Werewolf of London

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Werewolf of London
Werewolfoflondon.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStuart Walker
Written by
Story byRobert Harris
Produced byStanley Bergerman
Starring
CinematographyCharles J. Stumar
Edited by
  • Russell F. Schoengarth
  • Milton Carruth
Music byKarl Hajos
Production
company
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • May 13, 1935 (1935-05-13) (U.S.)
Running time
75 minutes
LanguageEnglish
Budget$195,000[1]

Werewolf of London is a 1935 horror film directed by Stuart Walker and starring Henry Hull as the titular werewolf. The supporting cast included Warner Oland, Valerie Hobson, Lester Matthews, and Spring Byington. Jack Pierce, who also created Boris Karloff's Frankenstein makeup, created the werewolf makeup.[2] The movie was produced by Universal Pictures and was the first Hollywood mainstream film to feature a werewolf.[3]

Plot[edit]

Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull) is a wealthy and world-renowned English botanist who journeys to Tibet in search of the extremely rare selenotropic plant known as mariphasa lupine lumina. While there, he is attacked and bitten by a creature later revealed to be a werewolf, although he succeeds in acquiring a specimen of the mariphasa. Once back home in London he is approached by a fellow botanist, Dr. Yogami (Warner Oland), who claims to have met him in Tibet while also seeking the mariphasa. Yogami warns Glendon that the bite of a werewolf would cause him to become a werewolf as well, adding that the mariphasa is a temporary antidote for the disease.

Glendon does not believe the mysterious Yogami. That is, not until he begins to experience the first pangs of lycanthropy, first when his hand grows fur beneath the rays of his moon lamp (which he is using in an effort to entice the mariphasa to bloom), and later that night during the first full moon. The first time, Glendon is able to use a blossom from the mariphasa to stop his transformation. His wife Lisa (Valerie Hobson) is away at her aunt Ettie's party with her friend, former childhood sweetheart Paul Ames (Lester Matthews), allowing the swiftly transforming Glendon to make his way unhindered to his at-home laboratory, in the hopes of acquiring the mariphasa's flowers to quell his lycanthropy a second time. Dr. Yogami, who is revealed to be a werewolf, sneaks into the lab ahead of his rival and steals the only two blossoms. As the third has not bloomed, Glendon is out of luck.

Driven by an instinctive desire to hunt and kill, he dons his hat and coat and ventures out into the dark city, killing an innocent girl. Burdened by remorse, Glendon begins neglecting Lisa (more so than usual), and makes numerous futile attempts to lock himself up far away from home, including renting a room at an inn. However, whenever he transforms into the werewolf he escapes and kills again. After a time, the third blossom of the mariphasa finally blooms, but much to Glendon's horror, it is stolen by Yogami, sneaking into the lab while Glendon's back is turned. Catching Yogami in the act, Glendon finally realizes that Yogami was the werewolf that attacked him in Tibet. After turning into the werewolf yet again and dueling with Yogami, finally slaying him, Glendon goes to the house in search of Lisa, for the werewolf instinctively seeks to destroy that which it loves the most.

After attacking Paul on the front lawn of Glendon Manor, but not killing him, Glendon breaks into the house and corners Lisa on the staircase and is about to move in for the kill when Paul's uncle, Col. Sir Thomas Forsythe (Lawrence Grant) of Scotland Yard, arriving with several police officers in tow, shoots Glendon once. As he lies dying at the bottom of the stairs, Glendon, still in werewolf form, speaks: first to thank Col. Forsythe for the merciful bullet, then saying goodbye to Lisa, apologizing that he could not have made her happier. Glendon then dies, reverting to his human form in death.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

This film was considered as a vehicle for Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. However, with Karloff being pIcked to repeat his role as the Monster in "The Bride of Frankenstein" (which was being filmed simultaneouly), the studio decided not to use Lugosi as Dr. Yogami and, instead, offered the role to Warner Oland.

Jack Pierce's original, more extensive design for the werewolf makeup was rejected in favor of a minimalist approach.[4] It has often been reported that Pierce's design was simplified because Hull was unwilling to endure the hours that it would have taken to apply Pierce's original version of the makeup,[5] or that Hull did not want his face obscured because of vanity. According to his great-nephew Cortlandt Hull, however, Hull, an accomplished makeup artist in his own right, argued that Pierce's original design obscured Hull's face so much that it would contradict the script, which specified that other characters were able to recognize the werewolf as Glendon. Pierce resisted the change, so Hull went to studio head Carl Laemmle. Much to Pierce's annoyance, Laemmle sided with Hull.[4] However, Pierce was able to use a design closely resembling his original version for Hull when Pierce worked with Lon Chaney Jr. six years later on The Wolf Man.[4]

The werewolf's howl was a blend of Hull's voice and a recording of an actual timber wolf. This approach has never been used in any subsequent werewolf film.[6]

When Glendon is conversing with the Tibetan villagers in the beginning of the film, the actors playing the villagers are actually speaking Cantonese (rather than Lhasa Tibetan), while Hull is just muttering gibberish.[7]

The music was scored by Karl Hajos, whose original compositions are interspersed with fragments of other pieces. Johann Strauss's "Tales from the Vienna Woods", Op. 325, can be heard during the party at the botanical gardens. "Scenes that are the brightest" from Act III of Vincent Wallace's opera Maritana (humorously misidentified as being composed by Botticelli) is sung with piano accompaniment at the salon of Aunt Ettie Coombes. Symphonic Poem No. 3 (Les préludes) by Franz Liszt is also heard, as well as compositions by Heinz Roemheld from the earlier Universal films The Invisible Man and The Black Cat.

