“All astronomers are amateurs. When it comes to the heavens, there’s only one professional”
What can I say about 1941’s The Wolf Man that I haven’t said before. I love this film. It’s my favorite horror movie, favorite werewolf movie, and one of my top five favorite films of all time. Lon Chaney, Jr. nailed the character of Lawrence Talbot and owned the werewolf for every other classic Universal Horror film that he appeared in as a part of the cast. The film also features Claude Rains, Evelyn Ankers, and Bela Lugosi, three legendary actors in their own right.
The film’s plot is very simple on the surface. Lawrence Talbot, often called Larry, returns home to mourn the loss of his brother with his father, Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains), falls for a lovely local named Gwen (Evelyn Ankers), gets bitten by a werewolf (Bela Lugosi) while attempting to save Gwen’s friend, Jenny (Fay Helm), becomes a werewolf, and is then hunted down by the locals. That sounds pretty basic, right? Well, the story is much deeper than that.
Larry’s relationship with his father is tense, making for some friction between them. Larry spies on Gwen before talking to her and does his best to wedge himself between her and her fiancee, Frank Andrews (Patric Knowles). After being bitten, Larry is offered help from an old gypsy woman named Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), but he initially blows her off. This action allows him to become the Wolf Man and ends in murder. Larry then realizes that he truly is a werewolf and he spirals into misery, begging for help.
Larry Talbot is, in my opinion, one of the most complex characters in all of Universal’s classic horror films. Larry isn’t necessarily a likeable character, but Chaney does such a great job of showing us just how miserable the character is that the audience wants him to be saved and feels sorry for him.
I also believe that Claude Rains’ performance never gets the attention that it deserves. He almost steals the movie from Chaney with his performance in my opinion. Evelyn Ankers, who appeared in multiple films with Chaney, also shines in this movie, making Gwen an enjoyable character that deserves almost as much pity as Larry. Her chemistry with Chaney is amazing. Maria Ouspenskaya also deserves some praise for her role as Maleva. The rest of the cast, especially Bela Lugosi and Fay Helm in their limited roles, do a great job of winning over the audience.
The film’s cinematography is excellent. It works as an additional character in the film in my opinion. It’s atmospheric, spooky, and uses shadows to play with the audience’s mind. Director George Waggner uses interesting angles to show us action without actually showing it to us and this only adds to the atmospheric elements at work in the film.
I love this film. I could talk about it and why I love it until I die. Of all of the Universal Monsters, the Wolf Man is my favorite. If you haven’t seen this film, I highly recommend viewing it. I’ll come over and watch it with you if you’d like. It’s absolutely wonderful.
Well, that’s it. Thirty-one days of classic Universal horror. I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading my posts about these films as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. I still plan on reviewing games and collector items featuring these classic monsters, so be on the lookout for those posts in the near future.
Thanks for taking this month-long ride with me. Happy Halloween!