102 of 104 people found the following review helpful
If you've been keeping up with the DVD releases of Universal Monsters, you might already know this is the 3rd time The Wolf Man has been released in the past 10 years. But this new deluxe 2-disc edition should prove to be the definitive release. In addition to a spectacular restoration (which is still not quite perfect, but probably the best the film will ever look on home video), there is an exhaustive array of bonus features. Actually, only two of them are new, but when added to the already excellent extras carried over from previous releases, this is simply a must-have for anyone with even a slight interest in the film.
But let's take a quick look at the film itself. The Wolf Man has always been my favorite Universal Monster. I think it's the combination of Curt Siodmak's poetic and gothically romantic screenplay, and the Everyman performance of Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot. Chaney will perhaps forever reside in the shadow of contemporaries like Karloff and Lugosi, but it's difficult to imagine either of those horror superstars bringing the same authenticity to the role of Talbot.
Chaney also gets winning support from Claude Rains, Patrick Knowles and Evelyn Ankers (whose well-documented dislike of Chaney also serves as a testament to her acting abilities...the two are charming together on-screen). Maria Ouspenskaya also appears in her signature roles as the gypsy Maleva, while Bela Lugosi has a too-brief but equally-memorable role as her son.
As for the bonus features, the two new ones are a brief (10 min.) overview of werewolf movies featuring the likes of John Landis, Rick Baker and several film critics, and a 36-minute documentary on Chaney's career. As a long-time fan of this fan and Lon Chaney Jr., I confess I didn't learn a lot of new facts about the actor; but for the uninitiated, it will no doubt provide some much-needed illumination into the man and his body of work.
Also, in case you missed the previous releases, here are the holdover supplements: "Monster By Moonlight" is a well-done look at the film and its sequels, hosted by John Landis. There's a documentary on makeup wizard Jack Pierce. A trailer gallery features previews for several werewolf films, including the new 2010 version of The Wolf Man (by the way, props to Universal for not making this set an extended commercial for the remake, the way some of the bonus materials in The Monster Legacy Collection (Frankenstein / Dracula / The Wolf Man) did for Stephen Sommer's 2003 bomb Van Helsing (Widescreen Edition)). "Universal Horror" is a terrific feature-length documentary on all of Universal's classic horror output. Lastly, an audio commentary with Tom Weaver provides deeper insight into the film's production.
Now it must be said that this long-overdue set would probably not have been released at this time without the 2010 remake. And as of this writing, I have not seen the new movie. I do hope that--whether it is ultimately a success or not--it will inspire film fans to go back and take a look at this classic original. Certainly, this is a must-buy for anyone who loves the original film. And remember, Monster Fans. . .there are still many films of this kind that deserve the deluxe treatment. So before you complain about double (wait, make that TRIPLE) dipping to get your hard-earned bucks, remember that future releases are dependent on how well items like this sell. In other words, support your classic monsters! Enjoy the set; I give it my highest recommendation.
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Among the pantheon of classic Universal monsters, only Dracula and Frankenstein's monster stand taller than The Wolf Man. This 1941 classic starring Lon Chaney, Jr., is a must-see for anyone claiming any interest in horror movies. The film has exerted a huge influence on the art of bringing horror to life for over six decades now, thanks to the heralded make-up prowess of Jack Pierce, the tight and powerful script of Curt Siodmak, some impressive photography work, and wonderful performances from a truly stellar cast of actors and actresses.
There is just something different about The Wolf Man; I have a hard time viewing him as a monster Larry Talbot is a thoroughly sympathetic and tragic character. Dracula loves being a vampire, Frankenstein's monster is just an unfortunate victim of circumstance whose various body parts have already lived full lives, but Larry Talbot desperately hates the monster he has become. He's already a sympathetic character, coming home after eighteen years following the death of his older brother, trying to fit in among the folks he said goodbye to long ago. Then, when he hears a fateful howl accompanied by a scream, he races off in heroic fashion, taking on a wolf in order to try and save a woman's life, killing the doggoned creature. And what does he get for his noble, self-less act? First of all, suspicion, because instead of the wolf he described, the authorities find the body of a gypsy fortune teller (played by Bela Lugosi, who gets all of seven lines in the film) clubbed to death by Talbot's cane. Then, tragically, he finds himself inflicted with the curse of the werewolf, thanks to the bite he suffered in the struggle. Chaney's performance also adds to his tragic status. He had a style of acting all his own; at times, I watch him and think the guy just couldn't act his way out of a dark room with a flashlight, but his strange and slightly awkward manner, tempered by a sort of gentle slowness ends up leaving me mesmerized. In most horror movies, I'm always ready to bring the monster on and get the party started, but I never look forwarding to watching Talbot turn into the werewolf.
