Thursday, October 02, 2014
Halloween Horror Fest #1: Quick Notes on The Wolf Man (1941)
This came out right after Pearl Harbor. The attack of, not the Michael Bay Movie. While Lon Chaney Jr. was stalking Universal's backlot, the Japanese Army was stalking us! War and Werewolves have a connection. There's even a movie call War Wolves (wish I had thought of that).
Nazi's were symbolized as wolves. In American Werewolf in London, Nazi Wolves bust into a suburban home and kill the family inside. In Wolf Man, people marked with a pentagram are doomed to die. Larry Talbot seemed like a nice guy, but became a snarling beast. Men acting like beasts.
Wolf Man is different because he wants nothing to do with his condition. He was just fine being a suave man of the world. Now look at him, cold blooded murderer. Dracula loved being Dracula. Frankenstein was born that way, and so he was playing the hand he'd been dealt. Larry Talbot is great because he's the self loathing monster.
Lon Chaney Jr. was a heavy drinker and a real brawler. He and his drinking buddies would get sloppy drunk and destroy their dressing rooms. Heavy drinking would eventually kill him. If you see his later roles, it's pretty sad to see the effect all this self abuse. When he died, they dissected his body to show students the damage a lifetime of heavy drinking does.
Not a lecture on sobriety or the horrors of war, but this subtext makes The Wolf Man a favorite of mine. Werewolves are a hard nut to crack. The make up has to be convincing or you wind up with a guy in a bear costume. Wolf Man's big game show host hair and puppy nose looks silly, but Lon Chaney Jr. sells it. The real scary stuff is his human form, wrestling with what he is. Existential horror!
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