The Wolf Man (1941)

Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) is returning to his home in Wales from America after the death of his brother to tend to the family estate and his aging father Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains). Looking through his father's telescope he spots a beautiful woman in an antique shop not too far away, and in typical American fashion he goes down to meet her. Trying to look interested in an antique, he picks up a walking stick with a silver wolf's head and pentagram on its handle, and the girl in the shop, Gwen (Evelyn Ankers) tells him that it is a sign of the werewolf, and that everyone who is cursed will know it because they'll see the pentagram in the hand of their next victim. Laughing off this old superstition, Larry continues to pursue the girl and she eventually relents, allowing him to accompany her to a local gypsy fair on the condition that her friend Jenny also comes along. When Jenny gets her palm read, the gypsy doing the reading Bela (Bela Lugosi) sees a pentagram in her hand and shoos her away. Larry and the girls walk away from the encampment mystified about what the gypsy was so upset about, only to find out shortly thereafter as a large wolf runs from the forest and attacks Jenny. The monster quickly kills her, but once it turns its wrath upon Larry he uses the silver-handled walking stick he bought earlier and beats the creature to death, getting bitten in the process. Upon summoning the authorities, it is found that in the wolf's place is a barefoot Bela, and that the wound Larry claimed to receive has long since been healed over. Larry realizes all too late that he has been cursed by the same lycanthropy that terrified Bela so, and that if he doesn't do anything about it that his wrath might be turned upon those he cares about most.

    Tagline: "His hideous howl a dirge of death!"

    Directing:
    • George Waggner

    Writing:
    • Curt Siodmak

Release Date: 1941-12-12

Claude Rains

Sir John Talbot

Ralph Bellamy

Col. Montford

Patric Knowles

Frank Andrews

Evelyn Ankers

Gwen Conliffe

Fay Helm

Jenny Williams

J. M. Kerrigan

Charles Conliffe

Olaf Hytten

Villager

Jessie Arnold

Gypsy Woman

Leyland Hodgson

Kendall - Butler

La Riana

Gypsy Dancer

Connie Leon

Mrs. Wykes

Doris Lloyd

Mrs. Williams

Ottola Nesmith

Mrs. Bally

Eddie Polo

Churchgoer

Ernie Stanton

Philips - Search Party Member

Tom Stevenson

Richardson - Gravedigger

Harry Stubbs

Rev. Norman

Eric Wilton

Chauffeur

Lon Chaney Jr.

The Wolf Man / Larry Talbot
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  • “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers at night, will become a wolf when the wolf's bane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright.” – Sir John Talbot
    Before we had all the Freddy's, Michael's and Jason's, the pantheon of Universal's Monsters reigned supreme. Of the most prominent three, The Wolf Man had the shortest series (appearing in five films to Frankenstein's seven and Dracula's six), which is a shame as perhaps he is the most sympathetic of them all. While Frankenstein was a walking brute and Dracula was the greatest of all vampires, The Wolf Man as portrayed by Lon Chaney Jr. is simply a man who was unfortunate enough to have survived an animal attack and now must bear its curse. Because of the humanity and internal conflict allowed to him, he is quite possibly the greatest of the Universal monsters from a character standpoint.

    In almost every way, The Wolf Man is a pure classic. It is directed in the classical style that just cannot be done anymore, where every shadow and every little noise has been specifically been placed to terrify, where every attack of the monster, while bloodless, is meant to keep you on the edge of your seat. Featuring a veritable whose-who of great character actors of the time, the film does more or less rest entirely on the shoulders of Lon Chaney Jr.'s brilliant portrayal of Larry Talbot. While many monsters of the period were murderous madmen or lumbering beasts, Chaney brought a level of humanity to the role that no other monster could offer. While many enjoy their nightly escapades, he brought genuine remorse and fear to his character, doing the best he could to try and protect those he loved while knowing that he had no control over his transformations by the full moon. Questioning his sanity all the way, Chaney brings to his character a level of credibility you wouldn't find in most other films of a similar ilk.

    To top off his tremendous performance is some of the era's finest makeup as done by Universal's monster maker Jack Pierce. The transformation scenes may be crude by today's standards, but for the time are pretty damn impressive as the progressive dissolves give way to greater and more elaborate makeup effects. And yes, it's quite clearly just a bunch of hair glued to his face and some simple teeth, but considering the time and Chaney's remarkable physical performance as the beast, this is all quite excusable.

    When it comes to the classics, people tend to fall into the Dracula camp of the Frankenstein camp, leaving The Wolf Man neglected and forgotten amongst its bigger brothers. Sure, it may not be as iconic in the classical sense, but given the all star cast, Chaney's amazing performance and some of the best makeup the era had to offer, The Wolf Man is without a doubt one of the greatest monster movies that Universal has to offer.

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