by Corinne Rizzo
Never being previously exposed to a Universal Monster Movie before, a viewer can find themselves overwhelmed by the extensive library of movie monsters available to them. There are, one will learn, your most popular among the classics, then the more underrated, then of course the overrated in every category of film though there isn’t much chatter among the masses of Universal Monster Movies anymore. There’s still time to exhume that excitement, and The Wolf Man circa 1941 is one of best ways a moviegoer can remind themselves of where suspense and horror began, where things first went bump in the night and how to never underestimate a timeless movie ever again.
Larry Talbot arrives home from nearly two decades in the United States for seemingly one reason—his brother had been killed in a hunting accident, but shortly after his arrival, Larry’s distant relationship with his father becomes prevalent and the viewer now understands that not only is Larry home to grieve, but replace his brother in his father’s heart. The formalities between Larry and his father make for cold interactions using such terms as “sir” and shaking hands instead of hugging or even a handshake/hug combo.
When Larry sees the opportunity to impress his father by swooping up the Conliffe girl tending the antique shop across the way, he does all he can to get her alone, which is where his fate turns.
Following the action of the film’s plot is easy enough and even an inattentive viewer would be able to spot the foreshadowing involved. The repetition of a fable and talks of Little Red Riding Hood signal to the viewer that soon enough, our guy will become a main player in his own werewolf legend. Along with leaving the viewer with no doubts of the foreshadowed events, The Wolf Man moves along quite slowly, which could leave any audience yawning or shuffling to the kitchen without pressing pause. The film goes on for a solid forty five minutes (Gosh, it really did feel like forever) without any real action. There is plenty of talk of werewolves, surprise third wheels showing up on dates and ruining everyone’s time, but no real werewolf action by our main guy.
When the audience finally does catch a glimpse of our man as wolf, it is lack luster at best, but also simple enough to catch this viewers attention. Not one for scary movies or any film that incites anxiety or fear, it was almost a relief to find the make-up and violence to be tame and understated. Plus, with all of that waiting around to see Larry as the werewolf, anything might have been a relief. It was then that then Universal Movie Monster franchise made sense and the appeal of The Wolf Man is not unlike the appeal of simple independent films some viewers find themselves seeking regularly.
There is something to be said for a classic film, which in its day was a hit, is now a muted outline for the gory atrocity of horror films today. Though the film ends just as the players begin to understand that Larry isn’t crazy and that he is in fact an unstoppable and blood thirsty werewolf (or in other words, just as it was getting good), the film still incorporates a steady incline of suspense with a swift and heavy climax involving father and son in a death match. The viewer is left feeling like there could have been more to the finish of the film, though with some soul searching, it is apparent that there is nothing left of the story, which makes it easy to abandon that feeling and just accept what was shown.
Arguing with a classic is useless anyway.
Top Five Reasons to see The Wolf Man (1941)
1) The entire film is supposed to be set in England but no one has a British accent.
2) The viewer begins to weigh the pros and cons of either being considered crazy or actually being a werewolf.
3) The audience is treated to a rare glimpse of what a werewolf were to look at had he a telescope.
4) The Wolf Man’s father is The Invisible Man, but don’t tell anyone.
5) It makes you feel so much more included in the horror scene without actually having to watch a scary movie.