75 Years of Film: 1941–The Wolfman

What better place to start these adventures into film history than with one of the most famous monster flicks of all time? It’s been remade, rebooted, and spoofed to death, but does that mean it’s great or just memorable?


Larry Talbot returns to his old hometown, but while on a date, he’s bitten by a wolfman and becomes a werewolf himself. As he discovers what he is, Larry realizes he’s a danger to everyone, but doesn’t know how to stop.

Is It Any Good?
Definitely. Sure, it’s very old, but considering the time it was pretty darn good. Lon Cheney was a good actor, it turns out. The drama is heavy, and while I was never frightened the threat certainly was real. Plus, there was an interesting parallel about how this all may be in Larry’s mind because the town has the wrong idea about him. Is he crazy or lycanthropic? Certainly worth a watch.

Interesting things:
Movies didn’t play around back then. Right when the movie started, it started. When it was over, it ended. The film is barely over an hour long, but man do they pack every minute. I miss the days when film was valuable and padding wasn’t a thing.

Credits were also a lot shorter. The entire cast and crew fills about two screens–three if you include the giant splash of the producer/director’s name. My wife pointed out that you could list all the little people at an Oscar speech back then.

I expected the effects to be atrocious. And to be sure, the wolfman’s makeup is a joke. He doesn’t look like a wolf, more like a badger-man. I know it’s an old film, but the first werewolf in the film actually had a wolf shape. However, the transition effects are surprisingly good. They’re quite smooth, especially with the fog they put on the screen.

The music is classic black-and-white monster fare. Big, booming brass and heavy strings, a nice combination of fear and sorrow.

Also, it was apparently okay to be a creep back then. Larry Talbot is toying with a telescope and notices a woman in her room above her shop. He goes to the shop to meet her and then starts commenting on the earrings she wore in her bedroom. The lady is clearly uncomfortable, but becomes the love interest anyway because 1941 that’s why.

Or maybe that’s because Lon Cheney was the only one who came across as natural. Everyone else in the film overacts a bit, like most older films for some reason. Cheney, however, captures the horror and drama of his situation without going over the top.

It’s fun to watch old movies and see cinema in its early stages. Granted, this is far from the first film or film year. Movies had come along way from The Great Train Robbery. However, they still had a ways to go.

Major Events in 1941:
Multiple Dates — German air raids on Great Britain, the last on May 16th. WWII in full swing, Jews massacred en masse, Winston Churchhill shows off general awesomeness.
May 6th — Joseph Stalin becomes premier of Russia
Sep 16th — Adolf Hitler orders that for every dead German 100 Yugoslavians should be killed.
Sep 23rd — First gas murder experiemnts perform at Auschwitz.
Dec 7th — Pearl Harbor attacked by Japanese
Dec 8th — US Enters WWII.

I’m starting to think that people went to go see the fictional terrors of The Wolfman to escape the terrors happening all over the world.

Other Movies released in 1941:
Citizen Kane — One of the biggest movies ever, but The Wolfman seemed more nostalgic.
The Maltese Faction
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Adventures of Captain Marvel

What do you think? Have you seen The Wolfman or any other films from 1941?

NEXT: 1942 — Mrs. Miniver

One thought on “75 Years of Film: 1941–The Wolfman

Who Cares What I Think? What Do YOU Think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s