John Ary's Aint It Scary Reviews #17 Of 31!! WEREWOLF OF LONDON!!
John Ary here with another installment of Ain’t It Scary Reviews. Today, a werewolf botanist terrorizes the streets of London.
The Wolfman with Lon Chaney Jr. wasn’t Universal Studios first try at turning a werewolf into a bankable hollywood star. 6 years earlier there was Werewolf of London. It has just about everything you could expect from a classic werewolf movie... excellent transformations, lots of screams from damsels in distress, a little bit of humor, strong cinematography and Jack Pierce’s legendary makeup work.
The story involves a botanist in search of a rare flower in Asia. When he finds it in a secluded mountain passage, he also discovers a strange beast, a wolf dressed in human clothes. The botanist fights off the animal, but not before suffering a large bite on his forearm. When he returns home to his laboratory in London, we see all of the rare plants he’s collected over the years, but he is fascinated by this new plant; so is another man who introduces himself as the fury attacker in Asia. He warns our botanist that he will turn into a werewolf at the next full moon, but the rare plant can stop his transformation temporarily. From there the botanist succombs to his new disease, and stalks his fellow Londoners at night.
The movie is effective and just as good, if not better than The Wolfman. For one, I like this version of the werewolf better. He’s more human. Jack Pierce wanted to give our protagonist played by Henry Hull the full fur treatment, just like the one he would later use on Lon Chaney Jr., but the makeup was scaled back for the sake of the actor and production costs. With less fur on the face, the actor is able to make more use of his expressions. Also, he’s less animalistic. The first night he changes into the beast, he stops to put on a coat and hat before leaving his house. It also seems like the animal side allows him to play out his inhibitions. Instead of going strictly after random people, his jealousy and disdain for those close to him propel his attacks. The camera work is really good as well. The director uses lots of movement and a shallow depth of field in several scenes to create a strong mood. I also like how humor is sprinkled throughout the picture to lighten the mood in between werewolf kills. It keeps the piece from becoming too depressing and makes the werewolf scenes more impactful.
It’s difficult to feel too much empathy for the protagonist though. He’s kind of a dick. He doesn’t listen to the warnings from his fellow werewolf, he puts his work before his marriage and he just isn’t very likable. Lon Chaney Jr. made for a much more sympathetic character, one that we could root for. In the end, this master botanist deserves much of the blame for the atrocities committed by his fury alter-ego.
This film bombed at the box office. Some say it too closely resembled Paramount’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from a few years earlier. It’s easy to make those comparisons as some of the transformation effects and the story structure are very similar. Taken out of that context though, the film stands on its own as an excellent Universal Monster story; one that could be paired with the Spanish version of Dracula as double-feature of classic Universal Monster movies that deserve more love.
Werewolf of London is currently streaming on Netflix. It’s also available with She-Wolf of London on DVD here.
Check back in tomorrow for another Ain’t It Scary Review as we watch an anthology of terrifying tales aimed at young African-American men.
Here’s a look back at the Ain’t It Scary Review installments that you might have missed:
The Ground Rules to the Project
#1 Son of Frankenstein
#2 Scream, Blacula, Scream!
#3 Black Sabbath
#5 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
#6 Invisible Invaders
#7 The Mummy’s Curse
#8 Lord of Illusions
#9 Night of the Demons
#10 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
#11 The House of the Devil
#12 Dr. Phibes Rises Again!
#14 The Catman of Paris
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Oct. 17, 2012, 12:06 p.m. CST
Thanks for the story behind it. As you were describing it, I thought "It's more like Jekyll and Hyde than the Wolfman" and then you confirmed it. I can't wait to check it out now!
Oct. 17, 2012, 12:17 p.m. CST
by broderick crawford
Good 1930's Universal horror. I laughed when the werewolf put on a coat and hat -- although it reminded me a little too much of Dr. Jekyll. Really liked the set up with the botanist and the exotic plants in London. I also recognized the musical cues from the 1936 Flash Gordon serial, so presumably this film is where the cues were first heard? Enjoying these reviews. Reminds me of when Quint had his Movie-A-Day write ups. Keep up the good work, John.
