At The Movies: Monster Mash

We’ve talked about some of the specific monster movies and their origins here. The vampire and the lycan. We’ll look at the mummy, zombies and a few others soon.

But I wanted to take a look at the movies that mixed up the creatures of urban fantasy lore and see which ones combined our favorite monsters well and those that did not quite hit the mark.

Monsters, Lycans, Vampires and Mummies. Oh, my!

The Mummy is supposed to be a monster mash-up kickstarter for Universal.

2017’s The Mummy is supposed to reboot Universal Studios’ monster franchise

The most recent monster mash-up was Universal’s The Mummy, released in 2017.  While 2014’s Dracula Untold was the actual reboot of Universal’s Dark Universe franchise, The Mummy was supposed to be the film that really kick-started it into high gear. For my money, Dracula Untold was a better film than The Mummy was and I hope they allow Luke Evans to play Dracula again.

Dracula Untold, however, was a one-monster film. The Mummy decided to go all-Avengers and brought in not only the Mummy herself, but introduced us to Dr. Henry Jeykll/Mr. Hyde and hinted at a few other monsters to come. So let’s look at that film first.

The Mummy (2017)

The reboot scraps the original story of Imhotep’s mummy being unearthed by archeologists from the Egyptian sands. Instead, we have an evil princess consorting with an equally evil god, killing her father and ending up condemned to an eternal prison. So far, so good. But I still say Anne Rice’s The Mummy or Ramses the Damned would have made for a much better film.

Then the movie takes a turn for the worse. Tom Cruise shows up. Seriously, between Cruise and Tim Burton are no famous franchises safe? The film is briefly saved by Russell Crowe and Dr. Jeykll with a brief glimpse or two of Mr. Hyde. If Crowe has a standalone film coming in that role I will definitely show up to watch it.

As a monster mash-up film, the Mummy comes up a little short. Fortunately, we don’t have to go too far back to find a film that did it a little better.

Van Helsing (2004)

This movie was a blueprint for how to properly mashup monsters into one story. We had Jeykll and Hyde, Dracula, Werewolves, as well as Frankenstein and his monster. We even had Igor and honest-to-god, real-life minions. And all pursued under holy sanction by a secret arm of the Church itself by the legendary Van Helsing.

Even better, we had Kate Beckinsale. Beckinsale is the anti-Tom Cruise.

Mixing in all of these monsters and their cannon isn’t easy and yet this film made it work with a storyline that actually made sense.

Underworld (2003-2016)

Speaking of Beckinsale, she is involved in another monster mash-up, a series of films involving vampires and lycans.

Underworld mixes lycans and vampires well. It even goes so far as to speculate they share a common ancestor, making the centuries of war more of a family squabble. And like most franchises the first 2-3 films are good but those that follow decline steeply in quality.

Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman (1943)

So Lon Chaney returns as the Wolfman/Larry Talbot – despite dying at the end of the original – and is looking for Dr. Frankenstein to kill him off once and for all. Only the Doctor is dead. But all is not lost as Talbot stumbles across the frozen Frankenstein monster. He convinces a Doctor to help use the monster to kill off the cursed Talbot.

The movie is okay, could have been better and should have had more conflict between the two creatures to really make it work.

House of Dracula (1945)

Having not learned their lesson, Universal doubled down two years later. Figuring that the Wolfman and Frankenstein monster would have worked if only Count Dracula had been involved.

So they added the vampire into the mix and baked a turkey of a film. Yes, it was that bad.

 

 

 

 

Urban Fantasy Legends: Who Played The Wolfman Best?

Recently we’ve examined the lycans in literature and cinema. There really is just one last, but most important, question to ask: Who portrayed the Wolfman the best?

There can only be one alpha dog in any pack.

Who played the best Wolfman?

Lon Chaney Jr. started things off in 1941 original, Oliver Reed’s first role as the lead actor followed two decades later and Benicio Del Toro’s turn in 2010 was masterfully done. This is not to say they were the only three actors to play the Wolfman, or someone struck with lycanthropy. Jack Nicholson was fantastic in Wolf, Bela Legosi’s brief turn as a Wolfman in the original bears noting as well as many other actors and films.

