Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Wolf Man

The Wolf Man (1941)

Directed by: George Waggner
Written by: Curt Siodmak
Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Evelyn Ankers, Claude Rains, Patric Knowles, Maria Ouspenskaya, Warren William, J.M. Kerrigan, Ralph Bellamy, Forrester Harvey, Bela Lugosi, Fay Helm

Interesting from a historical point of view. I'd seen it before, but a very long time ago, and in a totally differant light.

The plot is your traditional werewolf plot. Guy becomes werewolf. Guy walks around moaning about being a werewolf. Guy gets upset about the threat of killing his girlfriend. Guy dies.

The film holds up a relatively well, and has it's good points. The atmosphere... the funky make-up by Jack Pierce... Claude Rains. Okay, the atmosphere is a little spotty, and the make-up is a little silly, but it's just too cute, and out of all of the cheesy horror movies I've seen from that era, this one stands out as one of the better ones.

It may be a notch or two below Frankenstein and it's variants, but it's a lot better than some of the lame-assed, low budget, all together weird Bela Lugosi movies made around the same time.

Take The Ape Man for example. It was made in the early '40s, and deals with similar subject matter as The Wolf Man. Ape Man is a weird, cliche-ridden, Ed Wood-grade, pseudo science fiction movie, chock full of nonsensical comic relief and a stupid looking gorilla-thing (which looked like it could have been the same gorilla that was in Murders in the Rue Morgue). Wolf Man, although sort of creepy (in the spying on young women with a telescope sense, not the serial killer coming up the stairs sense), and bordering on the psychedelic and psychological, is interesting enough to keep one watching (assuming one has the proper taste for that sort of thing).

What I'm trying to say is that it doesn't have too much of the boring stuff, and gets right too the action, without seeming too hasty.

The writing may be a little corny in places (or throughout...), but I blame the time in which it was made.

The biggest problem I have with the whole thing is that Junior there is really rather repulsive. He's big and ugly and he's not a very good actor. They could have at least found someone to play the Wolf Man who was a bit more... I don't know, attractive? Okay, from some angles he's kind of cute, and with that make-up on, he's not too bad, and I can even see how he could be considered kind of charismatic, but he's still repulsive. And creepy. Remember what I said about the telescope.

Other than that, I'm fine. Like the dark, spooky forest, like the photography (is it just me, or was cinematography a lot nicer to look at then than it is now?), like the monster. I like Bela Lugosi, and as I've said before, I like Claude Rains.

I can see that the remake would probably kick a lot of ass. According to my favourite website, Benecio Del Toro's going to play the wolf man (interesting...) and the screenplay will be written by the same guy who wrote Se7en and Sleepy Hollow. I'll probably go to see it, on my unending quest to find the ultimate werewolf movie.


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