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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Of Ones I Keep Coming Back To


Another Bite at The Wolf Man (1941)

Larry Talbot is likeable from our first seeing him sharing front seat with his chauffeur, a Yank with the common touch come home to awkward reunion with father Claude Rains, who looks anything but. Should Claude have had serious talk with the gardener or stable boy some years before? There was apparently an older son, also Lon-like based on a portrait, and you have to wonder what mother produced these two in concert with Rains. Such concern is what comes of seeing The Wolf Man perhaps too many times, but once you've done so, what is there to observe but petty details? Well, for one, a Blu-Ray so rich and detailed as to approach live performance --- nothing petty in that remarkable plus --- and each view is further confirmation that this may be a fastest-paced of Universal horrors. I don't wonder that fans welcomed the lycanthrope back for a quartet of follow-ups, him the only fresh monster Universal yielded in the 40's (and I'm not forgetting Rondo Hatton and Paula The Ape Woman, but do either of these compete?). Questions arise: Would Larry use Sir John's telescope to again peek in at Gwen, perhaps at bedtime? When Sir John tied Larry to the chair and left the house, did he not consider that his son may need a privy break? Ralph Bellamy looked back on this and Ghost Of Frankenstein mainly in terms of on-set laughs; did anyone ever satisfy him as to how meaningful these pictures were to us? Law enforcement is surprisingly lax as to gypsy Bela dying "in the confusion" of a wolf attack, and later on, with Larry fairly aching to confess to other murders, no one listens. Talbot village would seem an ideal retreat from consequence of crime. I'd like knowing what crew person took home Larry's wolf head cane, "make a nice putter" indeed. Did someone eventually use it for just that? Chaney looks fit and almost handsome here, The Wolf Man a sole romantic lead for him that was credible. The character was "my baby," he used to say. By 1941, Lon was lucky to pull that one out of Universal's cooled-off oven.

11 Comments:

Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Wondered what you would treat us to for Hallowe'en. Spot on. I thought about the parentage issue first time I saw this (on TV in my teens). I was annoyed we got more of Claude Rains and so little of Bela Lugosi. I became a HUGE fan of Мария Алексеевна Успенская (Maria Ouspenskaya)as, I gather, have a lot of other folks. You're right about Rondo Hatton and Paula The Ape Woman. They are there but barely register. If it had not been for Chaney this film would not register either.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

For one reason or other, THE WOLFMAN was the last of the big name Universal horrors to cross off my bucket list. I was well into adulthood watching it for the first time, almost a parent myself and a lot of those quirks and inconsistencies you mentioned stuck out like a sore paw. Bela turns into a wolf, but Lon turns into a Wolfman... why? Still thought the film was great, was and am still bowled over by that million dollar cast. But here's the thing: the very first Shock Theater item I saw as a kid was THE WERE-WOLF OF LONDON, all by my 12 year old self on a Saturday midnight broadcast. Yes, inferior in so many ways to the later film, but guess which one I get all sentimental and uncritical about? WOLFMAN I've revisited over the years, have enjoyed it, but WERE-WOLF I go out of my way every time to catch. Have seen it DOZENS of times!

9:42 AM  
Blogger DBenson said...

The main Universal monsters neatly touched nearly all the bases:
-- The Undead (Mummy)
-- Science Run Amuck (Invisible Man)
-- Vampires (Dracula)
-- Werewolves (Wolf-Man)
-- Madmen (Phantom of the Opera, and pop culture conflating the Hunchback of Notre Dame with various lab assistants)
-- Scary Sci-Fi (Creature from the Black Lagoon)
Frankenstein's Monster combined Science Run Amuck, the Undead, and the unholiness of Vampires.

The only real gap is ghosts. Were there any 30s films that took ghosts seriously? Mostly, they either get debunked or are played for laughs, while the other horrors were almost always presented as real ("She-Wolf of London" being a rare exception).

It's amusing to speculate on a possible Universal series, with a translucent John Carradine in period costume haunting various B players into madness and murder, either as permanent resident of an old mansion or attached to some cursed artifact that keeps changing hands.

2:41 PM  
Blogger StevensScope said...

