[Join your host, John Holliday, in the review column "A Movie A Week" as he shares his spoiler-free thoughts on our collection of DVD / Blu-ray titles.]
Did you really think we would make it through October's Halloween marathon without a Universal Monster movie? Though others are scarier, The Wolf Man has everything I need in a horror movie. Not only does it star the son of "The Man of a Thousand Faces" (Lon Chaney, Jr.), but also Dracula (Bela Lugosi) himself, and The Invisible Man (Claude Rains). Or at least their actor counterparts.
When Larry Talbot (Chaney) returns to the stately manor of Talbot Castle following his brother's death, he is quickly smitten by Gwen, a local girl that operates an antique shop. While feigning interest in an old cane in the shape of a wolf's head, she tells him the legend of the werewolf:
"Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.
Despite being the gentleman that he is, Larry is too suave to leave with only a walking stick and playfully promises to return that night so they can have their fortunes told by the newly arrived gypsies. When the store closes, Larry discovers Gwen has already invited her friend to join them. It is at the camp on the outskirts of town that Bela the gypsy (Bela Lugosi) foresees danger in the pentagram (the mark of the werewolf's victims) on the hand of Gwen's friend. Bela demands that she leave at once, but she doesn't make it out of the woods alive. She is attacked and killed by a werewolf which in turn Larry bludgeons to death with his cane, himself suffering only a bite.
Oddly enough, the next morning, Bela the gypsy is found dead in the woods, his head crushed by a blunt object. Next to his body lies the silver wolf's head cane belonging to Larry Talbot. To make his case worse, Larry shows no sign of the wolf bite that he claims. Not only must he clear his name of murder, but now he fears the safety of Gwen as he begins to transform into The Wolf Man.
Coincidentally, certain modern horror movies are showing a trend of reverting to providing scares with little or even no blood. Maybe the studios are remembering the 1930's and 40's when some of the best of the genre astonished viewers from the silver screen. At the helm was The Wolf Man, synonymous with "monster movie" and everything that was first-rate about The Golden Age of Hollywood. Lon Chaney, Jr. is the most likable of the Universal characters and the iconic Jack Pierce make-up assured it's place in movie history. This one is timeless and enjoyed by essentially everyone.
For some reason, it's the movies I love the most that are difficult to review. The thesaurus only contains so many variations of "great", "excellent", and "classic" leaving this particular Universal Monster movie undefined by words alone. It's just a part of an era of horror films that anyone with common sense agrees are "crackerjack" (thank you Merriam-Webster). That's why I give The Wolf Man:
What movie would you like to see John review next week? Your suggestions are always welcome at: email@example.com