Werewolf of London

Werewolf of London

Everyone loves The Wolf Man. Furry face, angst, “even a man who is pure of heart,” folks can’t get enough of it. But that wasn’t Universal’s first werewolf rodeo (ooh, got to write in my movie ideas notebook.) Six years earlier, they had released Werewolf of London, a movie that was unable to fully birth a subgenre. Conversely, though, the ways it’s different from werewolf movie standards are what’s most interesting about it today. 

The main reason this didn’t catch fire as Wolf Man did is probably due to the protagonist. Larry Talbot is a regular American joe, a good natured man people can see themselves in. Glendon is some fancy British botanist. Studying plants? Your hot dog eating, baseball watching palooka can’t relate to that. He’s also kind of a jerk. As such, you don’t feel too bad about his problem like you do for Larry. 

Rather than Europe, here werewolves seem to originate in Tibet (I wonder if this was an influence on Paul Naschy, who more than once tied the origins of his Waldemar Danisky to yeti). The orientalism doesn’t stop there, as we have the character of Dr. Yogami, played by actor Warner Oaland (hmm, that’s a funny name for an Asian person). Yogami is actually a far more interesting character than you would think, though. As the werewolf who bites Glendon and his rival for the curative mariphasa plant, you’d think he’d be a Yellow Peril, but he seems a decent man trying to deal with his condition. In advising the police on their werewolf killer, he’s even a bit of a Van Helsing type, and it’s easy to imagine a version of this with him going all the way in that role. There’s also a joke at the casual racism of the upper class, with a gag of a upper crus woman thinking his name is Yokohama. 

I do like the makeup for Henry Hull here, much less elaborate than that used for Chaney later but sinister and lupine. However, he doesn’t get any interesting scenes. A lot of this movie plays more like Jekyll and Hyde, with all the beakers in his lab; even as a werewolf, he remembers to put on his coat before going out. It kinda seems strange this came out pre-Wolf Man, because it’s more convoluted, with the flower and everything. The Wolf Man made things simple, it’s inventions sounding so natural most believed they were authentic folklore. I guess sometimes you need a second shot to get things right. That’s why I’ll be voting to give Donald Trump a second term next month.

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