But these were the three that really stood out in my mind as the medal-winners. Now it is time to decide who was the alpha in the pack.

The Wolman Betas

Reed’s Curse of the Werewolf was notable for its different setting in place (Spain instead of England). There was also the difference in the cause of the affliction. Instead of being bitten by a werewolf, the child is born cursed due to his evil conception. But while it was different, and quite good, it wasn’t the best Wolfman.

Del Tore settles for beta wolf status in this pack.

Benicio Del Toro was good, but not quite good enough.

Del Toro benefited from better make-up and special effects. He also had a better script with a deeper backstory to work with. Plus, he had Anthony Hopkins playing his dad. Claude Raines was a great actor. But he is no Anthony Hopkins. Del Toro played Lawrence Talbot to perfection and would be the top dog in this fight, if the 1941 original had never been made.

Leader Of The (Wolfman)Pack

Chaney simply played the haunted, tormented man too well and Lawrence Talbot was that in spades. Whether it was as Talbot/The Wolfman, the Frankenstein Monster, the Mummy or many other horror film roles Chaney acted and looked the part. Even his turn as the former sheriff in High Noon displayed those qualities clearly despite a brief appearance.

Alpha dog Lon Chaney Jr.

Lon Chaney Jr. remains The Wolfman of all of the Wolfmen.

Whenever I think of The Wolfman, I always see Chaney – in sharp black and white of course. He set the bar for all of the rest that followed. So alpha dog goes to Chaney for now, until we see if Universal can find a way to bring him down with its upcoming new release.

 

Harry Potter Gets Hairy

One debate I’ve encountered with increasing frequency lately strikes at the very definition of urban fantasy. I find it healthy to engage in such discussions. As with most things, literature evolves over time. Genres and sub-genres also shed vestigial organs as they adapt to the dynamic world around them.

The question has been asked.Let the debate begin!

Which side is right in this debate?

If the nature of reality is constantly changing, then a corollary would be that fiction, too, should continually shift. Since fiction is meant to help interpret and reflect reality. Urban fantasy, as a relatively new phenomenon within the broader realm of publishing, should follow the times. It needs to change when needed. To suit the needs and demands of average readers.

Of course, in context, one might need to ask a bevy of questions to even begin an informed discussion. What is urban fantasy? What was urban fantasy? Who reads the genre? What trends might be developing that impact it?

If we accept that literature needs to change when necessary, then we must ask: is it time for a change?

My opinion: no.

So Is There A Debate About Harry Potter In The U-F Universe?

I recently encountered a well-spoken bibliophile who only vaguely smelled of stale body odor and old laundry. This affable gentleman informed me that Harry Potter fits in the urban fantasy bag. I disagreed. One of the fundamental tenets of urban fantasy, according to the consensus, should be common sense: an urban setting. Urban fantasy often exists in a gritty city setting.

Was transitioning between London and Hogwarts urban fantasy?

Did we watch Harry Potter grow up in an urban fantasy world?

Think noir. However, the interlocutor possessed some level of logic, no matter how misguided it might be perceived. The insanely popular Harry Potter series, of course, held many elements of fantasy. The setting was a relatively contemporary place here on Earth, and many of the characters were humans. We saw magic in spades.

Harry Potter may have even been set in an urban-like place.

Stretch your minds around that one for a second.

Analyzing The Core Components

In order to define urban fantasy, one probably should separately examine each of its core components, then analyze them in conjunction. Here, we have urban and fantasy. But, what, exactly, does urban mean? Yes, the obvious choice is a city. Some bustling mass of creatures amalgamated in one place, surrounded by buildings and spires. Of course, there are literal “cities,” with zero or few residents and shuttered buildings. All it really takes to make a city in the real world are articles of incorporation and a charter from a state or other relevant political entity.

