“Whoever is bitten by a werewolf and lives becomes a werewolf himself.”
Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) has been away from home for 18 years. He and his father, Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains), have had some issues in the past. They put aside their differences when Larry's brother dies. Now he is home. Larry’s homecoming is marred by being bitten by a werewolf.
Larry meets a few people in town. He is smitten with Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers). He accompanies her and a friend of hers Jenny Williams (Fay Helm) to Gypsy festival. During a palm reading session Jenny becomes afraid when the fortune teller ends the session and refuses to continue. Jenny runs away from the camp and is attacked and killed by a werewolf. Larry tries to come to her rescue and is bitten himself, before he kills what he describes as a wolf.
Now whenever there is a full moon, Larry turns into a werewolf. The only way to stop him from killing is to kill him. The only way to kill him is with either a silver bullet or silver knife or hit him with a silver cane or something else silver.
"The Wolf Man" was released in 1941 and was directed by George Waggner. What I loved about this movie were the sets. Dreary, dead, fog laden, trees that look like monsters reaching for you. It is never mentioned in the movie where the story takes place. You have English gentry and gypsies all together. Some think it is Wales, but it is never directly mentioned. Not specifying the country they are in enhances the otherworldly feel of the film. The thought that perhaps this is either a dream or there is something wrong with Talbot’s mind. Are you crazy if you believe you’re a werewolf or does being a werewolf make you crazy?
The film says that werewolves come out on nights when there is a full moon. Only something made of silver will kill a werewolf. A pentagram will show in the palm of his next victim. If you kill him he will revert back to his normal self. For the most part all werewolf lore comes from and was invented by writer Curt Siodmak and Universal’s “The Werewolf” in 1941.
I always thought it was strange that Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) was the son of Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains). Chaney is at least a half a foot taller and has an American accent. Larry Talbot first sees Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers) when he is adjusting his telescope. She is in her bedroom trying on a pair of earrings. I guess that would technically make Larry Talbot a peeping Tom as well as a wolf.
I could see the correlation that Siodmak makes between Talbot’s transformation from man to werewolf to Germany’s transformation from Germany to Nazi Germany. Siodmak, a German Jew left Germany for France around 1933 when the Nazi influence began. He again fled France for the United States in 1936 when Hitler’s regime forced him out. His work is reflective of the good in man vs the bad in man.
This is the werewolf I lot of us grew up with whether you saw it in the theater or on TV. This is the movie where we all learned what a werewolf is. This is the werewolf we love.
The first known werewolf movie ever made was “The Werewolf of London” done in 1935.)