By: Justin Hopkins
This week it was announced that Universal would be taking another swing at one of their classic monsters, following in the heels of The Invisible Man, with The Wolfman, with Ryan Gosling set to play the title character. While I am excited to see what that rendition has in store for us. Gives us the perfect excuse to go back and check out the two that came before it. Going all the way back to 1941 and 2010. So, with a lot to cover, lets dive right in with the original shall we.
The Wolfman 1941
The movie opens with a title card sequence of starts, like a lot of these older movies used to do. Showing us the characters and who plays them and then the definition of Lycanthropy and we see the main character driving down the road. Returning home after he learned his brother died during a hunting trip. Putting all of the bad history between himself and his Dad. During their conversation a glass shipment arrives and the fix up a telescope. Which they test by spying on the town. Larry spots a woman, Gwen, in her bedroom. When he sees it is above an Antique Shop, he goes running. Trying to be..suave I suppose by wanting to buy the jewels she has upstairs. Claiming to know they are there by being psychic. When he can’t buy the jewels. Agrees to buy a cane with a wolf’s head, moon, and pentagram. Reciting the verse of a man pure of heart and says his prayers. Can Become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright. When he is leaving, invites her for a walk at 8 and despite saying no. Is waiting with a friend at 8. Wearing the jewels he was asking for. Her friend, Jenny wanting to go get her fortune read by the gypsies and they set off to do that. While that is going on, they go for a walk. While he is admitting to the telescope incident, we see the friend with the gypsies. Who tells her to come back tomorrow and leaves. While she is trying to find them though. Is attacked by a giant wolf. When Larry and Gwen hear her cries and come running. He attacks the wolf and beats him to death with the cane, but is wounded during the altercation and passes out. They get him back home and the police go out, but instead of finding an animal. They find a dead gypsy and Jenny’s deceased body. Questions beginning to arise quickly about what really did happen out there, and why his wounds have disappeared and that is where I will leave it for now.
This was a great story that has not only stood the test of time, but has been an inspiration to Werewolf movies ever since. A simple story of a man getting attacked by a Werewolf, that results in him becoming the very same monster. Not utilizing jump scares, but letting the tension build naturally. Letting the story build it’s way throughout, until Larry becomes the Wolfman and get the payoff of the monster rampaging through the woods, until we get the monster and damsel in distress, a classic moment in older movies.
You are going to here this from me a few times on this review, but it can be quite hard to judge some of the stuff, due to it coming from 1941, Practical effects being in it’s infancy and what they can do in front of a camera being limited and things like gore not being really a thing. The attacks from the wolf were kind of on the bland side and kind of hooky. Which is fine. It’s about context and what you are seeing works just as intended and didn’t need the gore.
Than you get the transformation scene was alright. Must have been something else, back in the day, but we just see hair growing on his legs and feet turning into paws and then pan up to see the final outcome. It’s not bad, just fine.
Lon Chaney Jr. really left his mark on the character. He left a legacy behind that may never be touched by anyone going forward. You really feel his genuine confusion over what happened and his sorrow over the idea that he may have killed a man in his confusion and the horrific response he has when he realizes that he killed people after his first transformation. There is one small thing that I’ll talk about in a bit, but overall Lon was fantastic.
Okay, this is probably the part I get it, 1941 was a long time ago and shouldn’t bash them to hard when it comes to the negatives due to that reason, but there were three things that really hurt it for me. Two small ones and a much larger one. The slight was the score. When it was warranted, it was great, but there are times when silence would have fit the bill so much better and you get the music playing over and taking me right out of the moment and happens throughout.
Then, during his hunt in his Werewolf form, he gets stopped by a bear trap. A menacing monster that strikes fear into everyone, is downed by a bear trap. The entire sequence of him just rolling around is just bad. Out of anything they could have done, and that was what was decided on and it didn’t work at all for me.
Next though was a bigger one for me, and that was the relationship between Larry and Gwen. This starts with Larry spying on her with a telescope, instead of talking to her, tries to buy the jewels from her desk and doesn’t flinch when he finds out she is taken. They are going for sweet, by her kind of laughing it off and going with it and liking him and all, but just casts him in a bad light and makes it hard to care for his more sympathetic moments, because of the moments he has with her.
