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.
If you haven't heard this piece of horror-movie doggerel before, you'll never forget it after seeing The Wolf Man for two reasons: it's a spooky piece of rhyme and nearly everybody in the picture recites it at one time or another. Set in a fog-bound studio-built Wales, The Wolf Man tells the doom-laden tale of Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), who returns to the estate of his wealthy father (Claude Rains). (Yes, Chaney's American, but the movie explains this, awkwardly.) Bitten by a werewolf, Talbot suffers the classic fate of the victims of lycanthropy: at the full moon, he turns into a werewolf, a transformation ingeniously devised by makeup maestro Jack Pierce. Pierce was the man who turned Boris Karloff into the Frankenstein monster, and his werewolf makeup became equally famous, with its canine snout and bushy hairdo--and, of course, seriously sharp dental work. The Wolf Man was a smash hit, giving Universal Pictures a new monster for their already crowded stable, and Chaney found himself following in the footsteps (or paw prints) of his father, who had essayed a monster or two in the silent era. This is a classy horror outing, with strong atmosphere and a thoughtful script by Curt Siodmak--well, except for the stiff romantic bits between Chaney and Evelyn Ankers. It's also got Bela Lugosi (briefly) and Maria Ouspenskaya, the prunelike Russian actress who foretells doom like nobody's business. --Robert Horton
Originally released in 1941, The Wolf Man
introduced the world to a new Universal movie monster and redefined the mythology of the werewolf forever. Featuring a heartbreaking performance by Lon Chaney Jr. and groundbreaking make-up by Jack Pierce, The Wolf Man
is the saga of Larry Talbot, a cursed man who transforms into a deadly werewolf when the moon is full. The dreamlike atmospheres, elaborate settings and chilling musical score combine to make The Wolf Man
a masterpiece of the genre. Bonus Features:
Monster by MoonlightThe Wolf Man
: From Ancient Curse to Modern Myth
Pure in Heart: The Life and Legacy of Lon Chaney, Jr.
He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art of Jack PierceThe Wolf Man
Feature Commentary with Film Historian Tom Weaver