Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Even a man who is pure in heart

In just two weeks the much anticipated and much delayed remake of The Wolf Man comes howling into town. With that in mind, it strikes me that maybe we should go ahead and take another look at the original—and allow enough time for anyone so inclined to actually watch or rewatch the 1941 parent film.

George Waggner’s The Wolf Man was the third classic Universal horror I ever saw. Earlier the same summer I’d caught James Whale’s The Invisible Man (1933), but with a support group, which is to say I didn’t watch it alone. The Wolf Man, however, was the second feature—the first being Harold Young’s The Mummy’s Tomb (1942)—on the first broacast of Tampa’s Channel 13 “Shock Theater,” and I sat through them both alone. That wasn’t only a very manly thing to do at the age of nine, but watching two movies that started at 11:30 at night also marked the evening as the latest I’d ever stayed up. Very milestone stuff.

I don’t remember being terribly frightened by the films, but that was never much of an issue for me—at least once the ice was broken and I got past the basic fear of watching a “scary” movie. It had more to do with being transported into a fantasy world of imagination and a different time. (When you live in Lake Wales, Florida being transported to another world is pretty high on your agenda—even when you’re too young to know what an agenda is.) I can’t say that The Mummy’s Tomb made that much of an impact on me, but it wasn’t a bad opening act for my age. It did have a walking (or shuffing) mummy, a certain amount of atmosphere, a good musical score (mostly cobbled from other movies) and a fiery climax. When you’re nine that’s probably enough.

The Wolf Man, on the other hand, was simply wonderful—or so I thought then. I’m considerably more critical of it now, though I have a sentimental fondness for it. I also admire its atmosphere and musical score (a lot of which is also recycled) and its self-contained fairy tale feeling. The film also brims with several levels of subtext, which keeps it interesting even within its pretty signficant limitations. It’s also perhaps the most powerfully effective of all horror movies—for a pre-pubescent or pubescent boy. (Never having been a pre-pubescent or pubescent girl, I can’t say if it has a similar effect on the opposite sex.) If that sounds like I’m saying that it’s the perfect horror picture for 12-year-olds, I am. I also say that with no disrespect to the film, or to anyone past that age who finds it still resonates.

The storyline of The Wolf Man is hardly complex—at least in its final form, since much was changed from Curt Siodmak’s original screenplay. Essentially Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) comes home to Talbot Castle and his father, Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains), in Wales following the death of Larry’s older brother in a hunting accident. No sooner is Larry on his home (but foreign to him) turf than he falls for a pretty girl, Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers), whom he first spies—more than a little voyeuristically—through his father’s telescope. Realizing she lives over the family antique store, he pays a call as a customer looking for a pair of earrings he saw her try on in her bedroom. She won’t sell him the earrings, so instead he buys a walking stick with an odd solid silver hande—described by Gwen as “a very rare piece” that depicts the pentagram and the werewolf, explaining the werewolf sees the pentagram on the palm of his next victim’s hand.

Though Gwen doesn’t buy his claims that he knew about the earrings because he’s psychic, she’s sufficiently intrigued that she accompanies him to visit a newly arrived pair of gypsy fortune tellers, Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) and her son, Bela (Bela Lugosi). She also takes her friend, Jenny (Fay Holm), as a kind of chaperone. As luck and compact scripting would have it, Bela is a werewolf, who sees the pentagram on the palm of Jenny’s hand, prompting him to send her away in the hopes of preventing the inevitable. When the inevitable happens after all, Larry attempts to rescue Jenny from what appears to be a wolf, which he bludgeons to death with his cane, being bitten by the supposed animal in the bargain. The problem is that when the authorities arrive there is no wolf—only dead Bela, minus his shoes.

From here the film charts a fairly straight course. The authorities think Larry accidentally killed Bela. Maleva knows the score, but Larry neither understands what’s happened, nor accepts the reality of it—at least until he transforms and goes out into the foggy night to kill a hapless gravedigger. Reason clashes with superstition—which no longer seems much like superstition—and, as Maleva might put it Larry comes to his “predestined end.” It’s a tight little story. In fact, that may be its greatest problem—it’s too tight.

