Tag Archives: Claude Rains

The Wolfman

Directed by George WaggnerProduced by George Waggner
Written by Curt Siodmak
Starring Lon Chaney, Jr.
Claude Rains
Warren William
Ralph Bellamy
Patric Knowles
Bela Lugosi
Maria Ouspenskaya
Evelyn Ankers
Cinematography Joseph Valentine, ASC
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) December 12, 1941
Running time 70 min
Language English

“Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.”

Since the new Wolfman movie comes out next month I thought it would be good to have a new look at the original. As a kid this movie really scared me and has since given me a lifelong fear of werewolves. The Wolfman is one of the classic Universal horror movies from the 1930s and 40s which also includes Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride Of Frankenstein and the Invisible Man, but by the time that The Wolfman came along Universal were just about coming to the end of their monster movie cycle, and the films of the 1940s did not have the budgets or quality of their predecessors. That does not mean that it’s a bad film.

This movie is from 1941 and stars Lon Chaney Jr. as the  unfortunate Lawrence Talbot, the man who is cursed when he is bitten by a werewolf. Having just watched this film yesterday I would say that it is not so much as horror movie, as there are really no instances of tension, fear or horror, however it does work as a great psychological study of a man who is tormented by the things he will do when the moon is full and he changes into a dreaded werewolf. This is of course Chaney’s signature role and what he is best known for today, although his performance here does echo his earlier role as Lenny in the 1939 Academy Award nominated version of Of Mice And Men, for which Chaney won much critical acclaim.

The screenplay was written by Curt Siodmak, a German Jew who fled the Nazi atrocities of the 1930s for America. He is the person responsible for much of the traditions that are today associated with the werewolf legend, such as the transformation at the full moon, the werewolves’ victim being marked by a pentagram and that the only way to kill a werewolf is with silver. According to the excellent documentary that accompanied the DVD, Siodmak wrote The Wolfman as an allegory to the genocide occurring in Europe at the time and how even the nicest of men could become beasts if the conditions were right.

Then there is the performance of Lon Chaney Jr., as Larry Talbot, the man who must carry the terrible curse of the werewolf. His acting seems quite over the top and hammy here but it does add to the fun of the film. The Wolfman became Chaney’s signature role and makes this movie a lot of fun to watch. Jack Pierce’s make up work is great and the transformation scenes are very good considering this film is almost 70 years old. It is an enjoyable film and I only hope the remake is half as much fun.

* Buy The Wolfman from Amazon* (Note this is a region 1 DVD and requires a region free DVD player to be played outside North America)

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Directed by Michael Curtiz
William Keighley
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Written by Norman Reilly Raine
Seton I. Miller
Starring Errol Flynn
Olivia de Havilland
Basil Rathbone
Claude Rains
Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Cinematography Tony Gaudio
Sol Polito
Editing by Ralph Dawson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) May 14, 1938
Running time 102 minutes
Country United States

Out of all the films that I have watched this month The Adventures Of Robin Hood would have to have been the most fun. It is a terrific film, the kind that are rarely made in Hollywood any more. The last really fun film that I can remember Hollywood making would have to be the first Pirates Of The Caribbean film, and like that film it is not just the viewers having all the fun, you can tell that the actors enjoyed themselves too.

Of the actors Tasmania’s own Errol Flynn provides an iconic performance as Robin Hood. When people think of Sir Robin of Locksley the only actor who comes to mind is Errol Flynn, even though there have been several adaptions of the Robin Hood story, proving that this is indeed the definitive version. It is so good to hear Flynn’s distinctive Aussie twang, especially as this was made at a time when most Australians who were performing in Australian films were trying to sound anything but Australian. It would not be until the 1970s that Australian films would embrace their own Australian-ness and stop trying to be British, which makes Flynn’s performance so much more ahead of its time. Later this year Russel Crowe will have his work cut out for him in matching Flynn’s performance when he dons the green tights to play Robin.

For every great hero you need a great villain for him to match wits with. We have that here in the treacherous Sir Guy of Gisbourne, as played by Basil Rathbone. Guy is cunning and will do anything to get Robin, who not only eluded him but humiliated him in one of the films great scenes also. Rathbone of course memorably played the nemesis to Flynn here and in the equally iconic Captain Blood as well. Rathbone also played the sword weilding swshbuckling villain in a number of other Hollywood productions, always coming off second best.

There are a couple of other things that I like about the film too. Una O’Connor appears in a bit role as Bess, but this is really just the same kooky character that she had earlier played in films such as Frankenstein, Bride Of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man. She always provides a little bit of comic relief when she appears on screen but thankfully she is a little more restrained here. I also enjoyed the Academy Award winning score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold greatly.

This was a film that I greatly enjoyed watching. As I said it was a lot of fun, the kind of film that I wish Hollywood would till make.