SHOCK THEATER-- what a great show that was on television every week, showing UNIVERSAL horror flicks! As I recall, the title of the film to be shown was never listed in whatever TV listings that were available, which brought on severe anxiety attacks, never soothed until the very start of each program, when, alas, at last the UNIVERSAL logo for the film came onto the small TV screen, then the title- and then my usual companion/cousin and I would go running into the kitchen about 8:05 pm or so to scream out the title for our folks, always hoping the excitement would be shared equally, but the reaction always the same: "wonderful-tell us about it later!" As much as I love the werewolf by LON, my sentimental pic has always auto-jumped to WEREWOLF OF LONDON(1935); and whoever then or since then would EVER think HENRY HULL, of all actors, would even be in the running for such a choice role? There are little bits of terror that one may not catch the first time around, like the zoo-mirror scene; and how about the looking thru-the keyhole scene/shot of Hull looking right back at the keyhole and giving a quick, startling 'woof'--which, in contrast to the serious tone of the film the shocks the audience as well with some 'humor relief' added-and this is something that is usually missing in later horror flicks, I think- and it is something that is usually there and needed with most films no matter what the story is. The last half-century has brought viewers (practically) nothing classic to remember - and the volume of 'horror' since has created a public de-sensed and de-shocked; no wonder emotions seemed tampered with, so that nobody can be shocked by anything anymore. That- is a scary thing. Young folks and older folks pretty much view UNIVERSAL HORROR classics today, with total humor and rightly so, I reckon, having had been fed all of the horrible garbage thrown at them from the screen ever since. (OK, OK-! I admit to SOME of the scary stuff made since). HOWEVER, I STILL believe that the grave-digger lighting his pipe on his break contains possibly one of the most frightening scenes of all : Chaney's VICIOUS growl as he is about to jump the poor fellow, in the essential werewolf movie of all: THE WOLF MAN (1940)!?

4:40 PM  
Blogger CanadianKen said...

Over the years, I've come across other references to the utter unlikelihood of the Rains-Chaney father son connection. But never as astutely and uproariously expressed as in your current post. Bravo! Have to admit I've never really been on board the Chaney Jr./Talbot train (although I'd concede he more than pulled his weight in "House of Frankenstein" and "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein", two films I much prefer to "The Wolf Man"). I especially enjoyed your speculation about exactly what kind of woman could have produced two Lon-like heirs "in concert with Rains". I'd never actually thought about that but now that you've set the concept in motion I can't help thinking said woman might have merited an unsettling Universal chiller series of her own. You also mention "The Wolf Man" as perhaps the only time Chaney may have been remotely credible as a romantic interest. That makes me think of "Weird Woman", the otherwise excellent '44 entry in which Chaney impersonated (I can't quite bring myself to say played) a sophisticated professor who also happens to be a chick magnet of boundless proportions. Not only are major league beauties Evelyn Ankers and Anne Gwynne panting after him; he's also got knockout bobbysoxer Lois Collier swooning. Where oh where was Robert Paige when we needed him?

9:43 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I bought the Universal Classic monsters Blu-ray set when it came out. Had not looked at THE WOLF MAN until last night when I pulled it out. I watched the extras first with no problem but then the movie stalled, skipped and refused to play. I took the disk out of the Blu-ray drive. It looked at first as if it had become really corrupted. A closer inspection showed that bits of glue from the sleeve that contained it had liberally spread over the disc. That was a big bummer. I used a vinegar and water solution to clean it. That was not easy.

I finally was able to play it. I will be taking all of the Blu-rays out of their sleeves and putting them in something less likely to muck them up. I post this as a warning to others who have this set.

After all that did I enjoy the movie? Yes, and then some. It boggles me that lazy journalists refer to these films as "B" movies when they have casts as capable as this film and the other Universal classic horrors boast.

I did not know until yesterday when I watched the extra on Lon Chaney that Universal-International decided to get out of the "B" movie business and fired all those people. That was certainly short thinking. Also did not know Chaney attempted suicide. Good thing he failed.

I have SPIDER BABY but have never watched it. Now that's next on my list of must sees.

Check your Blu-rays. Who knows how much longer that crap would have mucked up THE WOLF MAN if I had not, as a result of your post, decided to take a look at it.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Jeanette Minor said...

The wolf cane.or atleast the "silver" handle is part of the Bob Burns collection. It's actually made of silver painted rubber.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Tommie Hicks said...

In the late 60's and early '70's KWGN Denver ran WEREWOLF OF LONDON about once a month. The sentimental aspect of this film for me was it was the first movie I viewed after midnite. I had finally broke the past midnight barrier of staying awake. I can't remember the TV station but one in Denver at the time ran the Universal Monsters which I rarely missed. Creature Features and Sci Fi Flix were the Friday and Saturday night monster programming.
My father told me of watching a mummy movie during the war at the Guyandotte in Huntington WV, and running home in terror after the movie.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Neat story. When I was a kid in small town New Brunswick, Canada I ordered all the masks available from FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND. Then I dressed up as Frankenstein's monster while my friends dressed up as the wolfman, the mummy, the hunchback, etc.. I thought people would laugh. Instead we scared the spit out of the town. Some folks actually wet themselves looking at us.

For months afterwards people talked about that night. We had to work hard to keep from giving ourselves away by laughing.

10:14 AM  
Blogger williampl7 said...

oh,how I loved those old movie displays, sad many probably were just thrown in the trash, afterwards.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Did not see the poster for ISLAND OF LOST SOULS in the background right away. THE MUMMY looms large.

6:48 AM  

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