The Wolf Man (1941)

DVD Cover (Universal Special Edition)
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Overall Rating 68%
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Ranked #2,936
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Connections: The Wolf Man

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. --IMDb
Review by Tristan
Added: August 15, 2007
There were a few before it, and countless after it. But as far as I, and most people are concerned, The Wolf Man is the granddaddy of all werewolf films. It's the most well known, the most respected, and lets face it, Lon Chaney Jr. was born to play this role. I have had countless arguments with people who claim it's only considered the best because it's old, and "old is good". Not true. What they did in this movie 60+ years ago is exactly what every fan of werewolves needed in a movie, as well as a guideline for the likes of Joe Dante, John Landis, and all the other great directors who tackled the subject material.

Frustrated with being second in line for the Talbot family fortune, Lawrence (Chaney Jr.) returns home to reconcile with his father, Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains), after having fled 18 years earlier. His older brother was killed in a hunting accident, so unfortunately, his return isn't as heart warming as it sounds. After putting aside their differences the Talbot father and son work together on a John's telescope. After using it to peruse around the town, he feasts his eyes on the lovely Gwen Conliffe (Scream queen Evelyn Ankers) getting dressed and ready for work. This is the 40's people, don't get excited. She just puts on earrings, nothing too risqué. After entering her antique shop, Talbot decides to buy a cane, just so his asking her on a date isn't totally creepy. This is no ordinary cane though, as the top is a silver wolf's head, one of the many hints to the movie's theme.

It is about this time the gypsies roll into town. Larry asks Gwen to accompany him that night to have his fortune told. She says no, but it's obviously not a very firm no. That night Larry shows up as he said, but to his surprise, Gwen has invited along her less than attractive friend Jenny, who is also interested in having her fortune told. The group travels to the outskirts of town, where the gypsies have set up camp. Bela (Bela Lugosi) offers to read Jenny's fortune, while Gwen and Larry take a nice stroll through the woods. Bela suddenly becomes very agitated, and frantically tells Jenny to leave. She does so, but is soon mauled by a wolf while she is running away. Larry is too late to help her, and is bitten before killing the wolf with his newly bought cane.

While Talbot tries to come to grips with the fact that he's a werewolf, everyone in the town is convinced he is just a cold blooded murderer. Sir John and his associates are men of science, and do not believe Talbot's story. They all think he has undergone a tremendous mental strain, causing him to be influenced by the people around him, most importantly, the dead gypsy's mother(Maria Ouspenskaya) who turns up in her carriage at all the right times, and seems to be the only gypsy staying behind when the rest split town. While Talbot seems crazy, every night when the moon rises he transforms into a werewolf and goes on murderous rampages.

When all is said and done, this is really a tragic story. Chaney is excellent as the sympathetic Talbot. You know he's a monster, but you still sympathize with him, like you should in any good monster movie. Claude Rains too is great in his role as the mild mannered and very intelligent father or Larry. The only thing that bothered me was the huge difference between the two men. For one Rains is British, Chaney is not. That sort of took me out of the movie, as I just couldn't believe that Rains was his father. Evelyn Ankers did her part, but I feel that she didn't bring much to the table as far as originality. In my eyes, anyone could have done her part, and done it just as well. The associates of Sir John Talbot are easily forgettable, and are of little importance to the story, aside from being a threat towards Chaney.I first saw this when I was very, very young, and it scared the hell out of me. Of course it doesn't now, but I can see why I felt that way when I was younger. The movie has a very dark feel to it, and some very nice set pieces. The woods are always foggy, and the trees are gnarled and leafless, giving it a very Sleepy Hollow feel.

Now you're probably thinking, "why didn't he talk about the infamous lap dissolve technique for the transformation". Well folks, for some reason, the version of the movie I had didn't have that, and a handful of other scenes. That'll teach me to download. But being that this is the age of the internet, I popped over to YouTube to watch the scene that has been seen by just about everyone countless times. And yes it is cheesy and dated, but for the time, it's very well done. So if you've downloaded this, like I did, pony up some dough and buy the DVD release, like I recently did. It's a fantastic movie that deserves the praise it's been given.

Crispy #1: Crispy - added 01/31/2010, 01:40 AM
Popped this in since I'm kind of looking forward to the new version coming out soon, and was definitely happy. The 'classic' status The Wolf Man enjoys is definitely warranted.

Also, if it helps at all, Larry was about in his early 30s, and having left close to twenty years ago (placing him at about years old) for America, that's young enough and more than enough time for his accent to shift over.
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