There are modern warships that essentially function as cities. They have large populations (bigger than many “cities,” here in Oregon) centralized in one area, shops, restaurants, bathrooms, etc. Many universities, also, can be viewed as their own de facto cities, distinct from the population centers around them. Yet, few would credibly argue that an urban fantasy novel could be set on a warship. It might be worth questioning why.

This diversion was not a mere tangent, though I am often guilty of digressing. The gentlemen I spoke with at some length in a local bookstore challenged some of my assumptions about one of the many literary divisions I have come to love. The conventional truth is that Harry Potter is contemporary fantasy. Or just fantasy. But, while I do not agree that it is urban fantasy, also am not on board with seeing Harry Potter as hard-boiled, classic fantasy.

Location, Location, Location

One of the core reasons for believing that Harry Potter is NOT urban fantasy is the fact that it is not set in a city. Yet, my interlocutor pressed home the -valid- point that many colleges and universities can be viewed as cities. Bustling islands of humanity distinct from the areas around them.

Languages and literature evolve. This is not inherently bad, or good. It is simply a fact. Evolution normally involves outgrowing obsolete appendages or tools that prove to be hindrances in light of external changes.

While I do not agree that Harry Potter was/is urban fantasy, or that it is time for the genre to change, I do think it might be time to ask the question: when is urban urban?

 

 

Book Review: Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

I recently re-read The Warrior Heir by Cinda Willimas Chima, for the third time I believe. One of my favorite things about this book and this series is the re-readability. The first time I re-read it, the only thing I remembered about the book was that I had enjoyed it. And it’s not that the story is forgettable. It’s got a lot of fun plot twists and turns that you don’t see coming. I don’t know. Maybe one of the wizards in the book cast a memory charm on it.

Synopsis: Warrior Heir

In some ways, The Warrior Heir is a typical Young Adult fantasy. Set in modern time, sixteen-year-old Jack Swift is just a normal kid living in a small Ohio town. Then one day something weird happens and he comes to realize he’s something MORE. This is actually a pretty decent template for any young adult coming-of-age story because that’s part of what becoming an adult is all about: discovering there is more to the world than just your homeroom class or soccer team.

In this case, Jack discovers he’s a Warrior, a class of magical people with impressive natural fighting abilities. The main problem is that there are two feuding houses of Wizards (a different magical class), the House of the Red Rose and the House of the White Rose. These Wizards use Warriors to settle their disputes in a magical tournament. Each house sponsors a Warrior in a fight to the death and the winning house rules all the magical guilds until the next tournament. Not surprisingly, Warriors have become rather scarce over the centuries. So Jack goes from hoping he makes the soccer team, to hoping he doesn’t get captured or killed before summer break.

Worldbuilding

The world building is impressive, and I think Chima did her research. I really like that not only is the story set in modern times, but she ties it into our actual history really well too. The idea that the War of the Roses is still ongoing in the magical world is a nice touch.

I also liked the different Magical guilds and the different abilities they all had. There are wizards, enchanters, soothsayers, sorcerers, and warriors. Wizards are the most powerful, or at least the most cunning, since they managed to enslave all the other guilds to them in a magical contract centuries ago.

I think the magic system is well built, and the politics of the magic world are intriguing (pun intended). However, the limits of the magic seemed like they could have been spelled out more. There are a couple of times where I’m asking, “Isn’t there a charm that can solve that problem?” But honestly it was more spelled out than it was in Harry Potter so I can’t complain too much.

Characters

I’d give the characters a B+ They aren’t the most in depth characters I’ve ever encountered, but they aren’t flat either. The main character Jack is likable and easy to root for. However, my favorite characters are Jack’s two best friends, Will and Fitch. They are just good guys and the kind of people I’d want to be friends with myself.

I also really enjoyed the mentor character (I’m being vague so as not to spoil anything.) The mentor is intriguing since you don’t always know what his agenda is or who’s side he’s on.

And finally, the villains. They are appropriately nasty in a love-to-hate sort of way. They give you just another reason to root for the heroes because you want to see someone take the bad guys down.

