Upon the death of his brother, Larry Talbot returns from America to his ancestral home in Wales. He visits a gypsy camp with village girl Jenny Williams, who is attacked by Bela, a gypsy who has turned into a werewolf. Larry kills the werewolf but is bitten during the fight. Bela's mother tells him that this will cause him to become a werewolf at each full moon. Larry confesses his plight to his unbelieving father, Sir John, who then joins the villagers in a hunt for the wolf. Transformed by the full moon, Larry heads for the forest and a fateful meeting with both Sir John and Gwen Conliffe.Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
In many a distant village, there exists the Legend of the Werewolf or Wolf Man, a legend of a strange mortal man with the hair and fangs of an unearthly beast... his hideous howl, a dirge of death! See more »
Dick Foran was originally cast in the role of Larry Talbot. He was replaced just one week before filming began. See more »
Although Larry Talbot (Lon Cheney, Jr.) consistently addresses Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains) as "Father", Cheney slips when he asks "Do you believe me, John?" in the castle parlor before they go together to the church service. See more »
What famous horror classic, panned by reviewers upon its initial release in December of 1941, looks better and better every year? THE WOLF MAN, starring Claude Rains, Ralph Bellamy, Evelyn Ankers, and Lon Chaney Jr. as the hapless Larry Talbot.
The story is a familiar one: Larry, the son of esteemed Sir John (Rains) returns home to Wales after many years in America, is bitten by a werewolf (well played by Bela Lugosi), and becomes a werewolf himself. What's extraordinary is the fact that the film can be so effective today.
The biggest reason for this is the acting. Some classic films, pre-Actor's Studio, look pretty pathetic when it comes to realistic characterization. Not so THE WOLF MAN. Curt Siodmak's excellent screenplay (likened to a Greek Tragedy) provides a vehicle for the stars to be at their best, and, boy, do they shine: Rains a tower of strength as the proud father; Ankers hitting just the right note as the torn female lead; Maria Ouspenskaya as the Old Gypsey Woman whose words prefigure Larry's doom....
But the standout is Lon Chaney Jr. A definite mixed-bag as an actor, he is perfect here--and this is a role calling for the use of all human emotions (unlike later Wolf Man films, where Talbot's head-pounding becomes monotonous). In fact, seeing THE WOLF MAN recently has convinced me that Chaney would have made the ideal screen Phillip Marlow (and I'm not forgetting Bogie)--big, tough, surly, yet charming when need be (a highlight early in WOLF MAN is Larry's attempts at flirting with Ankers; Chaney does the surprisingly playful dialogue with just the right touch). There's no doubt that his performance would merit accolades even today.
This is not to say that there aren't problems in the film. The continuity is off in a number of places (Chany transforms into the Wolf Man at one point wearing a sleeveless undershirt; in the very next scene, he's wearing a neatly buttoned Dickey), and there's a scene or two that's completely inexplicable (e.g., why DOES the Wolf Man pass out when caught in that trap?)....
But overall, the pace, lighting, cinematography, excellent musical score, and strong story propel the film through these rough spots, the 70-minute ride leaving the viewer wanting more. For these reasons, THE WOLF MAN is a classic.
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