The Many Faces of Monsters – Part 3
There’s no doubt that Dracula and Frankenstein are a pair of big shots when it comes to monster movies but there’s still another beast to speak of in order to round off this unholy trinity, the Wolf Man. Werewolves have been a part of the horror mythos for many, many years, even the Vikings had tales of men that donned the skins of wolves turning into terrifying hybrids that would rip you to shreds in seconds. Obviously by the time the silver screen appeared the legend had transformed quite a bit and once again the movie industry would have a hand in transforming it further, changing the way people see it forever.
When thinking of werewolf films, one stands out in memory more than all others, The Wolf Man released again by Universal Studios in 1941. It wasn’t however their first crack at the character, before that they released Werewolf of London in 1935. This was a film about a world-famous botanist from England who travels to Tibet in order to find a rare plant named a mariphasa. Whilst there he is attacked and bitten by a werewolf and so his curse begins. The film was a relative success at the time and has gone on to inspire other works within the genre, perhaps most notably An American Werewolf in London released in 1981 directed by John Landis which has arguably the most well remembered werewolf transformation scene in cinematic history. Though a commercial success, Werewolf of London lacked originality and was said to be too similar to the 1931 release of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Six Years later Universal would make their next interpretation of the character, this time with The Wolf Man. It is here that we see Hollywood’s most influential take on the character, especially the look of the character. Previously in Werewolf of London a somewhat minimalist approach had been taken in his representation, here in The Wolf Man we see a man covered head to toe in fur with claws on his fingers and paws for feet. To add mystery to the character an ancient poem is recited throughout the movie that goes as follows:
Even a man who is pure of heart,
And says his prayers by night,
May become a wolf when the wolf’s bane blooms,
And the autumn moon is bright.
This poem, written by Curt Siodmak who was the screenwriter for the film went on to feature in many of the sequels and other entries in the franchise. In fact, many believed that the poem was genuine folklore about the creature. The poem even features in the American Soap Opera Dark Shadows as well as the 2004 action-horror flick Van Helsing starring Hugh Jackman which just goes to show the effect even minor details in your story can have.
There are plenty of other great monster movies out there so don’t let your viewing end there and try and see what you can draw from these takes on classic characters. Remember throughout history each have been subject to great changes, that’s what’s so great about them. Whatever you do though make sure you keep it spooky, people love spooky!