Following my Phantom of the Opera post and the insanity of Lon Chaney's desire to transform his face into a nightmare--it only made sense that I would then venture into the land of Lon Chaney Jr. and the creation of The Wolf Man. Although Werewolf of London came before, Henry Hull was against being put through the seemingly painful and long process of the make up application- so who better to force pain onto than Lon Chaney's son?
Unfortunately the Wolf Man's makeup is not as startling as his father's- mostly likely due to the fact that Lon Chaney Jr. was NOT sticking metal wires up his nose and gluing his ears back. Regardless- The Wolf Man is a cornerstone in movie monsters and makes cameos in two of my very favorite things- Full House and The Sandlot.
In Full House- smelly footed vixen Kimmy Gibbler brings over The Wolf Man for a bit of slumber party goodness. Stephanie Tanner- always one to follow the lead of her older sister Donna Joe Tanner or D.J. as you may know her- pleads that she should be allowed to watch the film as well. Uncle Jesse- being the hip and cool uncle that he is- allows Stephanie to watch resulting in panic- and a sleepless night. One thing that always struck me as odd with this episode (The episode is "Baby Love" by the way) is not only how terrified the three girls are-- but how jumpy and startled Uncle Jesse and Becky are. The scene in question-- when Gwen is traipsing through the forest and The Wolf Man comes close to getting her- is hardly hit the ceiling, spill your bowl of popcorn all over the place- scary. But alas I digress. ANYWAYS- before I became a horror aficionado- this episode always stuck out to me and for all the right reasons. But mostly because it's hilarious when Stephanie hears a car horn- and asks D.J. if the Wolf Man was real would he be driving an Isuzu? Ha. Hahahaha. All I can picture is Lon Chaney Jr. driving an Isuzu and honking his horn to scare people.....oooh I am lame. Ok moving on-
The Sandlot on the other hand has possibly the coolest nod to The Wolf Man- ever--when the Beast is chasing Benny and jumps through the screen at a movie theater playing the movie. It shows the ever popular Gypsy woman Maleva giving Larry the 411 on werewolves. This scene is my favorite and I love how she talks and I just love that awesome voice of hers- plus I love the Sandlot so obviously this is the best thing ever.
Despite my awesome tangents- I hope you realize how simply classic and understated The Wolf Man is. We have Hollywood's first (well second really) glimpse into a werewolf and what is the thing we find most absent from the film? The full moon. It is so fascinating to me how things evolve throughout film. The presence of the full moon is seen rather outwardly in the next film- Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man- but it's literally devoid from the entire length of The Wolf Man. Also interesting is Wolf Man's more manly appearance- walking on two legs, and still being able to fit in his clothes-- and the insistence upon the pentagram marking the next victim of the werewolf--an attribute of the werewolf that I believe was created by the movie.
Of course werewolf lore has existed pretty much forever and while all movies may choose to include some things and leave others out--there is always evidence of certain parts existing in classic literature that clues us in to how these legends and folklore began.
The Wolf Man is sensational and I can honestly say that I am very eager to see the remake. Despite it being a classic, the original is insanely short and doesn't develop on some of the things I find most interesting. The conflict between Larry and his father and the insistence upon the idea of the Werewolf being associated with mental illness- which TOTALLY makes sense if there hadn't been evidence of actual foot prints belonging to a wolf. Then there's also the issue with the wolf man makeup- which comes off mostly looking like some kind of odd teddy bear. Hopefully the reincarnation of the Wolf Man will wake up the public to the good old fashioned idea of the werewolf and the fact that they do not usually live in clans- with their shirtless brethren and don tribal tattoos. Sigh. We can only hope.
One other thing that cracks me up-- is the exaggeration of Lon Chaney Jr's account of what he went through during the filming. Such as staying still for like 20 hours while the cast and crew got to take a lunch break and he had to suffer through the pain. Ooooh LCJ! Research this topic if you are more interested.
Oh and how creepy is the part where Larry watches Gwen through that telescope contraption then goes into the antique shop and talks about earrings he saw her putting on- when he was looking at her through the telescope?! So weird. Lon Chaney Jr. was a little creepy- but I guess it worked because Gwen falls in love not too long after!
Buy The Wolf Man at Horror Movie Empire