The Wolf Man (1941)

Now here’s timing: while I’m working through these old Universal horrors, Glenn Kenny was doing something similar chez lui. I’m not sure I share his opinion that the film is iconic (it invented the werewolf legend as we pretty much know it, after all) without really being much cop, though; by 1941 the Universal horror series was alredy descending into B territory, but The Wolf Man provides a nice last hurrah for the classic series even so—nice cast, nice studio work (the forest scenes are particularly good), terrific playing by Lon Chaney Jr in the title role. The DVD commentary also makes an interesting point bout the similarities between the character Larry Talbot and the artist formerly known as Creighton Chaney… the younger Talbot has the family name but it doesn’t get him anywhere cos his older brother inherits the family fortune and all that; the younger Chaney had the family name but his old man wouldn’t let him go into the movie business he was doing so well in. Not until the fictional brother dies in the film and Creighton’s dad did so in real life could either man get anywhere (and even then he really had to take Lon Sr’s name in vain). I do wonder if the film might not have been more effective had it gone with the original idea to make Larry’s transformation ambiguous (Tom Weaver’s DVD commentary pretty much accuses Val Lewton ripping the idea off for Cat People) so that we wouldn’t know if he really was a wolf or only thought he was. But maybe not.

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