johnlink ranks THE WOLF MAN (1941)

I watched this in a couple of sittings, as this was the film I put on at night while getting my daughter to fall asleep. THE WOLF MAN is one of the iconic Universal Horror entries, and is revered as a classic of the genre. But does it hold up? Does it stand the test of time?

I watched THE WOLF MAN (1941) on 10.12.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

Throughout the pages of this blog, I am quick to mention that my rankings reflect a modern viewing of any given film. While I respect history of film immensely, and I will certainly give credit to a film which launches a genre or a specific filmic device, I also can’t deny how a film strikes me presently. Before I get into the negatives of THE WOLF MAN, I’d like to (for my own piece of mine) point to my article on the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN film as proof that age doesn’t preclude a film from being effective.

All that said, THE WOLF MAN is not a good movie. I have not seen much of Lon Chaney Jr., and what I see here does not show me why he is an icon of horror. As regular guy Larry Talbot, Cheney is wooden an ineffective. As THE WOLF MAN the film does not give him enough to do in order to make him effectively scary. It takes more than half the film for Talbot to turn into the titular bad guy, and all he does is stalk around, grab people, get trapped by poorly disguised traps, and lose battles. I’m not sure what I am supposed to find scary.

Even in the course of film history, I look at he aforementioned FRANKENSTEIN film and see much more horror. I’m sure they Hays Code had plenty to do with the thematic neutering of a story like this, but I just don’t find this to be scary or moody. This is also a film which comes just before the lunch of the film noir genre, and as a dark and sinister film, THE WOLF MAN could use some higher-thought shots. Instead, we are given a studio-filmed locale, one which never give us anything of substance.

The acting in this film is wooden across the board. I wish it had more to offer. Only Claude Rains, as Talbot’s father, gives a noteworthy portrayal. He reminds  me, actually, of great actors like Anthony Hopkins slumming in the remake of this film.

The script, likewise, is pedestrian and uninteresting. While I certainly understand that the modern horror film had yet to be fleshed out, this is a movie which is uninspiringly predictable. It lacks any unique beats. It is not burdened, either, in the way that old movies are often less interesting because they are loaded with moments which later become cliché. Instead, the events here just don’t hit with much impact.

Might this movie held great sway over contemporaneous audiences? Absolutely. But for the modern film-goer it does not have anything interesting to say. The love interest is boring, the Gypsy lady is stereotypical, the dialogue is weak, the excitement is not palpable. I wish I had better news to report. Instead, this is not worth the time usually set aside for something considered a classic.





~ by johnlink00 on October 12, 2012.

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