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THE WOLF MAN

THE WOLF MAN-United States-1941

Claude Rains as Sir John Talbot

Warren William as Doctor Lloyd

Ralph Bellamy as Colonel Montford

Patrick Knowles as Frank Andrews

Bela Lugosi as Bela

Evelyn Ankers as Gwen Conliffe

Lon Chaney, Jr. as Lawrence Talbot/The Wolf Man

Directed by George Waggner

Original Screenplay by Curt Siodmak

Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night…

…Anyone can become a werewolf. Take Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, “Billy the Kid”, “Man Made Monster“), for example. Here we have a man returning home after 18 years away from his father. It takes his brother’s death to bring him back, but the prodigal son has returned and the father (Claude Rains, “The Invisible Man“, and “Mystery of Edwin Drood”) is ready to teach him the ways of the Talbot Estate. Larry is a good man, a decent man. He may be a little too confident for his own good, but has that ever hurt anyone? He’s even met Gwen (Evelyn Ankers, “Hold That Ghost“) and they’re going for a walk later on…

…may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms…

…It’s funny how fate has a way of interfering with our everyday lives. Larry is attacked by a werewolf on his walk through the woods with Gwen. Maleva the Gypsy woman (Maria Ouspenskaya) tells him “Whoever is bitten by a werewolf and lives becomes a werewolf himself.” Larry doesn’t believe her at first; but then the body count starts piling up and he must live with the consequences of his actions…

and the autumn moon is bright…

…As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a werewolf. My sister is partially to blame for this fantastic desire. She used to tell me that there was a werewolf in the closet to try and get me to behave myself. Usually her little trick worked since my young mind shuddered at the thought of this horrible beast leaping from within the darkness of my closet to rip me apart. But soon fright turned to curious fascination and I found myself reading every book and watching every movie that featured a werewolf or a wolf man that I could get my hands on. “The Wolf Man” is the classic tale of the beast that resides in all of us. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s the truth. Man is the beast and the beast is a man. In his day Robert Louis Stevenson knew this to be true. Curt Siodmak based “The Wolf Man” around this belief and even today writers like Brian Easton (“The Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter”) and Carrie Vaughn (“Kitty and the Midnight Hour“) carry on the tradition of the beast. “The Wolf Man” is classic, he is horror and he is eternal.

TRIVIA

Larry Talbot’s brother’s name was John.

In the first version of the script, Larry was not the prodigal son of Sir John Talbot, nor related to him in any way. He was an American engineer who comes to fix Sir John’s telescope, and ends up getting trapped in the werewolf curse.

“Even a man who is pure at heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” This quote has been listed in some sources as an authentic Gypsy or Eastern European folk saying. Writer Curt Siodmak admits that he simply made it up. Nonetheless, the rhyme would be recited in every future Universal film appearance of the Wolf Man, and would also be quoted in Van Helsing. (Albeit, slightly modified, “The moon is shining bright.” rather than “The autumn moon is bright.”)

According to the documentary on the Recent Wolf Man DVD collection, the script for The Wolf Man was influenced by writer Curt Siodmak’s experiences in Nazi Germany. Siodmak had been living a normal life in Germany only to have it thrown into chaos and himself on the run when the Nazis took control, just as Larry Talbot finds his normal life thrown into chaos and himself on the run once he is turned into a werewolf. Also, the wolfman himself can be seen as a metaphor for the Nazis: an otherwise good man who is transformed into a vicious killing animal who knows who his next victim will be when he sees the symbol of a pentagram (i.e., a star) on them.

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