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Film: The Wolfman 1941 & 2010

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Considering the modern remake of The Wolfman came out in February, I suppose I'm quite behind in doing this post  but I can't help it, I'm obsessed....perhaps you could say I'm under the spell of the Wolfman. Hopefully by posting this some seven months after the release of the remake, I will not spoil the film for anyone by discussing it below.


The original film is undeniably an absolute classic, starring some of the biggest names in vintage Hollywood horror. With Lon Chaney as the wolf man, a brief appearance by Bela Lugosi as a lycanthrope gypsy, and Evelyn Ankers, the "queen of the screamers," as the lovely Gwen, this film is brimming with monster movie talent. Like most old films, The Wolfman is short and sweet, developing little backstory for the characters and heading quickly into the rather uncomplex and tragic main action.  The Wolfman stands apart from most horror films as the monster gains sympathy from the audience seeing he has no power over his monster side. The inevitable death of the monster is tragic as it results in the death of an innocent man. 

As I am always skeptical of modern remakes, I was hesitant to see this new version of The Wolfman for fear it would not contain the important elements of the classic story. Firstly, Larry Talbot must be returning home after quite some time, presenting an element of tension between the character and his father as well as a sense of alienation. Love interest Gwen must be present and threatened by the werewolf which helps develop the necessary sympathy in the audience. While Talbot the man realizes the danger he presents to Gwen and tries to distance himself from her, as a wolf he cannot control himself thus attacking Gwen. Inner and external conflict must be present for Larry, he questions whether or not he is actually a monster and so do others. Maleva and Bela, the gypsies, are important as they are not only the source of the lycanthropy but also provide explanation of the wolfman's condition. Lastly, the wolfman must be stopped. The death of the wolfman was an important decision in the original production out of consideration for the audience, the survival of the werewolf would ultimately change the entirety of the story. 

Benicio Del Toro as Lawrence Talbot/ The Wolfman in the 2010 version of "The Wolfman"

The remake of this film holds up well, in fact I'd even say the changes to the plot enhance the original elements of the story. Larry, now changed to Lawrence, returns home after many years upon the gruesome death of his brother. We later learn Lawrence has spent time as a child receiving treatment in an insane asylum after the death of his mother, this is the apparent source of tension between father and son. This history of mental instability also enhances the internal and external conflict that exists for Lawrence, is he crazy or is he really a werewolf? The massive twist to this story is that Sir John Talbot is the original monster that infects Lawrence and has murdered the rest of the family one by one, intensifying the conflict further. Gwen is indeed the love interest again in this film but she is the intended of Lawrence's deceased brother and also the character that kills the monster, as she was instructed to do by the gypsies. The audience indeed feels sympathetic towards Lawrence and Gwen as well, and we are encourage to have feelings of outrage and fear towards Lord Talbot, feelings that were never present in the original.

While the original film had many elements of a greek tragedy, the remake takes things farther by employing loose elements of the Oedipal complex. Gwen reminds both Talbot men of their wife/mother who dies (is murdered by werewolf Sir John) before the story begins. Lawrence falls in love with Gwen and seeks to kill his murderous father thus symbolically marry his mother and actually murder his father.....okay perhaps this is stretching things a bit, after all, it's just a movie.


Where the new film loses out is it's heroine. While Gwen in the 2010 version a very strong admirable character, she has nothing on the charm and beauty of Evelyn Anker. If you haven't seen the original, I recommend doing so just to admire Anker's hair and clothing.


If it isn't evident from what I've written above, I enjoyed both films greatly and for different reasons. Has anyone else seen either or both versions? I am curious to hear your opinions!





Keep an eye out for my next post.... 
something exciting is about to happen.

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