Friday, February 12, 2010

A Look Back to a Classic, to Prepare for Hopefully a New Classic

The Wolf Man (1941) Dir. By George Waggner

With The Wolfman coming out tonight, I decided to go back and watch the original again. It is always nice to return to when epic movies didn’t have to average two and a half hours long. Coming in at a runtime of seventy-one minutes, this movie still amazes me every time I watch it. The camera work done exceeds most the stuff I’ve seen up into the 70’s. Transitions are flawless, unlike anything you ever see of the early 40’s. The casting for that movie in 1941 rivals the stuffing of great actors done in such movies as, Ocean’s Eleven, or any stupid comic book movie or romantic comedies these days. It stars Lon Chaney Jr. (The Mummy’s Tomb, and many Universal monster movies) as Lawrence Stewart Talbot / The Wolf Man. He returns home to Talbot Castle, after his brother passes away in a fatal hunting accident, to be with his father Sir John Talbot played by Claude Rains (The Invisible Man). In one of my favorite scenes for camera work and transitioning, he spots Gwen Conliffe played by the beautiful Evelyn Ankers (The Invisible Man’s Revenge). She informs him about the legend behind the werewolf, and he passes it off only to get bit by one, transformed from a gypsie Bela , played by the legendary Bela Lugosi (AKA Dracula (1931)). Aside from the insanely talented stars of the film, they are accompanied by an amazing supporting cast. To me, led by an understated Warren William as Doctor Lloyd. Warren having been the most outstanding man to play The Lone Wolf in the Lone Wolf series that lasted thirty years. Unfortunately Warren fell to a premature death in 1948 due to a still uncurable form of bone marrow cancer.

The film flows so smoothly from beginning to end that it almost feels like a short film. Granted it is only a seventy-one minute movie, but it covers everything you need to see or hear to get the point across. There is no slow part of the movie. The smooth, cocky but confident ways of Lawrence Talbot are fun to watch as he attempts to woo the already engaged Gwen Conliffe. He doesn’t lose his appeal when he becomes The Wolf Man. The make-up isn’t extremely overboard, yet not exactly simple. It doesn’t take away anything from the film, and keeps him almost human-like, almost as if its just a part of his personality he can just turn on. Sure he doesn’t really enjoy killing people, but everyone has a dark side. What do you do to quench the urge to do bad things? Never do I get the feeling that he would actually harm Gwen, but it leads it on like he could, and leaves you wonder if he will. It makes for great tension, and general fear for Gwen’s life. I can see why people back then may have actually been scared of this movie. I think the interaction between characters is actually what drives this movie. Larry’s relationship with his father, or Gwen, or the female gypsie , or how he reacts to Gwen’s fiancĂ©, of the information he gets from Doctor Lloyd. Everyone’s perspective of what is happening to Larry slowly pieces together the story and builds to an exploding climax. The climax comes at the end of the film, which is something missing from films today. I don’t want to sit through an twenty minute fall after the climax.

All in all, this has to be one of my favorite movies of all time. An infinite replay value, and manageable running time, make this a movie to pop in any day of the week, any time you have free time. It will forever be a classic.

Entertainment Value: 10 Wolf Head Canes out of 10
Cinematic Value: 10 Wolf Head Canes out of 10

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