31 Monsters in 31 Days: The Wolf Man (1941)

Back when I was writing 365 Days of the Dead I frequently faced the problem of what to do when reviewing classic, much-loved movies. Was I really going to argue that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or RE-ANIMATOR were must-see films when 99.9999% of my readers were there because they loved those pictures as much as I did?

Which brings me to today’s entry, George Waggner’s iconic 1941 take on the lycanthrope. What could I possibly add seventy years after the movie’s release? We all agree it’s a classic, right?

In Universal’s pantheon of classic monsters Larry Talbot remains my favorite, perhaps because it’s seemed to have aged better than its contemporaries. It’s certainly better paced, suiting the attention of today’s audiences closer than the more deliberate DRACULA or THE MUMMY. (Even as a sugar-addled kid, I was able to sit through THE WOLF MAN in its entirety instead of bouncing in and out of the living room between creature appearances.)

Sure, the movie has its fair share of flaws–despite Chaney’s strong performance I never quite believed him as an aristocrat, nor could I understand why Chaney walked on two legs as a werewolf when Bela Lugosi changed into an actual wolf–but it still works as a sinister, tragic fairy tale. Lush atmosphere, a terrific supporting cast, and Jack Pierce’s unforgettable yak-haired monster design make it a favorite.

I was even able to enjoy the compromised, handicapped 2010 remake.


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