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Werewolf of London

Werewolf of London (1935), starring Henry Hull, Warner Oland,  Valerie Hobson

Henry Hull in makeup as The Werewolf of LondonIn Universal Picture’s first werewolf film, the 1935 Werewolf of London, there are several themes woven together. One is simply that of a scientist seeking to expand knowledge — Dr. Wilfrid Glendon (Henry Hull), who’s traveling in Tibet, looking for a legendary flower. In his quest, he enters a “forbidden valley” where he’s attacked by a wolf-like creature; but he manages to return alive with the flower regardless.

Henry Hull as the Werewolf of London, attackingA second theme is jealousy; the doctor is married to the beautiful Valerie Hobson, a much younger woman, whom he fears losing to younger men. A third theme is science versus superstition — back in London, Dr. Yogami (played by Warner Oland, better known as the lead in the Charlie Chan movies) who thinks that the blooming flower can cure lycanthropy — the curse of turning a man into a werewolf. Which Dr.Glendon laughs at — until he begins turning into a werewolf, driving a wedge between himself and his wife. And someone is stealing his precious flower, that can temporarily stop the transformation. And the werewolf is driven to kill those the man loves …

Werewolf of London is actually a good film, although Lon Chaney Jr. does more with the same basic concepts in the Wolf Man movies years later.

Editorial review of Werewolf of London (1935), courtesy of Amazon.com

Werewolf of London (1935), starring Henry Hull, Warner Oland, Valerie Hobson

The Werewolf of London – the romantic triangle

Universal’s first werewolf film falls in the shadow of the 1941 hit The Wolf Man. You might say it’s a different animal, as this version carries none of the now-familiar trappings of the wolf-man legend: no wolfsbane, no silver bullets, no gypsy curse. Dr. Wilfrid Glendon (Henry Hull) is a London botanist whose search for a rare flower takes him to a “cursed” valley in Tibet where he’s mauled in the moonlight by a wolf-like creature. Back in London he meets the mysterious Dr. Yogami (a marvelously melancholy performance by Warner Oland), who explains they met once before “in Tibet … in the dark” before asking for a flower from his botanical find, the only antidote for his curse.

Glendon scoffs at his stories of werewolves–until he transforms into a hirsute killer under the effect of the full moon. Although leaner and edgier than the famous 1941 Lon Chaney classic, The Werewolf of London stumbles with the corny Scotland Yard investigation of the murder spree and gets sidetracked in the bizarre bickering of two old drunken cronies. But it takes flight in wonderfully imaginative and eerie scenes and striking action sequences, while a Jekyll-and-Hyde dynamic turns a jealous squabble between Glendon and his young wife Lisa (Valerie Hobson) into the tragic twist of the curse: ““The werewolf instinctively kills the thing it loves best.” —Sean Axmaker

Movie quotes from Werewolf in London

Priest: You are foolish, but without fools there would be no wisdom.


Dr. Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull): I promise you, after this experiment is over, I’ll try to be more … human.


Dr. Yogami (Warner Oland): The werewolf is neither man nor wolf, but a Satanic creature with the worst qualities of both.


Dr. Yogami (Warner Oland): Good day. But remember this Dr. Glendon, the werewolf instinctively seeks to kill the thing it loves best.


Mrs. Moncaster: Are you a single gentleman, sir?
Dr. Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull): Singularly single, madame. More single than I ever realized that it was possible for a human being to be.


Dr. Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull): Thanks … Thanks for the bullet. It was the only way … In a few moments now … I shall know why all this had to be. Lisa … good bye. Goodbye Lisa. I’m sorry I … I couldn’t have made you happier.


Trivia for Werewolf in London

  • The well-known ““Wolf Man” makeup used on Lon Chaney Jr. was actually created by Universal Pictures makeup designer Jack P. Pierce for Henry Hull in this film. After makeup tests, Hull declined to wear the makeup, citing his dislike of the time-consuming makeup application. A less hairy version was then devised by Pierce, and it is this version that is seen in the film. A still photograph of the original test makeup survives, however, and has been published.
  • Although they play husband and wife in this film Henry Hull is 27 years older than Valerie Hobson
  • Warner Oland, who plays Dr. Yogami, was a Swedish actor, best remembered for his recurring role as the movie detective Charlie Chan.
  • The supposed “Tibetan” spoken in the movie is actually the Cantonese dialect of Chinese. The actor is otherwise just muttering gibberish.
  • The werewolf howl used in this film is a combination of Henry Hull’s own voice and a recording of an actual timber-wolf. The result is generally thought to have a far more realistic result than in any subsequent werewolf films, including 1941’s The Wolf-Man.
  • The theatrical trailer on the Universal DVD contains a brief shot of Dr. Glendon in werewolf form slashing Dr. Yogami’s face with his claws as they fight in the laboratory. This shot is not seen in the finished film, although we do get to see Dr. Yogami’s slashed face at the end of the scene in the film.