By Elaine Bergstrom
Some of my fondest childhood memories were watching the classic Universal Studios horror films of the ’40s and ’50s at the local theater and on Ghoulardi’s late-night horror film screenings. One of the films I saw was the Lon Chaney Jr. classic The Wolf Man, and it was one of my favorites.
Thankfully, the werewolf may have made some smoother and more elaborate transformations thanks to modern special effects, but the tone of the stories – a noble human doomed by a curse and an unfortunate bite – has stayed the same in films such as An American Werewolf in London, Wolf and Universal’s dark, moody and star-studded Wolf Man update, The Wolfman.
The Wolfman stars Benicio Del Toro as the doomed Lawrence Talbot, Anthony Hopkins as his father and Emily Blunt as Gwen, Lawrence’s future sister-in-law until his brother, Ben, is ripped apart by something. Lawrence returns to the family home that has fallen into ruin, and to a father who is clearly coming unhinged. When he sees his brother’s mutilated body, Lawrence vows revenge.
Del Toro is the ideal actor to step into Chaney’s shoes, hulking and brooding. Hopkins, on the other hand, looks like he is having as much fun in this role as he did as Van Helsing in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the scenes between father and son are the most memorable in the film. Since the film centers on their relationship, Blunt has little to do but look beautiful and steal Lawrence’s heart – because it is love, after all, that will end the terror that is the beast.
This is a bloody film, one that makes good use of special effects to create the carnage. Most of the action occurs in the foggy English countryside at night, and – again a bow to classic horror – the beast is not seen for some time, though his results are.
The longer/unedited version of The Wolfman is on Video On Demand, and is the better version to watch. Sixteen minutes were added to the theatrical release, smoothing out some of the choppy cuts in the original, though either version should be a pleasure for fans of those humans cursed by that monster lurking within.
The Wolfman Unrated Director’s Cut is now showing on Video on Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© 2008 Universal Studios. Credit: Frank Ockenfels/Universal Pictures