This month Cinema Macabre brings you a selection of films that are really something to howl about as we take a look at werewolves on the silver screen.
Iloz Zoc: The Wolf Man (1941)
Universal Studios classic horror story set the standard for lycanthropes on film. Of the three major Universal Studios monster movies, Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man, only the last does not spring from a notable novel. While colorful legends of werewolves abound in print, it took the skill of screenwriter Curt Siodmak, the talent of makeup artist Jack Pierce, and the acting of Lon Chaney Jr. to tell the story of a man doomed by an eternal curse to kill the ones he loved by the light of the full moon.
Americanized Larry Talbot (Chaney) returns to his ancestral home in Wales. His father, Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains), hopes that Larry will take over the duties of his family, and that the two will reconcile their long-standing differences. Larry, of course, is focused more on the gorgeous woman (Evelyn Ankers) he spies through the lens of a telescope. Seems like Larry's a bit of wolf even before he's bitten.
When he visits Gwen's (Ankers) shop in town, he buys a walking stick decorated with the head of a wolf and the symbol of a pentagram in silver, which prompts the discussion of werewolves and a recitation of Siodmak's brilliant 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.
Later that night, Larry is bitten by a werewolf when he tries to save Gwen's friend from an attack by what he thought was a wolf. Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), the old Gypsy woman, tells him that her son (Bela Lugosi) is the werewolf, and now he, too, is cursed.
Sure enough, Larry soon succumbs to his curse of lycanthropy, and starts seeing pentagrams — the mark of death — on the hands of those he loves. His father doesn't believe any of this superstitious nonsense, but people start dying when Larry changes into the Wolf Man and goes on the prowl. The denouement draws upon classic Greek mythology, and makes The Wolf Man stand out in its depiction of a man tragically caught in an evil cosmos with no way out.