I think everyone is pretty well acquainted with the story here. Man gets bitten by werewolf, man turns into werewolf, man suffers a tragic fate. The Wolf Man, though, succeeds in becoming much more than just the simple tale of a hairy monster. The inimitable Claude Rains lends the film character and class as Talbot's father. The lovely Evelyn Ankers makes a great leading lady in the form of Gwen Conliffe. Lugosi is of course terrific as the gypsy Bela, but the role is a minor one indeed. Maria Ouspenskaya is masterful as the gypsy woman Maleva who tries to warn Talbot and help him deal with the curse that suddenly consumes his life. Siodmak really provided a tight plot; there would be a number of sequels, but The Wolf Man is a completely self-contained movie of great power and meaning.
There are a number of really interesting things about this movie. For instance, we never actually see Talbot's transformation from man to wolf - we see the legs change, but that is it. There is a scene toward the end where we witness the transformation from wolf to man, but you won't see any time-lapse treatment of the change from man to monster. Of much more interest to me is the fact that you don't hear a single reference to the moon in the entire film. Apparently, the transformation happens nightly to Talbot; there is nothing to indicate that a full moon plays any part at all. Thus, some of the core Wolf Man assumptions do not trace themselves back to the original movie.
The commentary by film historian Tom Weaver, included on the DVD, is just superb. It's one of the most engaging commentaries I've heard. This guy is loaded to the gills with facts and trivia, and he barely pauses over the course of the film's 70 minutes, delivering one gem after another. He also asks some of the questions I ask when I watch the movie, and I love that. This isn't a commentary by some stuffy "expert." Weaver is indeed an expert, but at the same time he is one of us, a true fan of classic horror movies.
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 1999
When Universal started putting out the classic monsters on DVD this fall, I just knew I'd have to wait a long time for the underappreciated Wolf Man. But no! On the heels of the OUTSTANDING discs of Frankenstein, The Bride & The Mummy comes another first-class offering. Like the others, THE WOLF MAN contains an excellent documentary as well as the trailer and a commentary track by a film historian. The print of the film is gorgeous. I don't care what your age is or when you first saw this amazing film, if you're a horror fan you simply must own this one.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2000
Firstly, apologies for the corny title of my review. Now the DVD. Universal has pulled out all the stops for its Classic Monster Collection DVDs and 'The Wolf Man' is a contender for best of the series. The DVD boasts several special features including an informative documentary, cast/crew notes and trailer. In keeping with the other Classic Monster DVDs, the real bonus is the incredible picture quality. Not just better than VHS, not just better than a revival cinema print, this print is better than I ever recall seeing on TV! 'The Wolf Man' also features the best commentary of any of these Universal DVDs. Tom Weaver provides an exceptional degree of insight into the movie in a very fast but conversational manner - you'll need to listen to the commentary more than once in order to gain full benefit. Like all good 'horrors' the emphasis is on suspense and mystery, not mindless gore. In fact, the image of Lon Chaney Jr in full werewolf make-up could easily overshadow the fact that this is also a superb psychological thriller - until you watch the DVD. This impressive package is an essential purchase for all vintage horror fans. When Leonard Maltin describes 'The Wolf Man' as 'one of the finest horror films ever made' you know you're not going to be disappointed!
31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
"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..."
Sure, Dracula gave a face and a mythology to the vampire in the 1800s, but the werewolf didn't get similar treatment for quite some time. It was only with "The Wolfman" that the werewolf got his due, creating the template for lycanthropes everywhere -- a haunting, atmospheric story about a mildly creepy man who (through no fault of his own) turns into an unholy mixture of man and beast.
Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr) returns to his ancestral Welsh home after many years away, to reconcile with his estranged dad who looks nothing like him (Claude Rains). He immediately starts acquainting himself with his old home, including being rather creepy towards a lovely woman named Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers), who is working at her dad's antique store. He even accompanies Gwen and her friend Jenny to a local gypsy camp to have their fortunes told.
