Tuesday, May 28, 2013

#1,016. Werewolf of London (1935)

Directed By: Stuart Walker

Starring: Henry Hull, Warner Oland, Valerie Hobson

Tag line: "Beware! Terror strikes in the night!"

Trivia:  Although they play husband and wife in this film Henry Hull was actually 27 years older than Valerie Hobson

Released six years before Universal's classic The Wolf Man, Werewolf of London marked the first ever appearance of a werewolf in a Hollywood film. But as this movie clearly demonstrates, being "first" doesn't always translate to being the "best".

Botanist Dr. Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull) is searching for a rare orchid known as the Mariphasa, which blooms only in the moonlight. It's in Tibet that he finally locates the flower, yet not before he's attacked by a wolf and bitten on the arm. Once back in England, Glendon receives a visit from the mysterious Dr. Yogami (Warner Oland), who tells Glendon the creature that attacked him was, in fact, a werewolf, meaning he is now destined to become one. Sure enough, during the next full moon, Glendon transforms into a werewolf and prowls the streets of London, searching for victims. According to Yogami, only the Mariphasa flower can cure him of this terrible curse. But the one Glendon brought back from Tibet has a limited supply of the antidote, and somebody else wants it as well.

Werewolf of London features a monster that's more "man" than "wolf", with Glendon maintaining many of his human characteristics after the transformation (save the fangs and some hair on his face and hands). Still, the film's make-up, which came courtesy of Jack Pierce (who also created the look of Chaney's Wolf Man) isn't the problem; the real issue with Werewolf of London is its lead character. As played by Henry Hull, Dr. Glendon is far too dull to evoke any sympathy from an audience. A man so wrapped up in his work that he ignores his wife, Lisa (Valerie Hobson), Glendon comes across as something of a twit, which makes it hard to care what happens to him.

Like most Universal horror films of the 1930's, the various set pieces in Werewolf of London are impressive (the opening sequence in Tibet looks great). But as a monster movie, it definitely falls short of the mark.

1 comment:

James Robert Smith said...

I have never seen this film, except for the very end which I happened upon when I was just a very young kid---eight years old or so. What frustrated me most was that I'd missed everything but the last few minutes! So I've never been able to form an opinion of the movie. (If my memory serves me right, the monster was dispatched with a regular old bullet, and not a silver one. True?