Oct. 17, 2012, 12:50 p.m. CST
by Jack Desmondi
Lon Chaney's makeup was legendary. This looks like a guy spent 1/2 an hour on to throw on for a gay halloween party.
Oct. 17, 2012, 12:54 p.m. CST
He's the hairy, hairy gent, who ran amok in Kent...You better stay away from him - He'll rip your lungs out Jim!
Oct. 17, 2012, 12:58 p.m. CST
Oct. 17, 2012, 1:02 p.m. CST
by The PimpDragon
*lowers sunglasses and angles face towards camera* His hair was perfect.
Oct. 17, 2012, 1:35 p.m. CST
killdeer1-- yer nuts. Hull's makeup is so much creepier and cooller-- he's more like an animalistic Mr. Hyde. Wolf Man looks like a tippy toes silly pants. (I still like that movie, though.)
Oct. 17, 2012, 1:40 p.m. CST
I'll check it out. Only one issue, shouldn't it be "furry", not "fury"?
Oct. 17, 2012, 2:37 p.m. CST
Yeah! Do that one, Brian De Palma's "The Furry"
Oct. 17, 2012, 2:46 p.m. CST
Oct. 17, 2012, 3:44 p.m. CST
by Joe Hart
Love this film. My fav werewolf movie. Lots of really creative stuff. The hat and coat bit is hilarious. I liked Henry Hull in this role. He's more of a Man-wolf, than a Wolf-man.
Oct. 17, 2012, 4:24 p.m. CST
Basically, this and The Wolfman were movies I watched over and over again as a kid, and I loved them both in different ways. no way could I choose between them. The torment of Larry Talbot ellicits my sympathy, but the way that Wilfred Glendon seems to earn his torment through venal sins is more thematically exciting for me.
Oct. 17, 2012, 4:39 p.m. CST
Thanks for the bullet, it was the only way.
Oct. 17, 2012, 4:49 p.m. CST
by Monnie Knapp
Oct. 17, 2012, 6:41 p.m. CST
Werewolf in a Tux, how can you go wrong? An John is right about his Werewolf / Wolfman comparison . . .
After all, Zevon didn't sing about the Welsh but still Strangely American Wolfman of Llanwelly, Wales
Oct. 18, 2012, 6:26 p.m. CST
This was a much better review.
Oct. 18, 2012, 10:49 p.m. CST
Because both Werewolf of London and Spanish Drac are actually better made overall than their most famous counterpart. Yet as fans we'll always have a greater love for the Wolfman and the Lugosi Drac. Their Legacy as horror icons have become too strong over time. Guys like Cheney Jr. and Lugosi are the reason why we love monster flicks so much.
Oct. 19, 2012, 3:22 a.m. CST
John Ary is right that Chaney played a much, much more sympathetic character in his wolfman movie. The protagonist in this movie is quite a dick!
by albert comin
He comes across as very abrasive and uncaring. He has a very pretty wife who is clearly in love and in awe of him, and yet he's constantly shrugging her off. The movie evne does something daring for the time, we learn through dialogues with her once teen paramour that she also has her own high intellectual qualities, but her marriage to the protagonist has put a stop to that. The protagonist is so slefish about his own needs he basically treats her wife as a glorified governess. But no denying the dude is a badass. For such a foppish academic, the man doens't let others carry the risks for him. He goes to the Hymalaias, and will not stop until he gets what he came for, no matter the warnings and dangers ahead. Had he a better, more friendly personality, he would truly be a figure of admiration. But as John Ary said, the movie ends up being a morality play on him. In the end, the wolf makes him pay for his sins. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when the protagonist shows the moon flower opens up to the visiting guest by using a simulation of moonlight. It's a nice visual trick done with on-camera set lights, but it's so cool.
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