The Wolf Man (1941)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Wolf Man</strong> (1941)

(On TV, July 2018) The 1941 original version of The Wolf Man is rightly considered one of the big-five Universal Horror monsters (alongside early-thirties Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and The Invisible Man), so it’s a bit of a surprise to find out, throughout the film, how much of it seems to differ from our codified understanding of the werewolf monster. This film (scripted by legendary SF writer Curt Siodmak) does bring together werewolves and silver, but not necessarily shape-shifting under a full moon—which is a later innovation. As with many Universal Monsters foundational texts, there is a substantial romantic component at work here, and a cinematography that bridges between German expressionism and American film noir. Lon Chaney Jr has quite a presence as the titular wolf man, anchoring a potentially silly story into something with romantic gravitas. The film has surprisingly good makeup and special effects, though they come in fairly late in the movie. Despite some mythology weirdness compared with the contemporary version of the werewolf monster, The Wolf Man did create much of the myth and so remains a mandatory viewing for horror fans—fortunately, it happens to be a decent movie still.

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