Coming Up

There are four more books in the series. Some of them I have read, other I haven’t, so I’m really looking forward to making my way through this series again. I’ll be posting my thoughts on each book as I finish them. The next book is the Wizard Heir.

Movie Review: Hellboy

In Hellboy, Nazis try to open a gateway to a paranormal reality in an effort to beat the allies. However, they fail. In the end, they only succeed in creating an infant demon who is subsequently rescued by the allies. This demon is named Hellboy. He becomes the protagonist of this fun movie.

Hellboy is a demonically good agent for right.

Ron Perlman as Hellboy.

A 2004 byproduct of the fecund Guillermo Del Toro, Hellboy captured my interest quickly. I normally do not like movies based on graphic novels. However, this one proved to be an exception. Fast-paced and bristling with action, this film transported me into the story. It proved worth the cost of admission, and I recommend watching it. Or even re-watching it.

The Plot Heats Up

Hellboy, played by Ron Perlman, grows up. He becomes an active agent in the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. As part of this elite and arcane team, he helps protect America from mystical forces. We get to see some of his development as he grows into this important role as vanguard, however. Professor Bruttenholm, the nefarious spawn’s benefactor, essentially adopts and raises the creature.

This film takes the best of the worlds of graphic novels and comic books and merges it with cinema. Often, the great thing about superheroes is their innate otherness. People are treated to that sort of adolescent awkwardness that most people can relate to. It is this human side to Hellboy that helps make him, and, thus, the story, compelling. Even poignant.

The Nazis, and Rasputin, re-emerge to try to revive their evil fight for the soul of humanity. Hellboy is sent from the subterranean bowels of a secret F.B.I compound to assist in defeating them again.

The action is tense and constant, and not terribly graphic. This is a great family-friendly film that is both entertaining and still relevant to the genre today.

 

 

Movie Review: The Curse Of The Werewolf

Hammer Films cranked out a host of ghoulishly wonderful features sure to satisfy in full Technicolor horror. In 1961, Hammer released Curse of the Werewolf starring Oliver Reed and it was surprisingly good.

Oliver Reed was the cursed young man in this 1961 Hammer Film.

The Movie Poster for Curse of the Werewolf.

In the film, Reed plays a tormented young man, his birth the result of his mother being raped. This, and his birth falling on Christmas Day, has cursed him with the evil of being a werewolf.  I’ve always like Reed as an actor and he does a solid job playing both human and werewolf.

It may not be the best werewolf movie out there, but it is definitely worth watching. And it is available on Blu-ray as part of an eight-movie Hammer Films combo.

A Curse Is Created

Set in 18th Century Spain, the film starts with a beggar (Richard Wordsworth) begging alms at a nobleman’s wedding celebration. But the cruel Marquis Siniestro (Anthony Dawson) imprisons the beggar after an impertinent remark. Left forgotten in his cell, the beggar’s only human contacts are his jailer, and the jailer’s mute daughter (Yvonne Romain).

After 15 years in a cell, the beggar has lost his mind. And when the jailer’s daughter refuses the advances of the Marquis, she is thrown into the cell with the mad beggar. He attacks and rapes her. She is then released and sent back to the Marquis. But she kills the Marquis and flees where she is found by Don Alfredo Corledo (Clifford Evans).

Corledo brings her to his home where his housekeeper Teresa (Hira Talfey) nurses the girl back to health. However, on Christmas Day, the girl goes into labor and dies giving birth to a son. Corledo adopts the boy as his own son, Leon, and he and Teresa raise the boy.

Early Signs Of Evil

The boy is involved in a hunting accident and soon after goats start turning up dead. Leon is not suspected yet as a neighbor’s dog is considered the prime suspect. Over a dozen years pass without incident and Leon grows into a fine young man. Corledo is very proud of him.

Werewolf Boy Meets Girl

Leon takes a job at a nearby vineyard and forms a friendship with co-worker Jose Amadayo (Martin Matthews). He also falls in love with the vineyard owner’s daughter Cristina (Catherine Feller). But the love seems ill-fated and Leon becomes convinced he will never claim her as his.

