Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Return Of The Wolfman

In 1941 Hollywood made what would become one of the all time quintessential monster movies, The Wolfman. Although this was Hollywood's second outing with a werewolf movie (the first having been 6 years earlier with Jack Pierce's Stuart Walker's Werewolf of London), it was by far the better movie and offered not only the writing talent of Curt Siodmak and direction of George Waggner, but it brought together a truly magnificent cast: Lon Chaney, Jr., Claude Rains, Evelyn Ankers, Ralph Bellamy, Patric Knowles, Béla Lugosi, and Maria Ouspenskaya. Waggner's Wolfman really is brilliant cinema, even 68 years on.

The story follows Chaney as Larry Talbot, a man returning to his family home following a long absence. Talbot quickly becomes enamoured with a local girl, Gwen Conliffe, played by Ankers. In their first encounter, Talbot goes to Gwen's antique shop and ends up buying a silver-handled walking stick, decorated with a wolf's head and pentagram. Gwen explains that this is the sign of the werewolf, and recites a local poem:

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.
That evening while visiting a gypsy fortune teller, Talbot becomes involved in a wolf attack in which Gwen's friend is killed. The wolf turns out to be one of the gypsies who is a werewolf. Although he kills the animal, Talbot is bitten and so starts the misadventure that ultimately leads to his own death.

Last night I had the pleasure of being invited to the Denzille Cinema by Universal Pictures for a private screening of The Wolfman. The evening was absolutely great, and if you haven't had the pleasure of visiting the Denzille Cinema I highly recommend it. Of course this wasn't just a random screening of a classic movie just for the fun of it. Universal Pictures are currently gearing up for the upcoming realease of their remake of The Wolfman.

The remake is directed by Joe Johnston and stars Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving. The movie largely sticks to the original plot but adds a number of extra dimensions to the tale through stunning visual effects and an extended overall storyline. As someone who isn't a die hard horror fan by any means, I will say that the remake looks brilliant. Not only is it a cast made up of some of my favourite Hollywood stars but it offers a production ensemble of equally exciting people such as Scott Stuber (production), Danny Elfman (music direction) and Shelly Johnson (cinematography). Filming was done between 3rd March and 23rd June 2008 at Pinewood Studios, to a budget of US$85 million.

I incorrectly attributed the direction of Werewolf of London to Jack Pierce, who was of course WoL's Makeup Artist (one of Hollywood's greatest infact, having created such legendary creatures as Dracula and Frankenstein). Cheers to Niall for pointing out my error :)


Niall said...

Good stuff indeed, and nice review. Small thing though (because I'm an anal idiot): Jack Pierce did the make-up for both of Universal's initial werewolf movies (as he did for Frankenstein, the Mummy, etc.). A genius, but not a director. Stuart Walker actually had director duties on the earlier 'The Werewolf of London'. It's still not a patch on 'The Wolf Man'.

Christian Hughes said...

D'oh! You're completely right - serves me right for writing blogs at 1 in the morning ;)