There’s a feeling that the whole thing is too simple, too rushed. When the film seems to have just gotten good and started, it’s over. It’s tempting to blame this on the movie’s 70 minute running time (the new film is listed as being more than 30 minutes longer), but that’s hardly unusual for the era. Several of the acknowledged classic horror films of that time are even shorter and they don’t feel rushed. Nor is it the pacing of director George Waggner, whose first Lon Chaney Jr. horror outing made earlier that year, Man Made Monster, clocks in at a perfectly satisfying 59 minutes.

The problem seems to me to lie with a combination of the structure of the screenplay and an overstuffed cast. Siodmak’s screenplay is beautifully built up to the point of the first transformation of Larry into the Wolf Man, but after that it just doesn’t go much of anywhere, and some scenes—notably one in which the Wolf Man gets caught in a bear trap—are atmospheric, but seem like meandering tangents. But the cast situation may be even more of a problem. The Wolf Man assembled one of the best casts of any Universal horror—Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi, Warren William, Patric Knowles, Ralph Bellamy, Evelyn Ankers—and then shuffles them in and out so much that you wonder why they bothered.

Some of the actors fare surprisingly well in this. Bela Lugosi has scarcely any screen time—only one real scene—but he at least manages to give a terrific performance, completely owning his little stretch of the film. Claude Rains is less well served, even though he gets top billing. He has some nicely plummy lines, but there’s not enough of them. Then there’s the bizarre notion that the diminutive Rains could be hulking Lon Chaney’s father. (This may be the result of a rewrite, since Larry was a visiting American and not a relative in the original script.) In fact, Rains spends his first scene with Chaney, eyeing the much taller actor as if trying to decide whether the late Mrs. Talbot had been indiscreet with the milkman. The others fare less well. The luckier ones—Warren William and Patric Knowles—get a moment or two where they come through. Ralph Bellamy, on the other hand, just seems to be in a bad mood over it all. Evelyn Ankers is saddled with a more than usually lame damsel in distress role. The whole film is largely given over to Chaney—and to a lesser extent Maria Ouspenskaya, whose Maleva remains easily her best-remembered role.

The Chaney factor is both the film’s biggest drawback and its greatest strength. He’s clearly out of his depth, but that’s strangely in his favor—both in terms of generating sympathy and in two aspects of the film’s subtext. This wasn’t Universal’s first attempt at a werewolf movie. Stuart Walker’s frankly superior Werewolf of London had been made in 1935, but failed to generate much excitement—something that was generally blamed on the unsympathetic character of its monster, Dr. Wilfrid Glendon (Henry Hull). In creating Larry Talbot, no such chances were being taken. Everything about Larry was geared toward making Larry sympathetic—including casting the awkward Lon Chaney.

Chaney’s persona and performance is exactly why The Wolf Man has such an appeal for younger viewers. He’s clumsy, bumptious and, even though he means well, he simply hasn’t got a clue. At a certain age—or even remembering being that age—it’s almost impossible not to identify with him. That the physical changes he’s going through can easily be read as an allegory of puberty makes this even more pronounced. He’s not merely out of place and uncomfortable, but his own body is betraying him and changing in ways he doesn’t understand. Moreover, he’s so incredibly and thoroughly American that he’s removed from the very world the film inhabits.

Whether or not Siodmak—or anyone involved—intended to make a statement on the topic of an American abroad, the results certainly do. I’m inclined to think that Siodmak did intend this—especially, since his original had the character as specifically American and not a returning, Americanized Brit. As such it’s an interesting and not unsympathetic portrait of Americans as genuinely nice, well-intentioned people, but with a penchant for getting in over their heads by barging into—even with the best motives—things they don’t completely understand. This, after all, is precisely how Larry gets bitten by the werewolf in the first place. He isn’t just a victim, he rushes into being one—and from completely selfless motives. That also works rather nicely in terms of the character as an awkward adolescent.

