The Wolf Man: Night monster... prowling... killing... terrifying a countryside... with the blood lust of a savage beast!
The Best Horror Movie of 1941: The Wolf Man
From Paste Magazine
More remakes and mad doctors are running rampant in 1941, as Karloff continues to put in work (The Devil Commands), but new faces are arriving on the scene as well. The most notable is the ample frame of Lon Chaney Jr., stepping very neatly into the exact sort of roles once tackled by his father, the Man of a Thousand Faces. His starring turn in The Wolf Man is obviously his most high-profile work in 1941, but he simultaneously appears in Man-Made Monster, and would work steadily in horror for the rest of his life. Due to eventual appearances in the sequels of several franchises in the 1940s, Lon Chaney Jr. holds the distinction of being the only person to portray all four of the major Universal monsters: The Wolf Man, Dracula, The Mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster.
1941 also gives us a classic comedy fantasy in the form of The Devil and Daniel Webster, which touches on the horror genre thanks to its Faustian elements, along with an early Abbott and Costello feature, Hold That Ghost, which sees the comedy duo inheriting what might be a haunted tavern. It would be seven more years before Abbott and Costello returned to the horror genre for their much better-known rendevouz with Dracula, The Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s Monster, which would serve as an unofficial ending to the era of classic Universal monsters. In 1941, though, we’re still going strong. Not to be forgotten: Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion, which isn’t always tagged as a “horror film” per se, but is home to some of the era’s most suspenseful scenes—particularly the bit with Cary Grant fetching his wife a terrifyingly lit glass of what may or may not be poisoned milk.
After a handful of very successful Frankenstein sequels, but less than ideal follow-ups to Dracula and The Mummy, what the Universal monsters series really needed in 1941 was some fresh blood. This it got, in the form of the fourth head on its monstrous Mount Rushmore: The Wolf Man. In a time when the monster series was beginning to trend toward broader adventure, comedy or self-parody, The Wolf Man brought things nicely back to basics, in a story that favors suspense, atmosphere and character over comedy or overt displays of production value. The Wolf Man’s first priority was scaring cinema-goers, and by all accounts it did just that, despite having to contend against reports from the front lines of World War II.
How The Golden Age Of Horror Led To The Birth Of The Cinematic Universe
Marvel studios are often credited with the creation, or at least popularisation of the ‘Cinematic Universe’ craze that has caught on in recent years, and with the release of this year's Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, Warner Bros’ and Legendary Pictures’ Monsterverse is getting a lot of attention.
So why isn’t more recognition being given to the original monsterverse (and the original cinematic universe): The classic Universal Monsters?
In 1931, under the watch of Carl Laemmle Jr., the original run of Universal Monster films began with Tod Browning’s Dracula starring Bela Lugosi, followed shortly afterwards by James Whale’s Frankenstein (also 1931) starring Boris Karloff. The massive success of Whale’s Frankenstein led to Universal having him direct Hollywood’s first great sequel, and the first ever major horror sequel; Bride of Frankenstein (1935). As with some of today’s popular cinematic universes (most notably Marvel’s MCU), the Universal Monster films ran in phases, the first of which ended in 1936, shortly after the release of Bride Of Frankenstein.
It would be another three years before the second phase of films emerged with Son Of Frankenstein (1939) but the film that really kicked off this new approach was George Waggner’s The Wolf Man (1941) starring Lon Chaney Jr. The film was (seemingly) a conscious effort on Universal’s part to be a more commercially friendly approach to a story similarly told in Werewolf Of London (1935), adding to the lore of lycanthropy and featuring an all-star cast including Claude Rains and Bela Lugosi, as well as the aforementioned Chaney Jr.
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Universal Studios Classic Monsters: The Wolf Man
From Inside The Magic
Classic monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy, the invisible man, the wolf man, and the creature from the Black Lagoon paved the path for modern horror marvels. Turning terror mainstream, these familiar faces of fear demonstrated that horror has a home in motion pictures.
Several of these favored fright feasts began life a literary horror. Authors like Brahm Stoker, Mary Shelley, and H.G. Wells. Others rose from the grave as original nightmares created specifically for Universal Pictures.
Universal Studios, in 1923, took a gamble with their production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1922). “Hunchback,” which did better than other film Universal released that year, catapulted Lon Chaney into the spotlight, due the brilliant star’s passion for perfect make-up (which he did himself). To showcase Cheney’s talents, Gaston Leroux’s “Le Fantome de l’opera” novel became the studios next feature. “Phantom of the Opera,” released in 1925, also gave birth to the horror genre of fear fed films.
Lon Cheney Jr.’s full moon manifestation was not the first Universal foray into the den of wolves. That title belongs to the May 1935 release “Werewolf of London.” Jack Pierce’s original makeup plan for transforming Dr. Gideon (Henry Hull) on film was rejected for this monster movie. “Werewolf of London,” perhaps, gained more popularity in 1978 due to Warren Zevon’s Halloween pop hit of the same name. It is also considered to have inspired feature films like “An American Werewolf in London” (1981) and “An American Werewolf in Paris” (1997).
Hey There Monster What's Your Sign?
Mad Monster Party (1969)(Rankin/Bass)
The Wolf Man (1941)(Universal)
Dummy nothin'. It was smart enough to scare me.
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