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Saturday, April 3, 2010

THE WOLF MAN (1941)


It took two tries before the Wolf Man gained full membership in the Universal monster club. The first attempt, WEREWOLF OF LONDON/’35, didn’t leave much of a mark, but this version laid the template for just about everything ‘lycanthropic’ that followed thanks to the memorable faux folklore from scripter Curt Siodmak. (He was just as successful on the voodoo-tinged I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE/’43 for Jacques Tourneur @ Val Lewton’s RKO unit.) Megger George Waggner was no stylist, but his flat interiors help the eerie atmospherics tell on Universal’s well-trod/fog-heavy exterior sets. The ensemble cast is plusher than you’d expect (Claude Rains, Warren William, Ralph Bellamy, Patrick Knowles, Bela Lugosi & wonderful Maria Ouspenskaya as the old gypsy) while Lon Chaney, Jr. found a natural outlet for his limited acting chops as the depressed, guilt-ridden eponymous hairy guy. Still, it’s hard to imagine anyone preferring this ‘well-made’ product to the awkward, yet poetically touched, early-Talkie horror classics from Universal like the original DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN and THE MUMMY.

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