Hello Geeks and Ghouls, Famous Monster here. Well, it’s finally October and you know what that means? Breast Cancer Awareness 5Ks? Good guess. Pumpkin Spice Lattes? Delicious, but no. Halloween? YES. Horror movies? DOUBLE YES!
Welcome to 31 Days of Horror, where I’ll cover two noteworthy horror films a day for the entirety of the month. That’s 31 Days of Horror and 62 Films perfect for watching on a cold, dark October night. Be sure to visit Geeks of Doom every day this month for a double-shot of chills and thrills!
Today’s double-shot is howlin’ for you with two legendary lycanthrope films: George Waggner‘s 1941 film, The Wolf Man, and Jon Landis‘ 1981 comedy-horror flick, An American Werewolf in London.
“Even a man who is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” After the death of his brother, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) returns from America to his ancestral home in Wales.
There he visits a gypsy camp and is attacked by Bela, a gypsy werewolf. Larry kills the creature but is bitten during the fight. Talbot is now cursed to become a werewolf with each full moon. Larry confesses his plight to his skeptical father, Sir John (Claude Rains), who then joins the villagers in a hunt for the bloodthristy wolf stalking the countryside.
That night, when the full moon rises, Talbot transforms into The Wolf Man, prowling the misty woods and savagely killing Richardson, the local gravedigger. Jack Pierce‘s amazing yak hair makeup takes center stage as Chaney’s monstrous alter-ego surfaces and begins his murderous spree.
Originally released in 1941, The Wolf Man introduced audiences to a new Universal movie monster and redefined the mythology of the werewolf forever. Featuring a charming-yet-heartbreaking performance by Lon Chaney, Jr. and groundbreaking make-up by Jack Pierce, The Wolf Man is filled with misty, dreamlike atmospheres, elaborate settings and a chilling musical score by Frank Skinner which make The Wolf Man a memorable entry in Universal Horror’s crypt of classic movie monsters.
While it may not be as bone-chilling as Browning’s Dracula or Whale’s Frankenstein, The Wolf Man is a moody, atmospheric classic that came to define the ‘rules’ for how one becomes a werewolf and how such a creature can be killed. “A werewolf can only be killed by a silver bullet, or a silver knife…or a stick with a silver handle.”
It wasn’t Universal Pictures’ first lycanthrope film (1935’s Werewolf of London), but Waggner’s The Wolf Man is without question the most iconic – inspiring cult films such as An American Werewolf in London and Joe Dante’s The Howling.
American students David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) are on a walking tour of Britain when they are attacked by a werewolf. Jack is killed, while Kessler is viciously mauled. The werewolf is killed but reverts to its human form, leaving the local townspeople unwilling to acknowledge the mythical creature’s existence.
Soon Kessler begins having bewildering visions and terrifying nightmares, carrying on conversations with the rotting corpse of his friend Jack. Having been bitten by the werewolf, Kessler is doomed to transform into the monster and must find a way to release himself from the curse, and free his friend, who is trapped between worlds because of his unnatural death.
John Landis’ 1981 comedy-horror flick, An American Werewolf in London, is perhaps most beloved for its Oscar-winning transformation effects by Rick Baker (who would go on to do the makeup for the 2010 remake of The Wolf Man), which changed the face of horror makeup in the ’80s. It remains a cult classic that is gory, terrifying, clever, and downright entertaining. If you’re looking for a great werewolf follow-up to Waggner’s The Wolf Man, look no further!
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