This is a hard movie to grade. It’s place in history can never be taken away. It’s a legit classic that has inspired so many to get into movies and bring their own ideas of the Werewolves for us to love. At the same time, the negatives really hurt it for me. So, Final Grade: B –
The Wolfman 2010
Open with the man of pure of heart verse and we jump right to it. Showing a man being killed right out by the Werewolf. Than we jump to a man, Lawrence, performing a play. A woman, Gwen, watching closely before going backstage when they finish. Needing to talk to him alone. Telling him that his brother, and her fiancee is missing for a month and she fears the worst, because two other villagers were found dead the same night. At first he refuses, but caves and we see him on a train going home. Talking to a man about a picture of his Mom that fell from his pocket. He offers a wolf’s head cane, but he politely declines it. When the train reaches it’s destination and he is collecting his stuff however, the man disappears. Leaving the cane behind and Lawrence takes it with him. By the time he gets home. His Dad informs him that Ben’s body had been found that morning. He goes to see the body. Learning he had been torn apart. At the bar, listening to the people speculating what it could have been Some believing it to be the gypsies another a werewolf. When they insult his Mother though, it gets his attention. Throwing a drink in their face and gets thrown out of the bar. Later we get a flashback. Seeing him and his brother having a good time and then finding his Mother’s dead body. When he wakes up, after the funeral. We find out he was actually committed after finding her body. Gwen is about to leave. Asking when he is leaving, and he isn’t going anywhere till he find out what happened to Ben. His Dad tells him to wait till the morning. Not to go out during the full moon. Which of course he does. Goes off to the Gypsy Camp. Trying to find the Gypsy who sold Ben the coin and what happened the night he was there. When a posse shows up for their bear. The Werewolf attacks almost immediately. Picking off from the back before sprinting in and getting someone before anyone can realize and panic ensues. A boy runs off and Lawrence spots the wolf going after him and he wastes no time giving chase. Getting attacked himself. Wolf biting his neck, but before killing him. The Gypsies scare him off. Bringing the bloodied Lawrence back. The older Gypsy stitching him up, while a younger woman arguing about whether or not they even should. Knowing what he will become if they do save him and that is where I will leave off.
This was a great telling of the story. Keeping what made the first one special, but fleshed it out and made it bigger. Having him show signs of the beast within before he experiences it. Hearing the horses coming. By having the Werewolf who attacked him survive, they create a bit of suspense and by having Sir Thomas simply come out with it, give us tension and an anticipation of the incoming Werewolf fight.
My main negative from the original was the cringe relationship and the fact Larry was a little more one the creepy side, was remedied here. He build sympathy naturally from him finding his Mother’s dead body and the trauma he experienced afterwards. That lead to him being estranged and the guilt that he wasn’t there for Ben and the chance is gone. He put himself in the line of danger trying to save the kid. All tying into the verse on a good man becoming a wolf.
There is a lot of good kills in this movie. When the Werewolf is around he just goes to town on everyone around him. Biting chunks out of people’s stomachs and throats. Arms and heads are flying and it’s a great time all around. Some moments of CGI are a bit much, but never really distract me to much. Two moments of jump scare attacks, that were both more funny than actually scary. Each were surprise attacks and loved them both.
The Werewolf transformation was a really good one. Using what they didn’t have back in 1941 and really showed how his body changed and morphed and thought the end result was an intimidating version of the Werewolf.
Originally I wasn’t to high on the Asylum scenes. Him being dunked into ice water and shocked, but after it was done and thought about it. Does seem like something that would have happened back in the day. People doing awful things to someone to prove that there infliction were all in their minds and adds a disturbing sense of realism to it that only build to the sympathy toward Lawrence.
You can tell everyone who showed up, really brought their best. Loving the original and wanted to do their best to do it justice and make this one stand out. Benicio Del Toro did a great job making Lawrence a sympathetic character with a lot of heart and felt bad knowing that he wasn’t going to overcome it. Emily Blunt took the bigger role they had for Gwen and made it her own and because of how well they told the story between the two of them. Made the ending all the better. Hugo Weaving was an entertaining foil to play of him. Playing a smart, educated Inspector who is faced with this supernatural force and instead of bulking or questioning it. Is adapting and taking it head on because it is the right thing to do, and Anthony Hopkins is Anthony Hopkins. When it was time for the fight, his mystique and delivery made it all that much better.
Alright, negative time. The first flashback I understand, but when he is being tortured at the asylum, it just fell flat. Due to the way it was shot and the motion blurs and dumb jump scares that was going on during it. Just felt like a way to drag it out and just felt like wasted time.
Yeah, that was my only real complaint. Pacing was a bit slow, but hardly notice because they always had the story moving forward. Tension building to a good Werewolf fight and emotional ending of Gwen realizing there was no reaching him and had to put him down and cliffhanger of Hugo’s character being bitten. All around good movie from start to finish. Final Grade – B+
I get that the 1941 is a classic and has given us so much and the 2010 version both honored and built off it in a positive way and I hope for the same from the Ryan Gosling Wolfman we got coming. For today, The remake takes the prize. As always, I hope you enjoyed and…
Thank You For Reading.