Two star-crossed lovers.

Cristina and Leon were doomed to be ever separated.

Depressed, Leon goes to a brothel to drown his sorrows. There Leon transforms into a werewolf, slaying both a girl and his friend before returning to the vineyard.

He discovers that when near Cristina he does not become a werewolf. He is set to run away with her when he is arrested for the murders.

 Final Judgment

Leon begs to be executed before he becomes a werewolf once again, but he is not believed. Only when he does transform and kills two more people is action taken. Don Alfredo, the kindly man who raised the orphan child as his own shoots and kills Leon with a silver bullet and covers his son’s corpse with his cloak.

The role was the first starring role for Reed and it shows the promise of the long career that laid ahead for him.

Book Review: Monster Hunter Memoirs – Sinners & Saints

Larry Correia and John Ringo combined for two great stories.

Monster Hunter Memoirs.

 

Russ reviewed the first book in this side-trilogy to Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International series here. (I purposely avoid the word ‘prequel’ because these are not only actually good, they expand the existing universe in a worthy fashion. Come at me, Star Wars fans.)

It’s fitting to view these as one big novel rather than the second and third books in a trilogy. The second doesn’t so much end on a cliffhanger so much as it forces you to run to the top of a tall hill, empties the pitcher of ice-cold water at the top onto the ground, and demands you walk back to the bottom.

That may be hyperbole, but that was how it felt when I got to the end of Sinners a year or so ago and realized I’d have to wait for the final part. Thankfully, the concluding volume is available now in eARC format directly through Baen, with full availability next month.

At the end of Grunge, we learned that Chad, our monster-hunting Leisure Suit Larry, inadvertently inspired 90’s Seattle-sound and helped bring Valley Girl speak into the mainstream when he helped relocate an Elf Princess to the Pacific Northwest. (Like, totally!)

Chad On The Run In Sinners

Sinners opens not-too-long thereafter, and Chad is on the run. It seems he’s slept with the wrong elf girl, and she only looked 40. Thankfully, his bosses at MHI transfer him to the monster-hunting hotspot of the Big Easy.

The nickname has no resemblance to reality, though, because business is booming. All sorts of eldritch creatures are on the rise, and Team New Orleans–affectionately referred to as the ‘Hoodoo Squad’ by the locals–is barely holding the line.

If you’re familiar with the rules of Correia’s universe, that bit probably strikes you as odd. The First Reason for the government’s Monster Control Bureau, of course, is to prevent general knowledge of all the things that go bump in the night from getting out in the world. The resultant head-butting between the Bureau and private hunters forms the basis for much of the conflict between the ostensible good guys.

1980s New Orleans Revels In The Arcane

New Orleans, at least in the 1980’s setting of the Memoirs trilogy, is an entirely different animal. The locals already believe in the arcane. It’s part of their shtick. So the MCB and local MHI have adapted. They not only cooperate, they flaunt the craziness, publishing a poorly-edited local rag with pictures of actual monster hunting, a la the Weekly World News.

It’s all very wink-wink, and there’s an inherent level of zaniness that’s more than a bit entertaining after the bureaucratic shenanigans Owen and the rest often have to deal with in the mainline series.

Sinners and Saints are less episodic than the first book, with a more coherent story. We get a resolution to the backstory of Chad’s family hinted at in the first book, and there’s some great world-building with various types of monsters as well other parties who fight against them that have cameo’d in other books in the series.

Only One Negative

My only down-note on the two books is an obvious one that we’ve seen coming since Grunge. There’s this awesome guy, Chad, but how come Owen, Holly, and the rest of the modern-day Hunters have never heard of him?

Well, if you’re familiar with the series it’s obvious where it was going. When I started to get an inkling of it, I wondered how the journal format would work with a ‘famous last stand,’ and there’s a great twist where Earl detail’s Chad’s ultimate fate from his perspective.

