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After the death of his brother, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney jr) comes back to his
father's (Claude Rains) estate to reconcile with the old man, who is the big
landowner & overall big-shot in a small Welsh village. Soon, Larry's eyes
fall on Gwen (Evelyn Ankers), the daughter of the local antique shop owner
(J.M.Kerrigan), & he starts to court her by buying a cane from her that has
a handle in the shape of a wolf made of solid silver - & he even managaes
to get a date with her later that night, to go to a gypsy fortune teller Bela
(Bela Lugosi) ... but much to Larry's disappointment, Gwen brings her friend
Jenny (Fay Helm) as her chaperone.
However, soon after she was with the fortune teller, Jenny is attacked by a
wolf & killed. Larry arrives just seconds too late to save her life, but
beats the wolf to death with his cane (with a silver handle, get it ?). Later
Jenny's corpse is found, but besides her not the dead wolf but the dead body of
Bela ... and Larry's cane. Furthermore when Larry is questioned by the police
captain (Ralph Bellamy) about this, he starts to contradict himself when he
claims to have been wounded by the wolf he killed but his wound appears to be
healed. However, Larry's father is powerful enough to have the case of
manslaughter against his son dropped, but agrees to put Larry under the
surveillance of family doctor Lloyd (Warren Williams).
This doesn't help in the slightest though, since Larry, to the disbelief of
everyone except the old gypsie woman Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), has turned
into a werewolf, & the very next night he roams the countryside again &
kills an old gravedigger (Tom Stevenson).
The next night, while his father helps forming a posse to hunt down the
beast who has killed Jenny & the gravedigger (not knowing that the beast is
his son), Larry again tries to confess everything, but his father decides on
dracstic measures to convince his son he is not the werewolf ... he ties him to
a chair while the posse is out to kill the wolf.
Of course, as soon as noone is watching Larry breaks free & roams the
countryside yet again, & of course despite everyone warning her not to Gwen
has decided to walk the woods that night on her own, until she catches the eye
of werewolf Larry who prepares to move in for the kill when his own father -
with his own cane with the silver wolf-shaped handle - interferes & beats
the beast to death ... & only after the wolf is dead does he turn back to
In contrast to earlier now classic Universal horrors like Frankenstein,
Bride of Frankenstein & (in parts) also Dracula
- films that were highly inventive, original & tried to push genre
boundaries - The Wolf Man, one of Universal's later entries in
their horror cycle, stays firmly inside these boundaries & relies on
tried-&-true, but even back then a tad old-fashioned ingredients (like the
ever popular shadows & fog, gypsies as the heralds of the uncanny,
the beast inside the man, ...), & by now seems rather dusted in both
direction & story-telling. Also, Jack Pierce's wolf make-up is one of his
lesser efforts, with Chaney's wolf-face resemblng more that of a cute puppy.
All that doesn't make Wolf Man a bad movie, it's
just many steps away from greatness (or from "so bad it's good"-ness,
like some later Unviersal horrors) ... & Lon Chaney jr gives a very