Directed by – George Waggner
Written by – Curt Siodmak
Starring – Claude Rains, Warren William, Ralph Bellamy, Patric Knowles, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskaya, Evelyn Ankers, J.M. Kerrigan, Fay Helm, Forrester Harvey, Lon Chaney Jr.
Well, I had just watched the new Wolfman movie so it was time to head into the vault and check out the original version that really started it all. I have to say that I was surprised at how similar both movies were and that the changes made to the new version didn’t take away from the story at all but actually made it more interesting.
I put off watching this one until I had seen the new version but I wish that I hadn’t. I am glad that I watched them both in the same day as the two films seem to compliment each other. This version had the bigger story that I was looking for and Lon Chaney Jr. made for a much better Larry Talbot. At least Chaney showed some emotion.
Of course this one has all the charms that I’m fond of in black and white classics. It’s got that borderline overacting that has a certain something about it. It also has that great music. Something about those classic horror flicks music that instantly warms my soul. This one establishes the myth of the Wolf Man a little more and actually started many of the ideas that we all have come to accept about werewolves. Even though the myth is shown a little more here, the story itself is pretty light. Granted the movie is only 70 minutes long but I didn’t see the motivation as to why Chaney’s character had come home. Maybe I missed it but it just seemed like he showed up after 18 years.
Now it may be safe to assume that Larry has returned home because of his brother’s death which is treated ever so gracefully by Claude Rains as Larry’s father. I believe the conversation was something like this. Larry – “I’m sorry to hear about what happened to Bob (or whatever the hell his brother’s name was.)” John, Larry’s father – “Hmm, oh yes. Terrible hunting accident. Wanna see my telescope?” Wow, these guys are real broken up over it! Obviously this wasn’t a point of the movie that they wanted to explore and when you’ve only got a little over an hour then you better get to it.
What I really wonder after watching this movie is how Bela Lugosi always seems to end up in every Universal horror flick made back then? Granted, he only gets about 5 minutes in this one but still. They really love this guy and so do I. His five minutes is better than some 90 minute performances I’ve seen. He plays the gypsy who is a werewolf and winds up biting Chaney and making him a werewolf. Lugosi also meets his demise at the end of Chaney’s silver tipped cane which was one of the better shots of the movie. Chaney swinging away while our view of the wolf is blocked by a tree. It’s a shot that reappears later in the film.
I’ve always loved these old horror movies but I had never seen the true classics. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to watch Frankenstein and the Wolf Man. Now I loved vampires as a kid so I had seen Dracula before, but I was really missing out on these ones. There’s an appreciation for them now that I wouldn’t have had as a child though. This is another great one with Lon Chaney Jr. doing an amazing job in his role. While he still exhibits the over the top type acting that seems a staple of this era of film, he’s much less over the top than I’m used to. The man was also freaking huge! I swear he makes everyone else look like little people the whole time.
Seeing this flick actually made the new version of The Wolfman seem better. Knowing that it stayed pretty true to the original tale while coming up with new twists that made it more interesting was something I wished I knew beforehand. Still, nothing beats the classics in my mind and I’ll always enjoy these old black and white horror flicks a little bit more. They lacked the sort of technical abilities that everyone has access to now and they still make a great looking Wolf Man. It’s worth it to take an hour of your time and check this one out.
Under the marquee – Will