Rewatching the Universal Monsters! The ones on the Blu-ray box, at least. Six years before The Wolf Man, the series first wolfed out with the lesser-known Werewolf of London. Something something pina colada at Trader Vic’s something.
Here’s what happens: Botanists in Tibet discover a rare “wolf flower,” and bring it home to London. One scientist, the put-upon Wilfred Glendon, is exposed to the flower and becomes… a werewolf! In London!
Monster!: Allegedly, censors had a big problem with this movie, insisting that the werewolf not look too wolf-y. Therefore, this comes across more as a Jekyll/Hyde movie than a werewolf one. The good news is that actor Henry Hull makes the minimalist makeup work thanks to his great intense stares.
Also a monster!: One of the movie’s most eye-popping sequences is the appearance of a gigantic carnivorous plant on display for the public. It’s a terrific piece of puppetry, and it eats frogs!
Our hero: Not only is Glendon a werewolf, but the plot is further complicated by his wife’s flirtations with her childhood crush Paul, now a rival scientist. Then more complications, as we meet Paul’s uncle, a hardass Scotland Yard cop.
Hapless humans: Another botanist Dr. Yogami, appears at first like he might be the villain, but then reverts to the character who gives dire warnings about playing God with science, and ultimately regrets his actions.
Frights: Again, because of censorship concerns, the filmmakers can’t really go for it when it comes to werewolf attacks, so instead the emphasis is mostly on Glendon’s efforts to avoid transforming, with the claws n’ fangs action being fleeting.
Laughs: There’s a group of high society who serve as comic relief. They act like a Greek chorus, commenting on the proceedings throughout. And they wear the biggest hats anyone’s ever seen.
Thoughts upon this viewing: This movie is a lot of fun! It lacks the atmosphere and production value of the Whale/Browning classics, but it’s still a lot of fun. It’s like something Roger Corman might have directed, and I mean that as a compliment.
Next: Congratulations, it’s a girl!
Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.