Movie Review: The Wolf Man (1941)

Oh hi there, I hope you’re doing well. Our journey through the Universal Monsters box set continues. So let’s go!

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Wolf Man”.

After he returns to live with his father, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) finds himself on a late night trip with a beautiful woman (Evelyn Ankers). This trip takes a sinister turn however when Talbot has a violent encounter with a wolf. An encounter that would change his life forever. While not the first movie to feature a werewolf, it’s definitely the one that set the standard for that type of story. Several tropes originated from it, and that legacy can’t be ignored. And I enjoyed the narrative here. I don’t necessarily think it’s the most nuanced or even most well told of these Universal monster stories, but I did most certainly enjoy it. The tone is the right balance between the campy monster stuff and something more somber and dramatic. The storytelling hits just the right mark for me. Nothing overly special, but definitely quite enjoyable.

The characters in this have a decent bit of nuance to them, and I found them to be decently entertaining. Lon Chaney Jr. plays Larry Talbot, AKA the man who is a wolf. And he is definitely the most nuanced character here. Seeing his arc, from smooth talking and charismatic man to someone more tragic is genuinely engaging, and Chaney Jr. is fantastic in the role. Next we have Claude Rains (the Invisible Man himself) as John Talbot, the father of our protagonist. A man of god and science, he serves as an interesting dramatic foil in Larry’s development, and makes for an interesting presence. And Rains is great in the role. We also get supporting work from Evelyn Ankers, Maria Ouspenskaya, Warren William, and Bela Lugosi (fuck yeah), and they were all great in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Charles Previn, Frank Skinner, and Hans J Salter… not often we see a trio of composers, so I’m just gonna let this moment simmer for two seconds. One, two. Okay, how was the score then? Pretty good. It was decently atmospheric and eerie, perfectly complementing the vibe the movie was going for. It’s good.

“The Wolf Man” was directed by a man named George Waggner, and I would say he did a really good job with it. Shots flow nicely into each other, and the man shows here that he haad great skill when it came to create a gothic sense of dread, without making it feel too overbearing in any sense. Speaking of gothic, I love the sets here. Yes, they often look like just that: Sets. But they’ve been coated in this dark, eerie, gothic atmosphere that just makes me so happy.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 90% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 72/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.3/10.

While not a top tier Universal monster movie, “The Wolf Man” is still a highly enjoyable one. It has a good story, good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Wolf Man” is an 8.66/10. So I’d say that it’s definitely worth buying.

My review of “The Wolf Man” is now completed.

Of WOOOOOOOOLF, AND MAAAAAAAAAN!

Movie Review: Dracula (1931)

The Month of Spooks is something I do every year as a celebration of the spookier side of entertainment. However, I have seldom looked back on the REALLY old stuff, the big classics. So this year I sought to change that ever so slightly. This means that every other review you’ll see this month will be of a film from the Universal Monster Classics blu-ray set. So there… variety!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Dracula”!

Transylvania. A real estate agent named Renfield (Dwight Frye) finds himself a guest of the enigmatic Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi), only to succumb to the Count’s will and become his servant. The two then set out for London, where Dracula will continue his reign of terror. We all know the basic setup for this story, let’s not kid around with that. But how does it hold up in terms of storytelling here? Pretty good, actually (fucking anticlimactic, I know). It’s a simple gothic tale with occasional hints towards more nuance within certain developments, and I like that stuff. I do however have some issues with it. Those issues pertain mainly to the pacing throughout. Sometimes it rushes through parts and sometimes it drags a little. It doesn’t completely break the film in half, but it is noticeable enough that it should be mentioned. But overall it’s still an enjoyable little tale.

The characters in this are fine, they serve the story decently enough. Bela Lugosi plays the titular vampire in this. A silver-tongued, polite gentleman who also occasionally gives people a nibble or two on the neck. I enjoy his presence, he’s a good villain/monster for this story. And Lugosi’s performance is of course great, a wonderful mix of quiet menace and mildly campy flamboyance. The other one I wanna go into some detail with is Dwight Frye as Renfield, the poor fool who becomes Dracula’s pawn. A seemingly decent dude turned madman. He’s probably the most interesting character in this, as we see he’s seemingly both intelligent and crazy, making for a surprisingly nuanced character. And Frye is great in the role, really selling Renfield’s recent insanity in a way that genuinely creeps me out. And the rest of the cast, including people like Helen Chandler, David Manners, Edward Van Sloan, and more, all do really well in their respective roles.

What’s fascinating about this movie’s score is that it doesn’t really exist. The movie does use excerpts from one or two stage shows at certain points (mostly notably one from “Swan Lake”), but for the most part this film lacks any real score. But that’s okay. Not every film or scene needs music.

Based on the book of the same name by Bram Stoker, “Dracula” was directed by Tod Browning (with uncredited help from Karl Freund), and I think the craft on display here is terrific. While we’ve seen many homages and parodies and references to the visual style of this movie in tons of other projects, there’s something truly special about seeing this original take on the classic gothic visuals. The visuals in this are fucking breathtaking, from the sets to the lighting to the framing, it all just looks amazing to this day. Sure, some of the effects don’t look as good today, but I think that adds to the charm of it. I just love that old school gothic aesthetic.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 71/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.5/10.

While its occasionally wonky pacing drags it down a little, “Dracula” is still a really good gothic horror flick. It has a good store, okay characters, really good performances, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Bleh*. My final score for “Dracula” is an 8,77/10. So while a little flawed, it’s still definitely worth buying!

My review of “Dracula” is now completed.

Bela Lugosi, legend. Dwight Frye, MVP.