Kiah: Night two of 31 Horror Movies in 31 Days brings us to the 1941 classic, The Wolf Man! This is pretty much where America got all it's ideas about werewolves, and its influence literally cannot be overstated. Some of the things that stand out in this movie is how much it repeats the myth of the werewolf, to the point where you question how this town spends its free time when it isn't quoting werewolf rhymes or explaining lycanthropy to the new guy in town. Of course, in 1941 this was all in an effort to get the audience on board with a brand new monster they'd never heard of (unlike the wildly successful Dracula and Frankenstein films that preceded it). So it can be forgiven for some very stiff dialogue and scene-setting, if only because it was essentially the pilot episode of an entire horror genre, and the fact that we're still talking about werewolves today is largely a testament to how this hour-long movie succeeded.
Rhiannon: The thing about this whole undertaking is that if I don't really feel like doing a thing, I'm probably not going to do it. Tonight I felt like eating popcorn and playing Youtube wolf howls for my dog and did not feel like watching this movie. The only thing about it that caught my attention was an anecdote Kiah told about how Lon Chaney Jr. really liked the dog that played the wolf in the film. He liked it so much that he adopted it. I think that's lovely.
Kiah: That's true, if you Google "Lon Chaney Jr. dog" lots of cute pictures like the above show up. They are the best of friends.
Okay, quick rundown of what this movie does best: Performances, special effects, sets. Claude Rains does a terrific turn as Sir John Talbot, a guy dealing with the death of one son, and the creeping madness of another. Lon Chaney Jr. knocks it out of the park as local oddball Larry Talbot who hits on ladies the way all the FBI profilers are taught to watch for. Special props to Bela Lugosi as a half-drunk/HALF-INTENSE gypsy who gets this whole curse started, and Maria Ouspenskaya as his wife who warns like 50 people about the curse and is ignored by them all.
Additionally, the effects are groundbreaking and set the stage for decades of transformation effects that carry over to this day. The first thing most people look for in a werewolf is a novel transformation effect, and each has to top the last. This one, though routine by today's standards, actually set that bar pretty high.
And finally the sets are as impressive and detailed as you'd expect from a Universal horror around this time. Vaguely European castle/village (though character accents range from English to cockney to hard-boiled New Yorker for some reason) fades into creepy, foggy forests, and it's pure eye-candy to nerds like me. Overall, a worthy introduction for werewolves into the American horror canon.
Rhiannon: ?/***** Kiah: *****/*****