It’s an amazing scene, and ends up as a spectacular payoff with just a bit of hinted tie-in to the ongoing books. And–look, I don’t want to spoil it for you, and it’s not really a cliffhanger, but man. That last line is killer.

Highly recommended, and a must-read if you enjoyed Grunge.

Movie Review: Wolf (1994)

In 1994 the film Wolf hit the theaters to mixed reviews. For those expecting to see a standard blood and gore fest, they were disappointed. What Wolf was instead was less a man battling against an inner monster.

Wolf was released in 1994.

Wolf starred Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pheiffer.

Instead, it was a man watching everything in his life slipping away – his career, his wife – and he enters the twilight years. But suddenly, one fateful encounter on an icy Vermont road later, that same man is given a “gift” and suddenly finds himself revitalized. He also starts to reclaim his lost “territory”.

It was a refreshing change of pace to the standard Wolfman fare and certainly had the kind of star power needed to pull it off.

Will Randall Encounters A Wolf

Publishing Editor-in-Chief, Will Randall (Jack Nicholson), is driving along a snow-covered Vermont road trying to get home to New York City. He crosses paths with a black wolf and is bitten.

Once at work, Will is informed by his publishing house’s new owner, Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer), that he is being demoted from his position. Adding insult to injury, Will’s protege Stewart Swinton (James Spader) is being promoted to takes his job.

The demoted editor eventually learns that not only has Stewart begged Alden to be Will’s replacement, his protege is also sleeping with Will’s wife, Charlotte (Kate Nelligan). Will bites Stewart just before finding his half-naked wife in Stewart’s bed.

Will Seeks Help

This Wolfman was more brain and less brawn.

Nicholson as a werewolf.

Will starts to feel the early effects of the wolf’s bite – his eyesight and vitality improve – and he awakens one morning at a riverbank covered in the blood of a deer. Will visits Dr. Vijav Alezais (Om Puri) who knows something about werewolves and the symptoms Will is feeling.

The Doctor gives Will an amulet meant to limit how far he transforms into a wolf. He then asks Will to share his “gift” and bite him. Will takes the amulet but does not bite the doctor.

But the amulet does not fully prevent the transformation and Will is wolf enough to attack muggers who have him tabbed as an easy mark. Will bites the fingers off of one of the men. But when he wakes up in his hotel in the morning he has no memory of what he has done.

However, not all is lost for Will. He has caught the eye of Alden’s daughter, Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer). And he is now fighting for his job with the ruthlessness of a wolf. Organizing a mutiny of the house’s writers, Will gets his job back.

His first act is to fire Stewart after peeing on his protege’s shoes in a clearly canine way of marking one’s territory. But before he can celebrate too much, he finds the fingers of the mugger wrapped in a handkerchief in his jacket pocket. Realizing he is a danger, Will handcuffs himself to a radiator in his room, but Laura does not believe he is dangerous and uncuffs him.

The Morning After

The couple is awakened by the arrival of Detective Carl Bridger (Richard Jenkins). Bridger informs Will that Charlotte has been murdered. Canine DNA has been found within the ghastly wounds on her body. The news rattles the couple as they both wonder if Will is the killer. Neither realizes that Stewart, also now a werewolf, is the killer.

Michelle Pfeiffer wasn't feeling the love in Wolf.

James Spader was a very, very bad werewolf.

Laura goes to see Bridger, thinking Will is indeed the killer and encounters Stewart. His eyes and his wolf-like conduct convinces her that Stewart is the killer. She makes plans to get her and Will out of the country. But Stewart follows her and the two men battle for top wolf of the pack.

The final scene tells much in wonderful simplicity. Laura telling the Detective she can smell liquor on his breath. She hears his remark to her father despite being a great distance away. As Laura walks away, her eyes take on a wolf-like appearance. The last shot is of Will transforming into a werewolf.

If you are looking for a less gory Wolfman movie, you can’t do any better than watching this one.

Movie Review: The Wolfman (The 2010 remake)

Seventy years after originally launching the werewolf franchise, Universal Studios released a remake of the 1941 classic, The Wolfman.