The two locales depicted in the film are Tibet and London, but the time period is not specified. The costumes are generally Edwardian, but telephones and electrical appliances are used throughout the film, and several cars appear, including a 1933 Alvis Speed 20.

Reception[edit]

Frank S. Nugent reviewed Werewolf of London for The New York Times, calling the film a "charming bit of lycanthropy". It was the last film to be shown at New York's Rialto Theatre before it was torn down and rebuilt in 1935, a fact noted by Nugent in his review:

Designed solely to amaze and horrify, the film goes about its task with commendable thoroughness, sparing no grisly detail and springing from scene to scene with even greater ease than that oft attributed to the daring young aerialist. Granting that the central idea has been used before, the picture still rates the attention of action-and-horror enthusiasts. It is a fitting valedictory for the old Rialto, which has become melodrama's citadel among Times Square's picture houses.[8]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie holds an approval rating of 77% based on 13 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 6.4/10.[9] Film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film two and a half out of a possible four stars, calling the film "dated but still effective", and complimenting Oland's performance as Dr. Yogami.[10]

The film was criticized for its similarity to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), and was a box office disappointment.

Legacy[edit]

Werewolf of London was rereleased theatrically in 1951, by Realart Pictures.[11] It aired on the April 2, 2022, episode of Svengoolie.

The film inspired An American Werewolf in London (1981) and its sequel An American Werewolf in Paris (1997). Pierce's minimalist werewolf makeup has been referenced and duplicated in other productions, including Wolf (1994), with Jack Nicholson, as well as the television series Penny Dreadful.

Werewolf of London has been novelized twice. In 1977, a paperback novel written by Walter Harris under the pseudonym "Carl Dreadstone"[12] was published. It was part of a short-lived series of books based on classic Universal horror movies. The novel is told from Glendon's[a] point of view, and therefore is structured almost entirely differently from the plot of the movie. The book also has a different ending. In the novel, Glendon decides to cooperate with Yogami, and they attempt to control their transformations with the aid of a hypnotist. The plan fails, and the hypnotist is killed. As in the film, Glendon and Yogami transform and fight each other, resulting in Glendon killing Yogami. After the mêlée, however, Glendon returns to human form; the novel ends with him contemplating killing himself with the hypnotist's gun.

A second novelization, written by Carl Green, was published in 1985. It was part of Crestwood House's hardcover Movie Monsters series, which was also based on the old Universal films. This book was considerably shorter, followed the plot of the movie more closely, and was illustrated extensively with still frames from the film.

Musical references to Werewolf of London include Warren Zevon's 1978 hit song "Werewolves of London", and Paul Roland's 1980 album and single The Werewolf of London.

The 1987 video game Werewolves of London is based on the film.

See also[edit]

Note[edit]

  1. ^ Glendon's given name is spelled Wilfrid in the novel, differing from the film's spelling of Wilfred.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Michael Brunas, John Brunas & Tom Weaver, Universal Horrors: The Studios Classic Films, 1931-46, McFarland, 1990 p131
  2. ^ "Werewolf of London (Universal 1935) - Classic Monsters". 28 April 2015.
  3. ^ Angela Wattercutter (September 19, 2011). "John Landis Explores Evolution of Monsters in the Movies". Wired. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Neibaur, James L., The Monster Movies of Universal Studios, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017, p. 46ISBN 9781442278172
  5. ^ Clarens, Carlos (1968). Horror Movies: An illustrated Survey. London: Panther Books. pp. 119–20.
  6. ^ "Universal's FIRST Wolf Man: "Werewolf of London" Tonight! - Svengoolie.com". svengoolie.com.
  7. ^ "Edinburgh Film Guild, Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-03-05. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  8. ^ Nugent, Frank S. (May 10, 1935). "Werewolf of London (1935), at the Rialto". The New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2014.
  9. ^ "Werewolf of London (1935) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  10. ^ Leonard Maltin; Spencer Green; Rob Edelman (January 2010). Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide. Plume. p. 736. ISBN 978-0-452-29577-3.
  11. ^ "When The Levee Breaks". YouTube. 2014-09-02. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 2019-09-10.
  12. ^ Ian Covell "Ian Covell on ‘Carl Dreadstone’", Souvenirs Of Terror fiendish film & TV show tie-ins, October 3, 2007, accessed 11 July 2011.

External links[edit]