The Wolf Man (1941) starring Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Evelyn Ankers, Bela Lugosi reviewed by The Masked Reviewer
The Wolf Man begins with Lawrence “Larry” Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) is coming home after learning of his brother’s fatal accident to take over the family estate. When he is there he reconciles with his father Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains). Exploring the town he left behind he meets the beautiful Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers) in an antique shop. Gwen tells him the “myth” of the werewolf which Larry laughs off until he is bitten by a werewolf himself.
The Wolf Man is one of Universal Studios most memorable monster movies. Larry Talbot has become one of the most memorable werewolves in films. Starting the werewolf tropes and rules for future werewolf films to follow, and of course to change. There seem to be two types of werewolves in this film. The full transformation to a wolf, and the half man, half wolf that Larry turns into. The makeup is iconic and impressive for the time.
- Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr., Son of Dracula) is more than a sympathetic victim of the werewolf, he is a flawed human being.
- Gwen Conliffe(Evelyn Ankers, The Mad Ghoul) is a smart, capable lady trying to help Larry with his werewolf situation.
- Sir John Talbot Claude Rains, Here Comes Mr. Jordan) has a cold exterior, but loves his son and want’s to protect him.
- Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), the gypsy who feels compelled to help Larry break his curse since her son was the werewolf that cursed him.
- Bela (Bela Lugosi, Island of Lost Souls) is a secondary character, but essential and well-acted, as the gypsy who is cursed to be a reluctant werewolf, is truly distressed when he sees the pentagram on his next victim, and infects (and is killed by) Larry when Larry tries to come to the rescue.
These are just some of the really great characters, I like each character individually.
Some scenes between Sir John Talbot and Larry feel odd. They both are playing their roles wonderfully but, Larry is almost his father’s age. The romance between Larry and Gwen is extremely awkward it begins with Larry peeping into Gwen’s bedroom window, then hitting on her only to be informed that she’s engaged, and still he keeps asking her out until she says maybe. This is a picture perfect of a forced romance, the romance is possibly the worst part of the movie. There is no chemistry between Larry and Gwen.
The Setting and Sets are beautifully designed the town has the proper atmosphere. The townspeople are lively and diverse. The gypsy camp is lively and fun. The Talbot family mansion has a serious, and regal atmosphere. The pace of the movie is slow, but most of the story is well thought out.
This movie is a classic for a good reason. The story and characters are memorable. The movie may have its flaws, but remember it was the movie that helped begin the Universal Monster movies.
I rate the movie 4/5 stars