While all this works in the film’s favor—at least as reading the film as something more than a simple little horror movie—it’s hard to deny that Larry Talbot can get a little tiresome. This is something the film doesn’t help with its seemingly non-stop proliferation of shots of Larry looking baffled, terrified or confused. Rewatching The Wolf Man this morning, I realized that toward the end, I was close to being ready to throw something at the screen if I was treated to one more close-shot of troubled Larry.

There is yet another subtext—and perhaps the most unsettling one—to the film, and this is one that Siodmak did admit to deliberately including in the screenplay. The whole business of the werewolf being marked with a telltale five pointed star—Bela has one on his forehead, Larry has one on his chest—is a direct reference to persons, specifically Jews, being tattooed in Nazi concentration camps. It’s also hardly incidental that the werewolf sees the damning mark of a star on the hand of his next victim. Buried it may be, but this is the only reference to real-life horrors of this kind in any horror film of the era.

In the end, however, The Wolf Man is a seriously flawed classic. It doesn’t flow well and it doesn’t completely satisfy, no matter how intriguing it is under the surface. Some of this is obviously the result of changes that were made during the actual production. In Siodmak’s original, the viewer was never meant to see Larry as a werewolf, except in subjective shots, so we were never to know whether the lycanthropy was real or imagined by the character. (The idea is not wholly original, since it’s quite possible to read Guy Endore’s complex 1935 novel Werewolf of Paris in a similar light.) This probably accounts for the curious fact that Larry is shown tussling with a wolf and not a werewolf.

Other things are merely odd—or even sloppy. No matter how Larry is dressed when he transforms into the Wolf Man, he’s always wearing the same dark convict-suit-looking togs whenever he’s on the prowl. Even granting that Henry Hull’s werewolf in Werewolf of London paused don a muffler and cap in order to be less conspicuous, this is more of a stretch. First of all, Hull’s werewolf is less beast than, as the screenplay describes him, “neither man, nor wolf, but a Satanic creature with the worst qualities of both,” but more, I’d pay good money to see either of them fasten buttons with those claw hands. Then there’s the hysterically funny moment when the transformed Larry very daintily pulls up his pantlegs—presumably to keep the cuffs from getting went—before venturing out on his first murderous prowl. Who knew werewolves were so fastidious?

However, let’s not forget that the film is a handsome production on nearly every level.The fog-shrouded woods are a splendid set and are shot in such a way as to make them look far more expansive than the could possibly have been. Talbot castle may be a pretty obvious model (the cigarette smoke wafting out of the chimney doesn’t help), but the interiors are impressive—and either Waggner or art director Jack Otterson took a page from James Whale’s playbook and staged scenes against impressive windows with moody backings of leaves behind them. Plus, the score is remarkably good—and even when it’s borrowed from existing ones, it’s used so effectively that it doesn’t matter.

Beyond that, so much of the film—like the poem, “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright,” and Maleva’s mournful, “The way you walked was thorny through no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end”—has become an indelible part of horror movie culture. So, too—for better or worse—has Chaney’s Wolf Man. There are better werewolves, but it’s the image of Chaney in this particular makeup that comes to mind when the term is mentioned. The film doesn’t have to be great, it’s too iconic to matter.

There is every chance that Joe Johnston and company may have made a better film with the upcoming The Wolfman. The trailer suggests a handsome production and a nicely acted one, even if Anthony Hopkins’ Sir John Talbot seems to have little or no connection to the Claude Rains version. That may not necessarily be a bad thing when you consider how little Rains has to do inthe original. (I have a hunch—which I’ll keep to myself—how the role has be re-imagined.) Benicio Del Toro, who is one of the film’s producer, has claimed the original as his favorite film and that’s a good sign right there. I’m also more than comfortable with Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving in the cast, and I would be OK with Geraldine Chaplin as Maleva if she hadn’t already played a Maleva knock-off in Uwe Boll’s unintentional laff-riot BloodRayne (2005).

