Monday, October 5, 2015

Countdown to Halloween 2015 - Counting Down the Monsters #5 - The Wolf Man

Of all the classic Universal monsters - maybe even of all of classic monsterdom period - The Wolf Man is perhaps one of the most sympathetic. The first time I saw the Wolf Man in a film wasn't in his own movie. Instead, it was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (dir. Charles Barton) (which also happened to be the first time I saw Dracula or Frankenstein's Monster - or heard the Invisible Man - in a movie as well!), but even in that movie at the end of his run, the Wolf Man made me feel more than any other monster.

As I got older, I started to understand more and more why I felt for Larry Talbot. He didn't ask for his curse, and he was constantly doing the best that he could to survive it and protect those around him/those he loved. The way he walked was indeed thorny, and I think on some level, I resonated with that as a kid.

My teenage years? I thought werewolves were just COOL. There was something about how beastial they were that thrilled me. I always wanted to dress up as one for Halloween, and managed to do so one year with a mask. It wasn't Lon Chaney, but it was something.

These days, I still think there's a "cool" factor when it comes to werewolves. But the Wolf Man . . . Lon Chaney, Jr., made that role his own, and perhaps channeled more of his own personality and struggles into the character than Lugosi did into Dracula or Karloff did into the Monster. Lon's demons took their toll on him over the years, and there's an eerie prescience to his performance as a man who can't control the monster within himself.

You can see this in all the Universal films in which the Wolf Man appears, but The Wolf Man (dir. George Waggner) is the most poignant for me. It's in this film we see Lon-as-Larry before the lycanthropy. The film gives us a contrast between the human and the werewolf, a before and after view of a character that would take us through five films.

And I love every one of them.

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