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?
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 Wolfman 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 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.
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.