes that do include the monster, although few and far between, are well done and feature impressive visual effects for he time. These elements combine to make a film that is both visually impressive and can keep your attention for its duration with engaging characters.
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Beware of the Full Moon
Rainey Dawn26 June 2014
An outstanding old horror classic! A must see for horror movie fans and those interested in lycanthropy films.

This is one of those films I can watch over and over and it's hard for me to become bored with it. My heart always went to Lawrence Talbot because he wants to be cured from his aliment - he never wanted to hurt anyone. He's a likable guy when not in his wolf-man form yet it is in fact his wolf-form that is the most attractive part of the film.

The story is good - it's not flimsy like some werewolf movies I have seen. I'm not saying it is perfect but I am saying it's far from being a cheesy b-rated story plot.

And I love these old special effects, I like the transformation from human to wolf and back to human. Very good for it's day! A great late night horror movie classic! 10/10
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Possibly the greatest horror film ever made.
musicman372 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"The Wolf Man", while signaling the end of the classic Universal horrors, is in and of itself their greatest triumph.

Much of the Werewolf lore taken as fact by the general public in fact was the invention of the screenwriter, the very talented Curt Siodmak, and has very little, if any, basis in true folklore. Not bad for an immigrant from Nazi Germany, Mr. Siodmak had said that much of the "horror" in the film was derived from the horrors he witnessed in his homeland before emigrating to the USA.

Contrary to other reviews, the very talented Lon Chaney Jr. gives a performance as the cursed Larry Talbot equal to or superior to his role of Lenny in "Of Mice and Men". The scenes between he and Claude Rains, portraying his father, Sir John Talbot, are given real emotional heft by the two actors, even though I've never known a father and son who discuss their being "stiff-necked and undemonstrative types" who vow never to have any more such reserve with only a handshake. The later scenes clearly show Chaney playing Talbot as a man who thinks he's going nuts, while his father (being stiff-necked and undemonstrative) grasps at straws to help him fight his demons.

The supporting players are just as luminous, especially Evelyn Ankers (Ankers Away!!) as Gwen Conliffe, the proprietor of the antique shop who is engaged, but who falls for Larry just the same. Bela Lugosi, being thrown a crumb at Universal after starting the horror cycle with "Dracula" in 1931, plays Bela the Gypsy Fortune Teller, the one who visits the curse upon our Larry. Mme. Maria Ouspenskaya portrays Bela's mother, Maleva, who schools Larry and the viewers about werewolves, and becomes a self-appointed look-out for the man turned beast (a role she no doubt played for her own son). Ralph Bellamy as Col. Montford plays the role as if he's in the Talbots' pockets, nonetheless is dashing enough in the role of the local constable. Bits by Warren William as Dr. Lloyd and by Patric Knowles as Frank Andrews, Gwen's fiancé, add to the horrific festivities.

The film only runs 70 minutes, but contains more intelligence, wit, and downright chills than any 10 so-called "horror" films made in the last 30 years.

"The Wolf Man" is a film to be savored over and over again, especially by men who are pure in heart, and say their prayers by night.
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