The Wolf Man (1941)

     The Wolf Man (1941) – “Even a man that’s pure of heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the Autumn moon is bright.”  The original Wolf Man….a classic monster movie and should be revered by all horror fans and kids today.  Sure, this one’s pretty tame compared to the CGI graphics and young hunks that portray werewolves today.  But, this is the one that started it all and the ones most of us think of for the classic monster.  It is also a very good movie.  Loaded with the A-list talent of Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Raines, Bela Lugosi, Evelyn Ankers, & Maria Ouspenskaya, it has great acting and the story holds up even to this day.  Definitely a movie to be watched each year as Halloween approaches or really can be enjoyed anytime.  Rated 94% at Rotten Tomatoes & 4 stars at, you know its good.

Plot – Learning of the death of his older brother, Larry Talbot (Lon Cheney Jr) goes home to Llanwelly, Wales to reconcile with his estranged father, Sir John Talbot (Claude Raines).  While there, he falls for Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers), who runs an antique shop.  He introduces himself at the shop and asks her out.  Reluctantly, she accepts and Larry buys a cane with a silver wolf’s head.  Gwen tells him it represents the werewolf and quotes the rhyme, which is laughed off as superstition.  That night, Gwen is there with a friend named Jenny, as a chaperone.  They go to visit a gypsy fortune teller, Bela (Bela Lugosi).  Bela sees Jenny first, but begins acting strange and scares her off.  Suddenly, we hear her screaming.  Larry rushes to save Jenny and kills the wolf-like creature attacking her, but is bitten during the struggle.  Bela’s mother, Meleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), tells him the creature was her son, Bela, and that Larry is now a werewolf.  At night, he starts changing and the killing begins in the village.  Larry has vague memories and his father believes he is losing his mind.  Ultimately, John Talbot & the villagers set a trap for the creature.  As the creature attacks Evelyn, John Talbot arrives to save her.   Unfortunately, he ends up killing his own son in the form of the wolf….ironically with the same cane.

Commentary – The classic monsters from the 30’s and 40’s should be appreciated for their impact on film and society.  These monsters are the corner stones for all horror films and traditions of Halloween all the way to the present day.  In addition, the movies are very good.  It’s a shame that they are remaking these movies and robbing the younger generations of the real origins of these monsters.  Sorry, I’m a traditionalist and the Wolf Man is not a 17 year old hunk as portrayed in the remakes.  The Wolf Man will forever be Lon Cheney Jr, who played the role in all sequels.  He protected the monster’s legacy for generations.  We should not let those traditions go.  They are signature monsters because they were the best.

Trivia – The Wolf Man is an iconic movie.  Bela, the fortune teller and original werewolf, is played by Bela Lugosi…the original Dracula.  Maria Ouspenskaya plays Bela’s mother, Meleva, was actually only 6 years older than Bela Lugosi.  And, that famous rhyme that is repeated throughout the film was completely made up by the script writer, even though many have tried to tie it back to old gypsy legends.  Interestingly, the transition to werewolf doesn’t focus on the full moon in the original film.  The rhyme was actually modified in later films to incorporate the full moon as being a trigger for the transformation.  Finally, the original rhyme makes reference to the period when the wolfsbane blooms.  Well ladies, that time is from July-November.  So, watch out for those guys out there.  They may be acting strangely after dark.

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