Night 24: ‘Werewolf of London’ (1935)
This is part of the ’31 Nights of Horror Classics’ series, which I’ll be doing for Halloween 2017. Every night of this month, I’ll be watching a horror film made before the 90s and I’ll be posting a short review here.
Women: beware! There’s a monster on the loose, and he’s out for blood!
Dr. Glendon (Henry Hull) is bitten by a wild creature while looking for a rare Tibetan flower. When he returns home, he starts noticing some changes as wild urges begin to surface. Only the mysterious Dr. Yogami (Warner Oland) knows what is happening. And as Dr. Glenson refuses to believe in any mythical possibility, he will have to go on a quest to save himself and restore his relationship with those he loves the most.
Werewolf of London is in some ways similar, but also very different, to The Wolf Man –another movie I’ve watched for this series. We have another conflicted man trying to beat an unavoidable destiny that will claim the life of the love of his life. However, in this case, the transformation can be stopped, although only by the power of an ancient flower which only grows under the moonlight.
This gives our werewolf a flicker of hope that many other versions lack. It’s an interesting and refreshing concept to explore, although unfortunately it’s shallowly executed.
Where it does get it right is in some of the visual choices. It’s, overall, a very dynamic film. And the first transformation scene is smartly achieved. Sadly, the following transformations are not nearly as creative nor effective.
Another high point is in the supporting characters. On one hand, Lisa (Valerie Hobson) is interesting, strong and has a mind of her own, something not many females in horror classics get to be. Also, small secondary characters feel more real, as they don’t only spew out their lines, but they have a little more life and hints of a personality.
Nonetheless, the movie does stop for too long on them. It’s an inexplicable choice that takes away time and keeps the film from exploring its main characters.
The narrative is also tremendously flawed. Plot points are left unexplained -or simply make no sense- way too often. For example: Dr. Yogami’s reasoning for hiding the flowers from Dr. Glendon despite seeming conflicted with the onslaught of women in the city; or why Dr. Glendon releases a wolf from the zoo for no reason at all, etc.
There’s also a tonal problem in the film. Perhaps because it focuses too heavily in secondary characters, it feels more like a comedic movie than a horror film. There are also too many ridiculous moments (like the werewolf dressing up, or choosing to open the door in the middle of an attack after having jumped out of windows minutes ago) to be successfully taken seriously.
In the end, I think I gravitate more towards Lon Chaney Jr.’s vulnerability in The Wolf Man. If you’re looking for a werewolf flick with heart, I’ll still recommend you that one over Werewolf of London.
Grade: 6/10. An interesting idea, but poorly performed.
Scare Factor: not scary.
Gore/Violence: nothing graphic.
Nudity/Sexual Situations: none.
Previous Night: ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’ (‘57)
Next up: ‘The Dead Zone (‘35)