23 August 2014

The Wolf Man (1941)
70 min.
Directed by George Waggner.
With Lon Chaney, Jr., Evelyn Ankers, Claude Rains, Maria Ouspenskaya, Ralph Bellamy, Patric Knowles, Warren William, Bela Lugosi, Fay Helm.
“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."

Universal's 1941 werewolf classic is simple, blissfully straightforward - and perfect.

After his brother's death, Larry Talbot (Chaney) returns home to his father Sir John (Rains) and the family estate. Then he falls head over heels for lovely townie Gwen Conliffe (Ankers).

One fateful night, while attempting to rescue Gwen's girlfriend from an attacker, Chaney is bitten by a wolf.

Just get a tetanus shot, right?

Wrong.

Schooled by diminutive fortuneteller Maleva (Ouspenskaya), Talbot realizes he's now in the cycle of the werewolf. Under the light of a full moon, he's doomed to the transformation of the wolf - and the need to slay.

What can stop this preternatural curse? And will it kill the man once known as Larry Talbot?

Chaney's portrayal of Talbot is heartbreakingly astute, as he attempts to come to grips to his situation, battling his perception of reality and what's in his own mind.

Indeed, in a career of ups and downs - most of it underscored by mediocrity at best - Chaney gives his best performance here, hands down.

Beautifully shot, elegantly paced and with good Jack Pierce makeup, The Wolf Man is one of Universal's crown horror gems.

Not to be missed.

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