It’s interesting that the new film has opted for a period setting (Victorian, it seems) while the original—though it looks like a period piece now—was a contemporary story. I’m not against it, but I’m not sure I understand the choice. I’ll be curious to see what was retained and what was excised—not to mention what’s been added. At this point, I’m not even sure whose musical score is on the film. First, it was Danny Elfman (his name is still on the trailers). Then it wasn’t, then it was…and now, I guess we’ll see and hear in two weeks. One thing seems certain—even if The Wolfman is a failure, it won’t be the kind of debacle that Van Helsing (2004) was. At bottom, however, I think the real question is whether or not The Wolfman can ever be as beloved a film as the original. Get back to me on that in about 70 years.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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31 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Even a man who is pure in heart

  1. Tonberry

    This is one of your ‘screening rooms’ that I wish to comment on, but haven’t the clue what to say, because you cover just about everything on the topic. I believe “The Wolf Man” was the fourth classic Universal horror movie I’d seen when I was a young kid (the first being “Dracula”) and I remember being quite enthralled by it, yet a little upset that it was over too soon. My fond memories of it are Bela Lugosi’s role, and of course, that first time you see The Wolf Man on the prowl. Sometime after, I remember Burger King was promoting the Universal Monsters as toys for their kids meals and the toy I got was The Wolf Man. I wish I kept that, it sorta transcended the typical toy in a kids meal.

    I’d rank “The Wolf Man” around the middle on my list of favorite Universal horror films. I’ve used it as an introduction to those not familiar with classic horror.

  2. Ken Hanke

    i love wolfman! i may BE wolfman! Thanks, T’Other Ken!

    You don’t look much like the Wolf Man. And where have you been anyway?

  3. Ken Hanke

    I believe “The Wolf Man” was the fourth classic Universal horror movie I’d seen when I was a young kid (the first being “Dracula”)

    It ought to have been my fourth. The week before they’d shown Dracula as a single feature. The last thing I remembered while waiting for it to start was “Salty” Sol Fleischman giving the fishing report. The next thing I knew it was 3 a.m. and I had a screen full of snow. I was determined not to repeat that performance the following week.

    I’d rank “The Wolf Man” around the middle on my list of favorite Universal horror films. I’ve used it as an introduction to those not familiar with classic horror.

    I’ve never exactly tried rating all of them in one lump, since I prefer all of the original twelve films from the Laemmle era — Dracula (1931) through Dracula’s Daughter (1936) — to any of the second wave from “New Universal” — Son of Frankenstein (1939) through Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). (Then there’s some question about what belongs on either list, since a lot of people my age insist that any Universal that ended up in a Shock Theater package qualifies.) That would place The Wolf Man at 13th if it was my favorite New Universal, but I have a preference for Night Monster, Man Made Monster, Son of Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr. RX and maybe House of Dracula. So it’s somewhere around no. 18 for me, which might be about midway if you count everything.

  4. allison solow

    What happened to the Charlie Chan retrospective that you wrote about doing on New Year’s but couldn’t because of a power outtage? Are you going to write about that?

    Also, would you have put Broken Embraces (the Pedro A. film) on your Top 10 list if you had seen it in 2009? We just saw it and thought it was terrific. Where would you place it among the best of 2009?

  5. Ken Hanke

    What happened to the Charlie Chan retrospective that you wrote about doing on New Year’s but couldn’t because of a power outtage? Are you going to write about that?

    Actually, Charlie was going to be for Christmas. I’ll get back to him eventually.

    Also, would you have put Broken Embraces (the Pedro A. film) on your Top 10 list if you had seen it in 2009? We just saw it and thought it was terrific. Where would you place it among the best of 2009?

    There’s a good chance it might have bumped something off my list, but I’m not sure what. It would definitely crack the top 15. I do like it better than A Serious Man.

  6. irelephant

    “I prefer all of the original twelve films from the Laemmle era”

    Ken, wondering if you could be moved to pass along a list of those twelve?

  7. Ken Hanke

    Ken, wondering if you could be moved to pass along a list of those twelve?

    Dracula (1931)
    Frankenstein (1931)
    Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
    The Old Dark House (1932)
    The Mummy )1932)
    The Invisible Man (1933)
    The Black Cat (1934)
    The Raven (1935)
    Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
    Werewolf of London (1935)
    The Invisible Ray (1936)
    Dracula’s Daughter (1936)

    “Shock Theater” purists will add Secret of the Blue Room (1933) and The Great Impersonation (1935), since they were lumped into the package. Oddly, these same people do not rule out The Old Dark House, which was not a part of that package. Others will include Life Returns — the degree to which Universal was even involved with is open to question.

