The Wolf Man (1941)

Film Review

THE WOLF MAN

Release Date: 12 December, 1941

Studio: Universal

Director: George Waggner

Starring: Lon Chaney, Jr., Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi

Special Notes: TCM Classic Film Festival, 2012

The Wolf Man was screened as part of the Universal's Legacy of Horror theme at the 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival. Makeup artist Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London, 1982, The Wolfman, 2010) spoke about the film.

Synopsis

Friendly and mild mannered Larry Talbot (Chaney) is bitten by a werewolf (Lugosi) and becomes a werewolf himself. A man during the day, Chaney transforms into a werewolf under the full moon, prowling the countryside and killing anyone he encounters. The constable and local citizens hunt him. Horror and tragedy combine in the fates of both Chaney and his father (Rains), a skeptic who does not believe in the werewolf until he is forced to strike it down with his silver-headed cane. Rains then watches in anguish as the dead Wolf Man transforms back into his son.

Discussion

The Wolf Man introduces Universal's final major horror character until . As played by Chaney, the wolf man is a pitiable character whose transformations and homicidal acts are completely involuntarily. He is distraught because he cannot prevent the killings.

Guest Rick Baker talked about makeup artist Jack Pierce. Pierce created Chaney's wolf man makeup and Karloff's makeup for Frankenstein. Pierce built facial features out of cotton, liquid plastic and putty. He glued yak hair to the face and head of Chaney. Applying the makeup (and removing it) was a slow and tedious process that took hours of work. Although Pierce got on well with Karloff, he had a poor relationship with Chaney. New types of makeup, including molded latex appliances that were faster and easier to apply, and more comfortable for actors, were introduced in the 1940s. Pierce found it hard to adapt to the newer methods and was reluctant to use the latex appliances, and his career declined as a result. He worked mostly in television during the 1950s. His final position was makeup artist for the Mr. Ed television series in the early 1960s.