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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Werewolf Of London (1935)

Starring Henry Hull, Warner Oland, Valerie Hobson, Lester Matthews, Lawrence Grant
Directed by Stuart Walker
(actor & director credits courtesy

A botanist searching for a rare flower in Tibet is bitten by a werewolf, and when he returns to London, he succumbs to the curse of the beast, which only sap from the flower can prevent.

Universal Pictures' first werewolf film is an efficient and moody thriller, but has seemingly been eclipsed over the years by the popularity of Universal's presentation of The Wolf Man and its sequels.  I think that's understandable, given Lon Chaney Jr.'s more empathetic performance as compared to Henry Hull's here, as well as the quality of the later's film's screenplay and musical score.  However, this movie can be enjoyed on its own merits, avoiding some of the mistakes of the Chaney version, and possessing some interesting visuals of its own, particularly Hull's first transformation, in which his makeup is advanced as he passes each of a series of structural columns.  Warner Oland, a reliable performer whose deliberate delivery and mysterious accent led him to being cast in many different ethnic roles during his heyday, is a strong asset to the film, with his admonitions to Hull and Scotland Yard carrying a great deal of narrative weight.  Karl Hajos' music score is also very appropriate to the film, although it does track in some cues from the Lugosi/Karloff version of The Raven.  While comic relief sequences featuring Spring Byington and the duo of Ethel Griffies and Zeffie Tilbury are not particularly amusing, the film should still be appreciated more than I think it is today.

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