The major characters were still there. Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro – who is definitely not Antonio Banderas), Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins) and Gwen Conliffe (Emily Brunt).

But there are some new characters introduced that make this version slightly better than the original.

The Wolfman (2010)

Universal rebooted The Wolfman franchise in 2010.

The Wolfman (2010)

Larry’s brother Ben (who gets named in the film unlike 1941) still dies to start the film. But in the remake, Ben is the victim of an animal attack. When informed of Ben’s disappearance by Ben’s fiancee, Gwen, Lawrence hurries back home.  Lawrence is a well-known stage actor who has not been home to Talbot Hall in years.

By the time Lawrence arrives, Ben’s mauled corpse has been recovered, and the surviving brother seeks answers. We are also introduced to some of the friction between father and son that drove Lawrence away. Unlike the 1941 original, this is a more complex father-son relationship. We are also given hints that whatever drove them apart is still simmering beneath the surface.

We are also introduced to a new character, Singh, a loyal servant of Sir John. He delivers one of the best lines while loading shells.

“Sometimes,” he tells Lawrence, “the monsters hunt you.”

Life-Changing Encounter

Lawrence is introduced to the Wolfman lore early.

Benicio Del Toro as Lawrence Talbot.

While about looking for his brother’s killer, Lawrence rides into a gypsy camp. The police have also ridden in, convinced the captive bear in the camp is responsible for Ben’s death.

But the real killer arrives, a large wolf that leaves a trail of bloody carnage in its wake. Lawrence stands his ground when the wolf charges and is bitten. He is taken to Maleva (Geraldine Chaplin) who tends to his wounds and sends him to Talbot Hall to recover.

Unnatural Recovery

Hugo Weaving as Inspector Aberline.

Lawrence heals quickly, drawing the suspicions of local townsfolk as well as those of Inspector Aberline (Hugo Weaving) who has been dispatched by Scotland Yard. Aberline’s recent investigation of the Ripper murders becomes a point of contention between he and Lawrence. Aberline becomes convinced Lawrence is the killer the locals have been hunting.

“You’ve done terrible things, Lawrence,” Anthony Hopkins as Sir John Talbot.

One night, Lawrence follows his father out to a crypt. Sir John gives his son a vague warning just as he locks himself inside the crypt. Lawrence transforms into a werewolf and then slays several hunters posted out in the woods hunting the killer. When Lawrence awakens in the morning in human form, his father is standing over him.

“You’ve done terrible things, Lawrence,” he says. “Terrible things.”

Aberline and a posse ride up and arrest Lawrence, taking him back to the asylum he’d been committed to as a boy after the apparent suicide of his mother years before. Doctor Hoenneger (Antony Sher) subjects Lawrence to some rather barbaric treatments.

When Sir John visits his son, he tells of a hunting trip in India where he’d been bitten by what he thought was a feral boy. Only when he himself transformed into a werewolf did he undertsand what had happened to him. Unfortunately, that understanding came only after he’d killed the mother of his two sons.

Wrong Diagnosis

Later that night, the good Doctor has Lawrence strapped to a chair, facing an open window so he can see the full moon. The Doctor is convinced that when Lawrence sees the moon and remains human it will be a key step in his recovery.

Unfortunately for the Doctor, and many others in the room, Lawrence becomes the Wolfman and slays many men, including the Doctor. Aberline witnesses the transformation and begins a (wolf)man hunt in earnest.

The Wolfman vs. The Wolfman

Lawrence heads home again. His intent is to kill his father, ending his curse and avenging his murdered mother and brother. Gwen seeks a way to help free the man she has fallen in love with and arrives at Talbot Hall too late.

Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro as the Talbots.

After finding the dead bodies of Singh and a policeman, Lawrence finds his father at the piano. He aims Singh’s weapon, loaded with silver bullets, at his father and pulls the trigger, But Sir John removed the powder from the shells years before and the weapon does not fire.