  8. Ken Hanke

    I should add that Universal did not by any means have a lock on horror films. A case can even be made that Paramount was a pretty serious rival with films like Murder by the Clock, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Island of Lost Souls, Murders in the Zoo, Terror Aboard and Death Takes a Holiday. Warner Bros. can lay claim to quite a few gems, too. What no other studio had, however, was the same claim on classic monsters.

  9. irelephant

    Thanks, Ken. I’ve seen too few of those movies. To be remedied…

  10. Ken Hanke

    Thanks, Ken. I’ve seen too few of those movies. To be remedied…

    Fortunately, all of the original 12 are available.

  11. Chip Kaufmann

    Out of the original 12, I have never cared for any of the FRANKENSTEIN films. THE MUMMY and THE BLACK CAT were the ones I most enjoyed from the SHOCK THEATRE days. DRACULA and MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE also made a lasting impression along with THE INVISIBLE RAY.

    I’ve never particularly liked the Chaney WOLF MAN then or now. THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON was always the preferred version (why no frame grabs?). The transformations are more effective (the bit with the cat is a nice touch) and then there is Warner Oland as Dr Yogami. I also found Hull’s death scene to be very sympathetic.

    I can’t say that I’m looking forward to THE WOLFMAN even though I like the people involved. You can’t trust trailers but what I see is too much flash and not enough pan. It looks like a remake of AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON set in Hammer Gothic territory at 100 times the budget.

  12. Ken Hanke

    THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON was always the preferred version (why no frame grabs?).

    I far prefer it, too, but I didn’t do grabs on it because I wasn’t writing about it. You’ll get no argument about its superiority — and for that matter I find Hull fairly sympathetic overall. The general take, however, is that he isn’t.

    I can’t say that I’m looking forward to THE WOLFMAN even though I like the people involved. You can’t trust trailers but what I see is too much flash and not enough pan.

    Which may mean you’re paying too much attention to the trailers, which, after all, are trying to appeal to the flash crowd.

    It looks like a remake of AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON set in Hammer Gothic territory at 100 times the budget.

    Nothing about it reminds me of American Werewolf in London — absolutely nothing. In fact, I’m utterly baffled by the comment. Hammer gothic? Yes. Indeed, Talbot castle looks like a better done set from The Gorgon. That may not be a bad thing.

  13. Ken Hanke

    On the American Werewolf thing — are you referring to the transformation scenes? Yes, those look similar, which isn’t surprising considering Rick Baker’s involvement on both. However, the results appear to be different and I don’t catch any similarity in plot or tone.

  14. brianpaige

    Okay I have to chime in here. Werewolf of London being better than The Wolf Man? Uh, no. I suppose it’s all subjective but that movie has never meant much to me, though I actually may have seen it before The Wolf Man. Oland had his moments in it but Henry Hull was so laughably miscast it’s hard to care about the film. Oh, and the plot twist involving Oland’s character is so lame that it barely registers with the viewer.

    I dare say of the unquestioned classics the one that has never meant much to me is The Mummy. Even as a kid it seemed like a blatant ripoff of Dracula’s plot and story arc, right down to the same protagonists (Manners, Van Sloan). I much prefer The Mummy’s Hand to it.

    Am I the only one who likes The Invisible Man the best of the initial run? Something about Bride has just never 100% thrilled me, maybe it’s the Pretorious scene where he has his mini people? I’ve always thought that scene was silly.

    The Old Dark House is the main one that gets better with each viewing. The first time I saw it I don’t think I totally got it, but then on subsequent viewings it gets better and better.

  15. Ken Hanke

    Werewolf of London being better than The Wolf Man? Uh, no.

    Uh, yes.

    Henry Hull was so laughably miscast it’s hard to care about the film.

