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

80%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 10,343
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The Wolf Man Photos

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…

Audience Reviews for The Wolf Man

  • Nov 02, 2014
    The Lon Chaney, Jr. classic Universal Monster Movie The Wolf Man is a provocative tale of a man's struggle against fate. While courting a young shopkeeper Larry Talbot is attacked by a werewolf, and is told by gypsies that he has taken on the werewolf curse and will become a killer. Co-starring Claude Rains and Bela Lugosi, the film has a strong cast. But the script is weak, and does a poor job of showing Talbot's struggle to come to terms with his affliction. And, Chaney too has difficulty bringing depth to the Talbot character. Still, the make-up effects are quite good, and the score is able to create an impressive atmosphere mood. While it has some flaws, at its core The Wolf Man is a compelling and frightful film.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 21, 2014
    An expertly told monster story, The Wolf Man might not boast the most complex manner of storytelling but it nonetheless claws itself to top of the Universal horror stable through pure entertainment value. With this, Universals werewolf do-over following in the claws of 1936's Werewolf of London, all of the components came together for one of its most atmospheric and iconic monster flicks to date. The story takes place in Wales (though the script never actually mentions this fact), but the whole package forever put audiences in that eerie shadow-laden stretch of woods so synonymous with 20th Century horror and pop culture. In fact, the journey was so fun and thrilling that they never left. In this unrated start to the Universal franchise, a practical man (Chaney) returns to his homeland, gets attacked by a creature of folklore, and infected with a horrific disease his disciplined mind tells him cant possibly exist. So long associated with the many monstrous roles he continued playing (he later realized Dracula, Frankenstein, AND the Mummy on-screen as well), Lon Chaney, Jr. deserves great acclaim far outside of the shadow of his more-famous silent screen icon father (1923's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1925's The Phantom of the Opera). Afterall, he rightly garnered great critical acclaim for playing Lenny in 1939's Of Mice and Men two full years before donning Jack Pierce's legendary hirsute yak hair make-up. Under the handsome direction of George Waggner, you truly feel sorry for his tragic once-bitten full moon conundrum. Much credit belongs to screenwriter Kurt Siodmak, however, who single-handedly invented most of the werewolf lycanthropy himself, coloring outside the lines of the legend. Twilight and so many other wolf tales owe his legacy a fat royalty check. Bottom line: King of the Beasts
    Jeff B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 17, 2013
    By the early 1940's, Universal Studios has released many memorable monster films. One of its most memorable is The Wolf Man, a standout classic monster horror film with a great story and terrific cast. Lon Chaney is one of the most memorable actors in a monster film, and he is a defining actor in the genre, along such greats as Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. The film is simple in its story, but the impact of the picture still resonates till this day. If you love the classic Universal monsters, The Wolf Man is yet another fine film that has shaped the face of modern horror. Simple, yet effective, the film is very well directed and has some impressive special effects. In terms of filmmaking, The Wolf Man is an accomplishment in the cinematic medium, and features some of the riveting use of effects since the Invisible Man. Although this is not among my favorites of the Universal monsters, the Wolf man definitely has its place in the famous of cinema's monsters. Chaney is unforgettable in his performance and this is a movie that you shouldn't pass up. The film has a brooding, melancholic atmosphere and it adds to the enjoyment of the film to make it a bit unsettling for the viewer. The film isn't scary, but it keeps you entertained due to its story, and Chaney's performance. The film is quite short, but it is never dull or boring and it moves at a quick pace. If classic films are your cup of tea, and you enjoy horror, then give this genre classic a shot. Although not as great as others in the Universal Monsters, The Wolf man has a secured place nonetheless.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Jan 31, 2013
    Great classic horror creation from the universal icon. They really created something special with this grand film. A horror icon was born here and its the strength of the story as well as the people behind the scenes. I often get confused how they failed to create a reliable remake to this film. The film is nothing special in terms of story telling. It just has everything covered including a great transformation that leaves some modern films for dead. Great acting and direction create a film that has lived on from the day of its creation. Many films have failed to recapture some of the magic created here. The transformation has only really been beaten by an American werewolf in London
    Brendan N Super Reviewer

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