As the full moon rises, the two men transform and engage in a massive battle. In the course of the fight, Talbot Hall is set ablaze. Lawrence finally deals a death blow to Sir John, severing his father’s head from his body.

Emily Blunt as Gwen, hiding from The Wolfman.

Gwen arrives and Lawrence appears ready to attack her when Aberline steps into the room, drawing Lawrence’s attention. Aberline struggles against the werewolf and is bitten himself as Gwen flees carrying a handgun loaded with silver bullets. These bullets will fire.

Leaving a wounded Aberline behind, Lawrence pursues Gwen. She fires the gun into Lawrence’s heart, mortally wounding him and he transforms back into a human long enough to say goodbye before he dies.

1941 vs. 2010

I loved both versions of this story. But the 2010 version does have a little more depth to it and the fact that Sir John was a werewolf added an extra level to the film the original lacked. That Lawrence struggled against the monster he’d beome while Sir John embraced it was a nice plot touch.

So yes, watch the original and then watch this remake too. You won’t regret it.

 

Movie Review: The Wolfman (1941)

As mentioned here earlier, Hollywood has embraced the legend of the Wolfman for over eight decades. Starting with Universal’s 1935 film, Werewolf of London, rarely has a decade passed without a lycan showing up in a film. While the 1935 debut of the lycans of urban fantasy was less than stellar, six years later Universal got it right with its do-over.

In 1941, The Wolfman, hit the silver screens and started a franchise. Today we’re going to take a look at the film that started it all.

The Wolfman (1941)

A happier pre-Wolfman moment.

The Talbots discuss Larry’s return and his future.

Larry Talbot returns from his self-imposed exile to the United States to Talbot Hall in Wales. But the return of the prodigal son comes only after the death of Larry’s brother, leaving Sir John Talbot with one child.

Larry (Lon Chaney Jr.), at the urging of Sir John (Claude Raines), heads into the village to get reaquainted with his childhood homelands. Earlier, whilst looking through his father’s telescope, Larry accidentally becomes a peeping tom of sorts. He spots Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers) trying on earrings in her room above her father’s antique store.

Larry learns of the Wolfman legends.

When Larry Meets Gwen.

The fair lady having caught his eye, Larry heads for the shop and as an excuse to talk with her purchases a walking stick. This stick has a wolf’s head of pure silver. When the conversation turns to werewolves Gwen recounts the saying that has carried down in lycan films for years:

“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.”

A Fateful Encounter

Larry convinces Gwen to accompany him to a gypsy camp and she brings along her friend Jenny as a chaperone. Jenny encounters a gypsy fortuneteller name Bela (Bela Lugosi) who sees a terrible future for her and tells her to run away.

Bela Lugosi battled his affliction but failed to overcome it.

Bela and his soon-to-be-victim Jenny.

But the warning comes to late and even as Jenny flees the camp, she is run down and killed by a wolf. Larry tries to come to her rescue and kills the wolf with his walking stick. But Larry is bitten by the wolf before he slays it.

Badly hurt, Larry is tended to by Bela’s own mother, Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), before being returned to Talbot Hall to recover. When Larry learns that it was Bela’s body the police discovered, and not a wolf, he begins to doubt his sanity.

Terrible Nights

Larry’s wound heals completely, and unnaturally swiftly as well. As soon as the moon is full once again, he begins to transform into The Wolfman. Colonel Paul Montford (Ralph Bellamy) is charged with solving a string of grisly murders even as Sir John tries to convince Larry he is not a werewolf.

The death of The Wolfman.

The final, fateful encounter between father and son.

When Larry breaks free from the room his father had imprisoned him after transforming, he attacks Gwen. Seeing a wolf attacking her, Sir John uses Larry’s walking stick to kill the beast and then watches in horror as the wolf turns into the corpse of his last child.

Final Thoughts

It is an old film, shot in black and white and with very basic special effects. But if you haven’t seen it yet you simply have to. It is a classic that still holds up against many of its predecessors.

It is in my video library in my home. Make it part of yours.

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