Wednesday, October 03, 2012
31 Days of Halloween - Day 3 - Movie
Werewolf of London (1935) was Universal's first werewolf movie, predating The Wolf Man by 6 years, but is not as beloved, or even well remembered. Henry Hull plays a botanist who travels to Tibet in search of an extremely rare flower. As he finds it, he's attacked and bitten by a werewolf. Once he returns to London to obsess over work and neglect his marriage, he's visited by the man who is also the werewolf who bit him. He was also in Tibet to get the same flower. His specimen died, and he asks Hull to share his flower which is the only antidote to werewolfry. Hull refuses, disbelieving him, then finds himself transforming into a monster which kills one victim every night during the full moon.
This movie which actually features two werewolves, some great make-up by Jack Pierce, transformation sequences which are actually better than those in The Wolf Man, or at least staged in a more interesting manner, nice bits of comedic relief, and good acting, falters in one serious regard. Hull's character is a completely unlikable, self-absorbed jerk. Had he been otherwise, his affliction would seem more tragic, as it was for Lon Chaney, Jr. in The Wolf Man, and we'd root for him to find a means to cure himself. Instead we couldn't care less and figure he's going to get whatever he deserves.
It's this aspect of the movie which weakens it and keeps it from being the full blown classic Universal monster movie that it could have been, instead of just one of the studio's second tier monster movies.
My favorite thing about Werewolf of London, was something that caught my fancy when I first saw it as a child and continues to delight me to this day. This is that when Hull transforms into his homicidal animal persona, he still retains enough of his mental facilities to put on a scarf, hat and coat before he goes out into the night in search of victims. He also retains the ability to speak. Yet, sadly the obvious inner conflict between a reasoning werewolf, still driven to kill, is not addressed as part of story.