But after having her fortune told, Jenny is horribly killed by a wolf; Larry beats it to death with his silver-topped cane, but not before being bitten. You can probably guess what happens next -- the wolf turns out to be the gypsy fortuneteller (Bela Lugosi), and Larry's bite mysteriously heals overnight. And after being warned by an aged gypsy woman (Maria Ouspenskaya) that he has now contracted the curse of the werewolf, Larry finds himself undergoing a terrible transformation at night... and killing.
It's a sign of how good "The Wolfman" is that its dated special effects (hello, lap dissolve!) and prosthetics don't hamper it as a story -- it's an intelligent, slowly-unfolding story about an ordinary man whose good deed backfires in a big way. It's also less "boo! Scary!" horror than psychological horror -- Larry is left wondering if the dead gypsy passed on his horrific curse, or if all the talk of werewolves has given him clinical lycanthropy. In other words -- is he cursed, or is he insane? Not a fun choice.
And George Waggner wraps the movie in suitable atmosphere -- lots of misty forests, quaint rural villages, shadowy chapels and the occasional outbursts of shrieking and offscreen violence. The beginning is a little awkward (enough canned father-son "reunion" conversations!) but kicks into gear when the characters go wandering off to see the gypsies -- and after that, it's a slow bloody build as all the scientifically impossible things come true, and Larry finds himself increasingly trapped.
And while some of the werewolf stuff (including the famous rhyme) was made up for the movie, it adds a note of mythological creepiness, as well as some lovely incantations ("The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own...").
And Lon Chaney Jr. did an excellent job bringing a sympathetic edge to the werewolf, turning convincingly from a jovial engineer/aristocrat to a man haunted by his horrific change. The one problem: he isn't very sympathetic at the beginning, since he basically stalks Gwen (looking in her window with a telescope?) and won't get lost when she tells him to. Ankers gives a good performance as a local love interest, and Ouspenskaya gives a spectacular performance as the old gypsy lady -- eerie, sympathetic to Larry's plight, and with a dry sense of humor.
This special edition will be released just in time for the Benecio Del Toro remake, and as such they're also giving it the two-disc treatment. Older features include a feature commentary, Wolf-Man Archives, "Monster By Moonlight", and there's also a disk full of new documentaries -- one of Universal Horror movies, a documentary on the life and movies of Lon Chaney Jr, the life and art of Jack Pierce, and one on werewolf legends throughout history.
Despite a slightly creepy lead character, "The Wolfman" is still an enduring classic -- it's no longer exactly scary, but it is deliciously spooky. Definitely a must-see.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2001
This film is brilliant for its combination of everyday events with eerie and uncontrollable malignity. The contrast between Lord Talbot's scientific, sympathetic mind and the inexplicable evil that haunts those who seek to do no harm is powerful and compelling.
Much of the plot's cleverness and plausibility stems from having scenes with a wise gypsy woman inserted within normal, even banal, daily happenings. The gypsy's words, "The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own...", uttered with an invocation of peace over both "wolf men," is highly effective, as is the light-hearted but all too true, "Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers at night..."
Larry Talbot is by far the most sympathetic of Universal's monsters - basically a good man, with no evil inclinations or intentions, and a werewolf only because he was bitten while trying to save another from danger. One wishes his father had not insisted that he face the horror alone... the rational explanation of the werewolf as the product of schizophrenia was regrettably too convincing.
