FILM&OTHERTHINGS

Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Tenderness of The Wolves

In Film on March 10, 2010 at 5:58 am

I caught Benicio Del Toro’s remake of The Wolfman this weekend (I’m a little behind, I know) and to my surprise it was remarkably satisfying. No masterpiece, but exactly what I expected; werewolves and carnage.

Some of my earliest dreams as a kid were of transforming into a wolf. I can still remember the adrenaline rush that I felt in my dreams running at breakneck speeds, and the sensation of thick hair growing through my pores. These were not nightmares, but fantasies; the fantasy of transforming into a monster. And after watching The Wolfman, I have decided to revisit five of my most-treasured cinematic excursions into Lycanthropy.

Werewolf of London
(1935)

A dud at the box office when originally released, it seemed an unlikely prospect for Universal Pictures to rekindle into one of their greatest franchises. Directed by Stuart Walker and starring Henry Hull – this film features a more human (and sinister) looking Wolfman than Chaney’s iconic image. And if you ask me, this films transformation sequences are a lot more interesting than the studio’s subsequent Wolfman movies.

The Wolf Man
(1941)

By the time Universal got around to making The Wolf Man six years later, the studio craftsmen and technicians really developed what a horror movie should look like. Dripping with style, atmosphere and a tortured performance by Lon Chaney Jr., the mythology of werewolves in cinema would be established by screenwriter Curt Siodmak in this, one of the most beloved additions in Universal’s House of Horror. However, it was not a full moon that turned man into beast in this film – but rather the blossoming of wolfsbane.

The Undying Monster
(1942)

A splendid Old Dark House mystery, mixed with werewolf folklore that is all its own. This was made one year after The Wolf Man by a rival studio 20th Century Fox. The film’s director, John Brahm, remain’s tragically undervalued among horror fans and the conclusion features a simple, but startling transformation sequence. At a brisk 63 minutes, there is hardly anything to dislike about The Undying Monster, except that I wish more people knew about it.

Werewolf’s Shadow
(1971)

Horror fans love Paul Naschy. I do not. No offense to the late actor, but his movies never did it for me. This one however, does do it for me. A landmark in Spanish horror filmdom (and fair to say the most famous in the Naschy-werewolf series), Werewolf’s Shadow
(aka “The Werewolf Vs The Vampire Woman”) is a balls-out, gothic, Euro-horror film. The confrontation at the end is well worth the wait as implied in the films endearing and classic trailer.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

By the time of the 1980s, werewolves had been regarded as little more than b-movie concepts for a marginal audience. It took the box office success of Animal House
for director John Landis to bring his long-festering werewolf movie to the big screen. Nearly thirty years after its release, An American Werewolf in London has never lost its edge. Not only is it one of the best werewolf movies, but also that rare horror-comedy hybrid that actually works.