I've never been a big fan of werewolves. While they tend to make for an interesting visual representation, I've never understood some people's fascination with them, particularly those who feel like they really are werewolves. I understand the attraction to vampires completely - the hunger is a mirror for sexual desire, and the lifestyle is one of carefree immoral indulgence. Werewolves, on the other hand, are generally not in control of themselves. They're pure rage and violence. I'm guessing either the idea of losing control is appealing to some, or perhaps they feel they lose control at times and can therefore relate to the creatures.
This past weekend I watched The Wolf Man, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, and Young Frankenstein. The last one is not technically related but is a great tribute to classic horror and hilarious. I decided to follow up watching the classic versions of the wolf man with the recent update, The Wolfman, last night. Did they remove the space to try to separate the two? I'm not sure.
As far as the classics go, Lon Chaney, Jr. is a great actor. While maybe not quite as suave as most leading men from this era, he definitely carries a film well. The love story for The Wolf Man is a bit outdated and laughable now. Guy stalks girl and she pretends to not be interested even though she totally is, even when he admits that he was using a telescope to look into her room. It's these kind of things that make me glad I wasn't born yet. Giving all that a pass though, the story is enjoyable. It was fun to see Bela Lugosi in his brief part as the gypsy, and I thought the whole thing played out well without being too repetitive. The possible danger of the wolf man story is that we already know he's really a werewolf, even though most of the characters don't. It could easily get tedious waiting for them to figure it out, but the story moves along well regardless. The relationship between Lawrence Talbot and his father is also an interesting one and helps make the movie strong. It certainly made me want to check out more of Claude Rains' work. My biggest problem with the wolf man, and I fully realize this is all about limitations in makeup/technology for the time, is that he doesn't look even remotely wolf-like. The way he walks on the balls of his feet makes perfect sense, but he completely lacks the snout that wolves have. It makes him look a little more ridiculous than menacing to me. I suppose they decided it was better for him to be able to show emotion/snarl than to go with a longer prosthetic.
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man felt like a cheap cash-in to me. Much like the "VS" movies they've made over the last decade, the plot here is nothing more than a weak excuse to get the two monsters together. The idea that Dr. Frankenstein would have a cure for a werewolf doesn't make any sense, and the explanation that they do eventually give is pretty weak. They throw in a doctor character just for the sake of having someone to fill in Dr. Frankenstein's role. There's also a boring song/dance sequence that I literally fast forwarded through. I've watched enough Marx Brothers movies to know that this kind of stuff was somehow popular in the 30s/40s, but to me it just completely interrupts the narrative and mood. It was interesting to see Bela Lugosi portray the monster, but he barely got to do anything. When the two creatures finally do duke it out, the scene is short and ends in a draw. I can't recommend this one for anyone other than a hardcore fan.
When I got to the end of the remake last night, I felt so completely divided. There were aspects of the movie I really enjoyed, and others that bugged me incredibly. There are lots of tributes to the original film - the silver cane, the gypsies, the romance, the father-son relationship.. though the last one is significantly altered. In terms of a remake I didn't particularly care for that change, though I do think it made sense within the actual movie itself. I also enjoyed the way they updated the love story. Movie pacing and storytelling in the 1940s is drastically different than modern movies, and I felt like this movie made sense from a modern perspective. They used far too many "jump" sequences for my liking though. It simply became cheap after awhile. There is also a lot of gore. While it makes sense for a werewolf attack to be savage and bloody, some sequences, particularly the attack on the gypsy camp, felt a little too over the top. On the other hand I was really hoping for more savagery in the asylum scene and I didn't get it. Go figure.
I watched the extended cut of the movie, which according to wikipedia is mostly the addition of how Lawrence Talbot gets the silver cane. I enjoyed that scene, but I felt like the movie's pacing was off altogether. Maybe it would have felt cleaner without the extra footage. I also felt like the foreshadowing was a little too obvious, and as such it took too long for "the big reveal." It also made no sense that suddenly the townspeople knew that he was a wolf man when they were all so perplexed about what was doing the killing before. Also, the ending was badly done. I understand the desire to have a possible sequel, but when every character knows that someone bitten by a werewolf will become one, and they're all staring at a guy who is bloody and has obviously been bitten, and they're all carrying guns with silver bullets.. shouldn't they at least TRY to kill him? Wouldn't it make more sense to have that guy go crawl off on his own without being seen?? That was very annoying.
Since it was remake, they chose to make the wolf man resemble the original. While the CGI/makeup looked far more convincing this time around, I feel like it's kind of inexcusable in 2010 to have a werewolf who doesn't look like a wolf. From what I've read, the problem lies in the fact that they were huge fans of the original and therefore wanted to stick to it regardless. There's a lot of great actors in this movie, and I think it's worth a watch, even with all it's flaws. Danny Elfman does a great job with the soundtrack, and visually it's all reds and blacks and blues which I really loved. If you enjoy horror/suspense and aren't too attached to the original, you'll probably enjoy this one.
Having already seen Van Helsing and the Underworld series, An American Werewolf in London and Ginger Snaps are my next eventual werewolf films. Got any others to recommend? Leave them in the comments.