For Reel

The Wolf Man (1941)
November 6, 2016, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: George Waggner
4.5 Stars
the-wolf-manThe Wolf Man involves a moment in which one horror icon passes the torch to a new one—in a glorified cameo role as a gypsy, Bela Lugosi turns into a wolf and bites the hapless Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), cursing him to become the eponymous werewolf. The resulting beast was Universal’s only A-list monster of the decade (in a decade that largely saw the decline of this particular monster cycle), and it gives Frankenstein’s creation a run for his money as the most sympathetic of the monsters. The narrative of an essentially good man suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder having been forced into a violent situation has an added resonance considering the time it was released—if The Wolf Man is about the horrors that lay dormant in every man, it also touches on how unavoidable circumstances can lead decent people into a world of violence. Director of photography Joseph Valentine memorably brings to life the Universal soundstage as a surreal, foggy nightmare (the forest convincingly looks like it is endless while simultaneously feeling claustrophobic), and Chaney Jr. is affable in a role that was completely suited to his strengths as an actor.

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