When I heard that someone was remaking this classic Universal Monster Movie, I got a little nervous. I know that I wasn’t really the “target audience” for the original film, but as a kid I was introduced to the classic monster movies from Universal (and later, Hammer) and I was enthralled! I’m sorry but back in the 1930s and 40s, these films were absolutely fantastic! I of course didn’t watch them until the 1970s, but even as a kid I was engrossed by these films. “Phantom of the Opera” with Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi as “Dracula”, Boris Karloff was “Frankenstein” and “the Mummy”, Claude Rains as “the Invisible Man”, Lon Chaney Jr. joined Rains in “the Wolfman”, and not to mention “the Fly” and “Creature from the Black Lagoon”. This was my diet of films as a young boy and I gorged on these whenever I could. My mother might have thought I was a little strange, given that I thought of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi as people I admired, but hey – ever film geek has to start somewhere! Needless to say, I know a lot about those classic monster movies and I am a passionate fan.
Now that I have explained where I am coming from with my review, on to the meat of this review!
“The Wolfman” captures a lot of the thematic elements of the original, including the look of the monster himself! I immediately must stop here to say “kudos, Stan Winston – AGAIN!”. That man is a special effects wizard, truly. The setting is gorgeous: the creepy haunted moors and dark forests surrounding an English Lord’s estate. There is a small hamlet nearby where the locals are …well, they are your typical locals from any of those classic old monster movies. The gypsies from the original movie make a return here in this remake, though they are not an exact replication of their original roles.
That’s one of the best parts about this remake: they changed some of the story, but it was to better the film as a whole. They succeeded at it too! The original seemed to stumble a bit in its storyline. Lawrence Talbot may have been written weakly, but the acting of Lon Chaney Jr. didn’t help. (Fortunately for the original “Wolfman”, Claude Rains carried the movie.) In this remake, the story has been expanded to make the tale really come to life. I won’t give away anything here, but I will say that the storyline in this version actually makes better sense than in the original.
Therefore, this is not an exact remake, but rather an improved remake.
The costuming is stunning! I kid you not, the fashions that the studio used for this film were wonderful to behold. The guys look sharp and classy and the ladies look appropriately fashionable or wretched, as dictated by the role. The make-up effects are fittingly brilliant, but I thought the special effects involving the transformation were somehow off. I always liked the transformation of Eddie Quist in “the Howling”. Real makeup versus digital animation is the argument here, and I have to side on the “old school” side of real makeup.
The film boasts an impressive cast. Hugo Weaving looked great and was great in his role as the Scotland Yard detective. Anthony Hopkins was good, and he surprised me with his role. As an older man, I think Hopkins is now tapping into a wider range of complex characters (which honestly have only improved with age). Benicio Del Toro was a little flat, and yet somehow I felt that was appropriate. He is a far superior actor compared to his original counterpart, Lon Chaney Jr.! Maybe it was Lon’s original performance that I kept thinking of during this movie. It’s good, but not stunning. Who IS stunning in this movie though is Emily Blunt. I am not very familiar with her as an actress, but I thought she was spot-on terrific. She plays the distressed widow well, and makes a perfect damsel caught up in the madness of this sordid tale.
The film makes you jump more than a few times, so it definitely succeeds at being a thriller. It also has plenty of gore and violence, thus succeeding as a Horror film. It recaptures the glory of the original and improved the story which makes it a worthy remake. The only weak part to this film was the score. Music helps to add atmosphere and that is a major element to any really great Horror movie. The film’s score was woefully inept which was more than a little disappointing.
I just wonder, does this mean Universal will now launch a series of remakes of those classics? Will we see a remake of “Creature from the Black Lagoon”? That could be VERY cool if done by the right director and with the same spirit seen here in the remake of “the Wolfman”. Over all, I am very pleased with this remake (and that’s hard for a nut like me to say) and I recommend it to any connoisseur of the Universal monster movies of old! The younger audiences of today with likely scoff at it, and then move on to the “Twilight” saga. That’s fine with me – I like the seating availability in the theater.
…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.
- The Wolf Man (1941 film) Review (theeradicatorreviews.com)