The Wolf Man

Critics Consensus

A handsomely told tale with an affecting performance from Lon Chaney, Jr., The Wolf Man remains one of the classics of the Universal horror stable.

94%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 35
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Movie Info

"Even a man who is pure at heart/And says his prayers by night/May become a wolf when the wolf-bane blooms/And the moon is full and bright." Upon first hearing these words, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney) dismisses them as childish folderol. After all, this is the 20th Century; how can a human being turn into a werewolf? Talbot soon learns how when he attempts to rescue Jenny Williams (Fay Helm) from a nocturnal attack by a wolf. Collapsing, Talbot discovers upon reviving that Jenny is dead-and, lying by her side, is not the body of a beast, but of a gypsy named Bela (Bela Lugosi). The son of fortune teller Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), Bela was a lycanthrope, or "wolf man." And now that he has been bitten by Bela, Talbot is cursed to suffer the torments of the damned whenever the moon is full. Arguably the best of the "original" Universal horrors (original in the sense that it was not based on an existing literary property, a la Frankenstein, Dracula and The Invisible Man), The Wolf Man boasts one of the most stellar casts ever to grace a "B" picture: Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Evelyn Ankers, Ralph Bellamy, Warren William, Patric Knowles, Maria Ouspenskaya and Bela Lugosi. The man-to-wolf transformation sequences -- one of which took a full 24 hours to film -- are thoroughly convincing, thanks to the cosmetic genius of Jack P. Pierce (Chaney had wanted to emulate his father by developing his own werewolf makeup, but existing union rules would not permit this). Alas, after this powerhouse opening volley, the Wolf Man character was relegated to a series of cheap sequels, teaming him with other Universal shock stars: Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945). The final ignominy was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1945), in which Lawrence Talbot (Chaney again), having been cured of lycanthropy in House of Dracula, reverts to his werewolf status -- and has to endure the one-liners of Lou Costello to boot! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Cast

Lon Chaney Jr
as Larry Talbot
Creighton Chaney
as Wolfman/Larry Talbot
Claude Rains
as Sir John Talbot
Evelyn Ankers
as Gwen Conliffe
Ralph Bellamy
as Capt. Paul Montford
Warren William
as Dr. Lloyd
Patric Knowles
as Frank Andrews
Fay Helm
as Jenny Williams
Forrester Harvey
as Victor Twiddle
J.M. Kerrigan
as Charles Conliffe
Kurt Katch
as Gypsy with Bear
Doris Lloyd
as Mrs. Williams
Olaf Hytten
as Villager
Harry Stubbs
as Rev. Norman
Tom Stevenson
as Richardson, the Graveyard Digger
Eric Wilton
as Chauffeur
Ernie Stanton
as Phillips
Ottola Nesmith
as Mrs. Bally
Connie Leon
as Mrs. Wykes
La Riana
as Gypsy Dancer
Caroline Cooke
as 1st Woman
Margaret Fealy
as 2nd Woman
Jessie Arnold
as Gypsy Woman
Eddie Polo
as Churchgoer
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News & Interviews for The Wolf Man

Critic Reviews for The Wolf Man

All Critics (35) | Top Critics (5)

  • The Wolf Man serves its horror straight. A very substantial cast undertakes to sell believably a tale of superstitious folklore.

    Apr 7, 2015 | Full Review…
    Hollywood Reporter
    Top Critic
  • The Wolf Man is a compactly-knit tale of its kind, with good direction and performances by an above par assemblage of players, but dubious entertainment.

    Oct 8, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • A stodgy Universal thriller from 1941, redeemed by a name-heavy cast and by Lon Chaney Jr.'s lumbering, affable performance in the title role.

    Oct 8, 2008 | Full Review…
  • Without any build-up either by the scriptwriter or director, he is sent onstage, where he, looks a lot less terrifying and not nearly as funny as Mr. Disney's big, bad wolf.

    Aug 8, 2006 | Full Review…
  • There's undeniable magic within the staid format.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
  • The original and only entry in the Wolf Man series that I truly like. Lon Chaney, Jr. was born to play the troubled Larry Talbot, a guy who gets bitten by a werewolf (Bela Lugosi) and openly laments his future as the hairiest man in Europe. Nicely done.

    Oct 26, 2014 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

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