This is one of the best of the monster genre, intelligent and appealing to the mind rather than being gruesome. It is a treat for those who enjoy the classic monster flicks, particularly those of us who find present day horror films to be far too graphic and terrifying. It takes an adult mind to catch the deeper references, but even a child could view this (or the rest of Universal's "lot"), with no nightmares ahead.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2009
Here are the features for the Legacy Series 2 Disc DVD Special Edition:
- Commentary by film historian Tom Weaver
- The Wolf Man: From Ancient Curse to Modern Myth,
- Pure in Heart: The Life and Legacy of Lon Chaney Jr,
- He Who Made Monsters: The Life and Art of Jack Pierce,
- Monsters by Moonlight
- The Wolf Man Archives
- Universal Horror documentary narrated by Kenneth Branag
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Don Smith, Lon Chaney, Jr.'s biographer, states that the most important horror film of the 1940's is "The Wolf Man". This new full screen(aspect 1.33:1) release of "The Wolf Man" is what DVD is all about: A clear, pristine restoration of a cinema classic, an original documentary with director John Landis(written by historian David J. Skal), commentary by expert Tom Weaver, a trailer, and bio's on the major stars, including listing every film by Lon Chaney, Jr. and Bela Lugosi. The Wolfman story, perhaps a classic Greek tragedy, is well-known. Lawrence Talbot returns to his father's estate in Wales. After romancing a local village girl, Talbot is bitten by a werewolf. At the full moon, he suffers the curse of lycanthropy. Like a football team, a movie is perhaps, only as good as it's players. "The Wolf Man" is all first string. Fresh from his accolades for "Of Mice and Men", Lon Chaney, Jr. steps into the leading role with conviction and empathy. This is his finest work. His father, Sir John, is played by Claude Rains. Just one year later, he would be Oscar nominated for "Casablanca". British actress Evelyn Ankers began a long Universal film career here as the love interest. Warren Williams plays the doctor. Williams was once touted as the next Barrymore. Ralph Bellamy appears as Constable Montford. Bellamy was in over 100 films. He won the Academy Award and a Tony for his work. Patric Knowles, a Universal staple, plays the gamekeeper. World famous Maria Ouspenskaya emigrated to the U.S. from Russia, surviving the Revolution and famine. Her role here as Maleva, the old gypsy woman, is pivotal.Finally Bela Lugosi, as Bela the gypsy, is at once riveting and magnetic. Originally considered for the lead, Lugosi's part was sadly cut to 7 lines. It is his only screen appearance as a werewolf. "Wolf Man" director George Waggner creates a frantic pace and eery backgrounds here. Waggner started as an actor, appearing in "The Shiek", with Rudolph Valentino, in 1921. The "Wolf Man" story comes from a taut script by Curt Siodmak. An original music score from Charles Previn and Hans J. Salter was so successful, it popped up in Universal films for years. Some of the track was recycled in 1954 for "Creature From the Black Lagoon". An early "Wolfman" scene in Talbot Castle includes a candlabra prop seen in 1935's "The Raven". In a later segment, Chaney exits a magnificent old church. That set was built for his father in "Hunchback of Notre Dame". "The Wolf Man" finished shooting in November, 1941. Just weeks later it opened in theaters. It was an instant hit, earning over $1 million. Within days, five of the principal actors were rushed into Universal's next opus, "Ghost of Frankenstein". Lon Chaney, Jr.'s grandson, Ron Chaney, lives in Palm Springs, Calif.. I have spoken with him several times. He holds his famous ancestors in high esteem, thanks to his web-site (...). He remembers his grandfather as warm and generous. For "The Wolf Man" commentary, Tom Weaver is detailed and inspired. He makes one error, however,mentioning that Lon Chaney, Jr. died of lung cancer. He's wrong. It was actually his father, Lon Chaney,Sr., who passed away in 1930 after shooting his only sound film, a re-make of his own "The Unholy Three". Lon Chaney,Jr. died in 1973 of a heart attack and liver failure. He was 67. In "The Wolf Man"'s final epic scenes, Maleva, the old gypsy woman, bends over the battered body of Lawrence Talbot, and whispers the words that have echoed down and haunted Hollywood horror film history..."The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own. But as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to their predestined end. Your suffering is over, my son. Now you will find peace..."
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 1999
George Waggner's(not Karl Freund) "The Wolfman" is undoubtedly the best film ever made that deals with the curse of lycanthropy. An outstanding cast, incredible photography and atmospheric music contribute to an excellent film. The transfer is good, though it could have been better(speckles and scratches abound). The supplementary materials-documentary, audio commentary- are top notch. Well worth adding to your DVD collection.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2000
This DVD takes me back to the days when true classic horror films were produced. "The Wolf Man" doesn't need grotesque violence to be scary; it accomplishes its eerie nature through seemingly simple scenes of mysterious horror. "The Wolf Man" is definitely one of the Universal classics of the 30s and 40s, and should take an honored place in the collection of horror fans. The DVD itself is wonderful in every respect. It includes an interesting documentary about the making and evolution of "The Wolf Man", as well as an excellent feature commentary, which is both interesting, funny, and informative. The film's transition to DVD was also done well, and it looks great on the computer monitor.