    Actually, Hull is perfectly cast to the script. You may not like the character, but that’s not the same thing as miscasting. It’s a more cerebral and much less visceral film. It centers on a man of reason having something happening to him that he “knows” cannot possibly be happening to him. The Wolf Man centers on a rather dull fellow who just doesn’t understand any of it.

    Oh, and the plot twist involving Oland’s character is so lame that it barely registers with the viewer

    What plot twist? I don’t think it’s even slightly intended as a plot twist. The film makes it clear from Oland’s first encounter with Hull what the score is.

    I much prefer The Mummy’s Hand to it.

    Well, you’re allowed to, though I can’t say I understand it, even while being happy to concede that The Mummy is clearly patterned on Dracula.

    Am I the only one who likes The Invisible Man the best of the initial run?

    Well, apparently Whale would agree with you. I certainly rate it highly, but on a Whale-o-meter, it’d be below both Bride and Old Dark House for me.

    The Old Dark House is the main one that gets better with each viewing

    That I wouldn’t argue, but it’s in such a strange position for me. I’ve known all the others since childhood. Old Dark House wasn’t available until I was in my 20s. It also has the distinction of being the only Universal horror that I saw for the first time on the big screen.

  16. Chip Kaufmann

    I was referring to the AMERICAN WEREWOLF transformation scenes only which I’m sure the trailer is referencing. I could also have mentioned THE HOWLING (a film I much prefer for all the in-jokes. My favorite: Christopher Wallace reading Thomas Wolfe’s YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN). I’ll definitely see THE WOLFMAN, I just don’t have high hopes for it. Maybe that way I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  17. Chip Kaufmann

    That should be Christopher Stone of course (although I’m sure Dee Wallace would approve) and the choice of the word remake was misleading. I should have said “scene from” or “outtake of”

  18. Ken Hanke

    I was referring to the AMERICAN WEREWOLF transformation scenes only which I’m sure the trailer is referencing

    Oh, I’m sure. Why else get Baker? I don’t especially care for the approach. I didn’t care for it much 29 years ago, but I accept the fact that something more than the stuff in Werewolf of London (which suits me just fine) is required for the modern market. At least it appears to lead to a werewolf in pants and not something of the four-legged variety.

    I’d agree about preferring The Howling over American Werewolf, but that’s damning with faint praise for me. I like the gags — especially all the names being those of directors of other werewolf movies — but ultimately, like most Joe Dante, it wears a little thin.

  19. Dionysis

    One werewolf film that is hardly, if ever, mentioned is the 1956 Sam Katzman release titled ‘The Werewolf’. It’s a twist on the traditional werewolf story, and while low-budget, is more entertaining than it has a right to be. Not in the same league as other titles mentioned, but an interesting minor title nonetheless.

  20. Ken Hanke

    One werewolf film that is hardly, if ever, mentioned is the 1956 Sam Katzman release titled ‘The Werewolf’. It’s a twist on the traditional werewolf story, and while low-budget, is more entertaining than it has a right to be.

    I haven’t seen that since I was in high school. I probably ought to revisit it. Is it by chance in that little set of 1950s Katzman sci-fi/horror films?

  21. Dionysis

    “Is it by chance in that little set of 1950s Katzman sci-fi/horror films?”

    Yes it is, and in my opinion, it’s the best film of the bunch.

  22. Dread P. Roberts

    Thanks, Ken. I’ve seen too few of those movies. To be remedied…

    Fortunately, all of the original 12 are available.

    For whatever it’s worth, I would highly recommend picking up The Bela Lugosi Collection on DVD. This is just an awesome little box set:

    http://www.amazon.com/Lugosi-Collection-Murders-Morgue-Invisible/dp/B0009X770E/ref=pd_sim_d_1

    Something about Bride has just never 100% thrilled me, maybe it’s the Pretorious scene where he has his mini people? I’ve always thought that scene was silly.

    Call me weird, but I absolutely love that part of the movie (of course, I enjoy the whole shebang.) There’s a scene in The Spirit that reminded me of this. I couldn’t help but wonder if Frank Miller was intentionally throwing out a little reference to Bride. That might even be my favorite part of The Spirit.

