johnlink ranks THE WEREWOLF (1956)

I found a halfway decent looking classic horror flick on FearNet called THE WEREWOLF. With the WOLFMAN reboot coming, and having never really scene a vintage werewolf movie, I figured I would give this one a shot.

I watched THE WEREWOLF (1956) on 2.11.10. It was my first viewing of the film. TRAILER HERE

Here is a B-horror movie which is firmly rooted in 50s paranoia and ideology. There are undertones of anti-homosexuality (watch the Werewolf’s first kill and you’ll see what I mean) and that great 50s fear mongering subject: Us versus Them, when you can’t always tell what THEY look like.

In this story, a wanderer stumbles upon a small isolated town not knowing who he is. Quickly, we learn he is a werewolf. And not the full-moon, silver-bullet kind of werewolf, but one who transforms from man to beast when he gets angry (think Hulk). This is what mythology refers to as a lycanthrope.

The town follows (mindlessly) the Sheriff. He’s a good man trying to do right by the townfolk and his fiancee. He struggles with the concept that someone who is ‘other’ might be a good person. But he doesn’t struggle too hard, he’s looking for the first reason he can to kill the thing. The film softens the werewolf by introducing his very human wife and son (the son is one of the great overacting children ever filmed).

There are some nice looking shots in here. One scene, in particular, when two malevolent doctors invade the werewolf’s prison cell is beautifully cast in shadow in great horror/film-noir fashion. The transformation shots are laughable by today’s standards, but are effective enough.

The acting varies greatly. The Sheriff (Don Megowan) is servicable. The evil doctor is pretty good. We know he is evil when he pokes a caged dog with a stick for no reason. The town drunk is hilarious. The werewolf (Steven Ritch) has good and bad scenes, though the bad can often be blamed on the writing (giving a monologue while lying in the snow is ill-advised screenwriting). The finacee and the good doctor are average. Everyone else: terrible. I mean horrible. There are some brutally wooden moments in this film. Apparently the extras were directed to ‘stand around’ and ‘look dumb’. Some brutal work.

The script is inconsitant and without direction. The end is abrupt and unsatisfying. I’m not sure if it is supposed to be a happy ending. The traditional hero/villain system disolves, which would be okay if the film had decided on who it supported. I suppose I can give it credit for bucking tradition, but I’m not sure how conscious a decision it all was. In the end, it feels empty.

Three complaints. One: The costume designer needs to know there is more fabric than just plaid out there in the world. Holy shit, was there a lot of plaid. Two: If you’re going to have snow, great. If not, great. But having the werewolf run off screen in snow, and continue in the next shot on dry land doesn’t work. Three: And this is a similar complaint to two. If you are going to shoot day-for-night, I’m all for it. If you are going to shoot nighttime as it is, awesome. But cutting between shots that were done day-for-night with shots that were filmed in nighttime is silly. There. I am done. Getting off my soapbox.

I’m more of a noir guy than a horror guy, when it comes to pre-war and post-war cinema (I’m talking WWII here). THE WEREWOLF, in some ways, tries to derive some influence from the noir camp. But, ultimately, it becomes a muddied mess of a horror/drama (and some would say unintentional comedy).





~ by johnlink00 on February 11, 2010.

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