Halloween Horror Celebration...Part One--WEREWOLVES
Lon Chaney as the Wolfman
For Monster Lovers
I love Halloween. Particularly because of the Monster movies which air around that time. Who doesn't love a good monster/horror flick?
This hub is the first in a series that will discuss all type of fictional monsters, aliens, beasties, mutations and various other creatures of film. Vampires, werewolves, Zombies, mummies and others. From Frankenstein's Monster to King Kong. From the the Gill Man to Godzilla.
Legends of werewolves go back centuries. Shape shifting beasts are a staple of supernatural folklore. The origin of the Werewolf legend goes back to the story of King Lycaeon who insulted the Gods by offering them human flesh for a tribute. As punishment, the Gods turned him into an animal-like, flesh-eating beast. The name Lycaeon came from the Greek "Lykoi" which means 'Wolf'. This is the basis of the word Lycanthrop.
One of the earliest Werewolf stories is the well known children's tale "Little Red Riding Hood", where a cunning, talking wolf tricks innocent Red Riding Hood by dressing in human clothing. Although the Big Bad Wolf is never identified as such, he's generally acknowledged today as a lycanthrop. Lycanthropy became the name for an actual psychological condition wherein the patient believes that he/she actually turns into a wolf. Hirsutism (A disease that causes excessive growth of thick hair) is possibly another basis for the tales of a man turning into an animal.
Movies About Werewolves...
The first major film about a werewolf was "the Werewolf of London" (1935),a moody, well done little thriller thats not too well remembered today because it's been eclipsed (pun intended) by the next major werewolf movie.
"The Wolfman" (1941) has become the definitive werewolf movie because it introduced many of the elements that have become inextricably linked to the werewolf myth. The full moon transformation; the silver bullet; the pentagram, and several other rules that we now see as iron-clad werewolf folklore were created by this excellent film. Horror icon Lon Chaney Jr.gives a powerful performance in what would become his most famous role as the cursed Larry Talbot. (Chaney has the honor of being the only person to ever play the Wolfman, Dracula, the Mummy and the Frankenstein Monster.) Chaney would play the Wolfman/Talbot in a succession of Monster-Mash cross-over films, where Universal studios combine their most popular monsters. These included "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman" (1943), "The House of Frankenstein" (1945) , "The House of Dracula" (1945) and the classic horror parody "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein". (1948)
"El Hombre Lobo" was a Spanish language franchise that was clearly inspired by the Universal "Wolfman" films, and its protagonist Waldemar Daninsky followed a similar path to Larry Talbot, including the monster-mash mixes. The Eight El Hombre lobo films began with "La Marca Del Hombre Lobo" (1968), starring Paul Naschy as Waldemar. and was followed by seven sequels, "Las Noches del Hombre Lobo" (1968) , "El Hombre Lobo Qu Vino de Ummo" (1970), "La Furia del Hombre Lobo" (1970), "La Noche de Walpurgis" (1970), "Dr. Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo" (1971), "El Returno de Walpurgis" (1973), and "El Hombre Lobo y el Yeti" (1976).
"The Howling" (1980)was an excellent film that gave us a whole community of werewolves, and for the first time they had an agenda beyond savage wilding. The transformation sequences were excellent and the lycanthrop beasts were quite frightening.
"An American Werewolf In London" (1981)was an interesting update of the Wolfman story, done with a lot of macabre humor. Not a bad film but coming on the heels of the far superior "Howling" it seemed a bit bland at the time. In retrospect, its a novelty in Werewolf films in its humorous approach to the material.
A cute, kiddie-oriented family film called "The Monster Squad" (1987) was an homage to the old monster-mash cross-overs of the forties. It gave us not only a modern interpretation of the Wolfman but also Dracula, the Frankenstien Monster, the Mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Jack Nicholson starred in "Wolf" (1994), a literate, thoughtful interpretation on the werewolf legend about an aging book editor who initially sees his lycanthrope nature as a blessing (because it alleviates his mid-life crisis) until he starts losing control of his beastial dark side. Michelle Pfeiffer is his gorgeous love interest.
"Dog Soldiers" (2002) was an excellent British horror film starring Sean Pertwee. The story involves a routine military exercise that turns into a werewolf filled nightmare in the Scots wilderness.
A lively monster-mash came in 2004. "Van Helsing" starring Hugh Jackman and gave us not only a werewolf, but Count Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster as well.
The newest werewolf film is the 2010 remake of the 1941 classic, "The Wolfman". This version stars Benicio Del Toro as the cursed Lawrence Talbot. Del Toro does and excellent job. Anthony Hopkins plays his father Sir John. This is one of the best re-makes of a classic horror film and is a fitting tribute to the iconic original.
Thats all for today. More monster musings to come on the next hub.