    Old Dark House wasn’t available until I was in my 20s. It also has the distinction of being the only Universal horror that I saw for the first time on the big screen.

    I just want to say, I’m jealous. That sounds fantastic.

  23. Ken Hanke

    Yes it is, and in my opinion, it’s the best film of the bunch

    Better than The Giant Claw? That’s saying something!

  24. Ken Hanke

    For whatever it’s worth, I would highly recommend picking up The Bela Lugosi Collection on DVD. This is just an awesome little box set

    Oh, most assuredly. You get Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat, The Raven, Invisible Ray and Black Friday. Only the last one is negligible — and it’s still kind of interesting, even if Lugosi’s in about 8 minutes out of 70.

    Call me weird, but I absolutely love that part of the movie (of course, I enjoy the whole shebang.) There’s a scene in The Spirit that reminded me of this. I couldn’t help but wonder if Frank Miller was intentionally throwing out a little reference to Bride.

    “That’s just damn weird.” And that line kind of sums up the scene in Bride, too. Of course, I have to say that I think Bride — along with The Black Cat — is the high water mark for Universal.

    I just want to say, I’m jealous. That sounds fantastic

    It was definitely an interesting experience. What surprised me more than anything was seeing an audience jump at the shock effects. I’d never seen anything like that happen with an old Universal horror picture, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the only reason was that we saw them on TV.

  25. Dionysis

    “Better than The Giant Claw? That’s saying something!”

    I’m not sure that’s saying a whole lot, since ‘The Giant Claw’ is among the worst cinematic turkeys ever to fly from the projection booth. Still, ‘The Werewolf’ is an interesting, if minor, take on the story.

  26. Ken Hanke

    I’m not sure that’s saying a whole lot, since ‘The Giant Claw’ is among the worst cinematic turkeys ever to fly from the projection booth.

    But that’s what makes it so special. Actually, as a kid, the one out of this group I liked best was Zombies of Mora Tau. I’m not sure why. For me, Katzman’s Golden Age are those Bela Lugosi pictures from Monogram in the 1940s.

  27. Dionysis

    “But that’s what makes it so special.”

    It’s certainly special. It thrilled me as a kid, but watching it now, slack-jawed over the chicken leg (er, ‘giant claw’) and the lamest model airplane-on-a-string ever seen, it’s a hoot. “Zombies of Mora Tau’ is the slowest of the bunch, but there are some memorable scenes (especially the underwater zombie guards).

    All of these films seem to have a similar look and ‘feel’ to the old Universal horror films. That’s a plus in my book.

  28. Ken Hanke

    All of these films seem to have a similar look and ‘feel’ to the old Universal horror films.

    Not sure I can go that far. Maybe the lower tier efforts of the second wave.

  29. DrSerizawa

    I have gained a greater appreciation for Claude Raines talents more recently having sought out more if his films on Netflix. In a way he reminds me of Herbert Lom in his ability to steal every scene when in a supporting role.

    Now this is the way a movie review site should be. I am a classic movie lover, well I like most types of movies, but my failing is that I get so easily immersed that I lose objectivity and this makes it difficult for me to analyze and convey a recommendation for a move to my acquaintances. I’ve been hanging around this site for a few months now and this has become one of my top 5 movie review sites. Your regular posters are knowledgeable, yet they are largely grounded and the discussion rarely goes into the ozone. Differences are generally dealt with respectfully and this place never descends into the usual testosterone-fueled internet free-for-all. I have found my ability to communicate about films enhanced after following these discussions. I wanted you to know that at least I appreciate your efforts here.

    There. Now that’s all the brown-nosing you are likely to get.

  30. Ken Hanke

    I’ve been hanging around this site for a few months now and this has become one of my top 5 movie review sites. Your regular posters are knowledgeable, yet they are largely grounded and the discussion rarely goes into the ozone

    I’m very pleased to hear that. And I agree that we have a pretty darn good group of regular posters here. In this regard, we are — or I am — very lucky indeed.

    I wanted you to know that at least I appreciate your efforts here.

    Thank you.

    There. Now that’s all the brown-nosing you are likely to get.

    Well, I hardly think I could ask for more.

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