Motivated by the enormous
successes of "Frankenstein" and "Dracula,"
producer and Universal Pictures president Carl
Laemmle yearned to create yet another box-office boogeyman
to stand alongside Karloff and Lugosi. In 1935, Laemmle
brought forth a story of werewolfery in
"The Werewolf of London." Sadly, the effort
failed to establish the werewolf as the next big horror
creature. It was 1941s "The Wolf Man"
that revisited and revamped the werewolf tale, successfully
establishing Lon Chaney, Jr. as the definitive lycathrope
thanks to Jack P. Pierces inventive makeup and
Curt Siodmaks convincing legend of the man who
transforms into a wolf under the light of the full moon.
And like its monstrous brethren, "The Wolf
Man" scared up impressive ticket sales and became
Universals next sequel-spawning incarnation.
Its unfortunate and even a
bit puzzling that "Werewolf of London" wasnt
successful in its aspirations, typically causing it
to be overlooked by the more casual genre fan. Its
the well-crafted story of high-brow botanist Wilfred
Glendon (Henry Hull) who is attacked and bitten by a
werewolf while searching in Tibet for the exotic and
fabled Marifasa Lupino Lumino, a flower that blooms
only in the moonlight. Back in London with the flower,
Glendon himself becomes a werewolf, tortured by the
transformations and the ensuing murders he commits.
Desperate for answers, he finds himself confronted by
the odd and all-too-knowledgeable Dr. Yogami (Warner
Oland) who warns Glendon that the werewolf "instinctively
seeks to kill the thing it loves best." But who
is Yogami and why is he equally fascinated with the
Marifasa bloom, purported to be the only known antidote
for such beastly transformations?
"Werewolf of London"
is a very cleverly scripted and well-photographed film.
Combining a biting dose of upper-class wit and sarcasm
with some very evocative camera setups and movement,
the film sustains an enjoyable and compelling pace.
Though some have criticized the general un-hairiness
of Hulls werewolf, I find it to be appropriately
suited to his balanced portrayal of Glendons inner
conflict between the savage urges of a predatory beast
juxtaposed by his own human reasoning and compassion.
And, without question, hes still rather frightening
to behold. For relief, viewers will enjoy the inebriated
antics of the two cockneyed biddies, Mrs. Whack and
Mrs. Moncaster, reminiscent of Una OConnors
shrill role in "Bride of Frankenstein."