For the first time ever, the original The Wolf Man film comes to DVD in this extraordinary Legacy Collection. Included in the collection is the original classic, starring the renowned Lon Chaney Jr., and three timeless seq... more »uels, featuring legendary actor Bela Lugosi and others. These are the landmark films that inspired an entire genre of movies and continue to be major influences on motion pictures to this day.« less
An impressive set of four Universal werewolf classics
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 06/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had never really thought of The Wolf Man as being in the same league as Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster - I was wrong. Watching Lon Chaney, Jr.'s portrayal of Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man has opened my eyes. Chaney's Wolf Man is by far the most sympathetic of Universal's three major monsters. Dracula loves being Dracula, Frankenstein's monster is a full-time monster made out of dubious body parts, yet Larry Talbot is a victim of cruel fate. Rushing in to help a damsel in distress, he sustains a bite from a werewolf - hardly the type of reward a hero deserves. Doing the things a werewolf does is bad enough, but Talbot knows he is a werewolf and has to spend all of his normal waking hours wallowing in mental agony, knowing he can do nothing to contain the hairy monster lurking within. Beginning with his resurrection in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Talbot's overriding ambition and sole wish is to die and be freed from the curse forever, yet he now knows he can never die- not by conventional means, anyway. He truly is a lost soul trapped in a nightmare from which there seems to be no escape. This was the role Chaney was born to play, and he delivered one amazing performance after another in his five werewolf films. The Wolf Man Legacy Collection contains only two of them, the original The Wolf Man from 1941 and the sequel/monster crossover film Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1942). Chaney's Wolf Man also appears in House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, each of which can be found on the Frankenstein and Dracula Legacy Collections, respectively. The Wolf Man has exerted a huge influence on the art of horror for over six decades now, thanks to the heralded make-up prowess of Jack Pierce, the tight and powerful script of Curt Siodmak, some impressive photography work, a moving musical score, and wonderful performances from a truly stellar cast of actors and actresses (including Claude Raines in the role of Larry Talbot's father, Maria Ouspenskava as the gypsy woman and surrogate mother figure to Larry, and the great Bela Lugosi in a somewhat minor yet crucial role). Chaney's Wolf Man appearance is amazingly vivid and, one supposes, somewhat frightening to moviegoers of the early 1940s. His emotional performance adds to his character's tragic status; his strange and slightly awkward manner, tempered by a sort of gentle slowness always leaves me mesmerized.
With the success of The Wolf Man in 1941, it didn't take Universal long to trot out a sequel; the following year, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man not only capitalized on the success of everybody's favorite werewolf, it also brought in Frankenstein's monster, thus becoming one of the first Universal monster cross-over films. Lon Chaney, Jr., returns as the ill-fated Larry Talbot, and the legendary Bela Lugosi dons the makeup of the Frankenstein monster - this fact alone makes the film intriguing. Talbot, now afraid he cannot die, longs to be killed and put out of his misery. He ends up at the castle of Frankenstein, where a helpful young doctor promises to help him and destroy Frankenstein's monster in the process - things don't quite work out that way, and the film ends with a monster grudge match between the Wolf Man and Frankenstein's Monster.Werewolf of London (1935) and She-Wolf of London (1946) could not be more different, and both are unmistakably distinct from the Universal werewolf films starring Lon Chaney, Jr., yet I think they both work marvelously. Many fans don't care for them, especially She-Wolf in London, but I find both films quite compelling. They differ significantly from the storyline running through Chaney's Wolf Man films, but these two films have a great deal of their own to offer fans. Often overlooked and unduly dismissed by some reviewers and horror fans, these are two classic werewolf films. In terms of extras, you get trailers for three of the four films, a truly excellent commentary of The Wolf Man by film historian Tom Weaver, a well-made 1999 documentary called Monster By Moonlight, and comments on the Wolf Man character by Van Helsing director Stephen Sommers. With only four movies and relatively few extras, The Wolf Man Legacy Collection falls a little short in the value department compared to the Dracula and Frankenstein Legacy Collection sets, but nothing can change the fact that this is must-have material for fans of classic horror movies."
Horror Classic Still Holds Up
Bill Fleck | Wurtsboro, NY USA | 04/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What famous horror classic, panned by reviewers upon its initial release in December of 1941, looks better and better every year? THE WOLF MAN, starring Claude Rains, Ralph Bellamy, Evelyn Ankers, and Lon Chaney Jr. as the hapless Larry Talbot.
The story is a familiar one: Larry, the son of esteemed Sir John (Rains) returns home to Wales after many years in America, is bitten by a werewolf (well played by Bela Lugosi), and becomes a werewolf himself. What's extraordinary is the fact that the film can be so effective today.
The biggest reason for this is the acting. Some classic films, pre-Actor's Studio, look pretty pathetic when it comes to realistic characterization. Not so THE WOLF MAN. Curt Siodmak's excellent screenplay (likened to a Greek Tragedy) provides a vehicle for the stars to be at their best, and, boy, do they shine: Rains a tower of strength as the proud father; Ankers hitting just the right note as the torn female lead; Maria Ouspenskaya as the Old Gypsey Woman whose words prefigure Larry's doom....
But the standout is Lon Chaney Jr. A definite mixed-bag as an actor, he is perfect here--and this is a role calling for the use of all human emotions (unlike later Wolf Man films, where Talbot's head-pounding becomes monotonous). In fact, seeing THE WOLF MAN recently has convinced me that Chaney would have made the ideal screen Phillip Marlow (and I'm not forgetting Bogie)--big, tough, surly, yet charming when need be (a highlight early in WOLF MAN is Larry's attempts at flirting with Ankers; Chaney does the surprisingly playful dialogue with just the right touch). There's no doubt that his performance would merit accolades even today.
This is not to say that there aren't problems in the film. The continuity is off in a number of places (Chany transforms into the Wolf Man at one point wearing a sleeveless undershirt; in the very next scene, he's wearing a neatly buttoned Dickey), and there's a scene or two that's completely inexplicable (e.g., why DOES the Wolf Man pass out when caught in that trap?)....
But overall, the pace, lighting, cinematography, excellent musical score, and strong story propel the film through these rough spots, the 70-minute ride leaving the viewer wanting more. For these reasons, THE WOLF MAN is a classic....and a DVD worth buying (the extra werewolf films, particularly FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, are entertaining as well). "
Where It All Began ... ...
Jack Burgess | Tampa, Fl USA | 05/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Great classic stuff here. In my mind Lon Chaney Jr. was always my favorite Wolfman. You really feel sorry for Lawrence Stewart Talbot being cursed with lycanthropy. In this set you get:
1) The Werewolf of London (1935)
2) The Wolfman (1941)
3) Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman (1943) By the way is actually
a sequel to both The Wolfman (1941) and The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), continuity wise.
4) She-Wolf of London (1946)
5) a 45 minute documentary, Monster By Moonlight. Pretty much ahistory of Universal's Wolfman mixed with actual Werewolf lore.
6) Tom Weaver does commentary on a separate audio track of The Wolfman (1941). Extremely interesting P.O.V..
7) A neat peek at Van Helsing's homage to Universal's classic
All in all I really enjoyed this set. I just can't wait until
Universal raids their Atomic Age Monster vaults like this. Til'
Lon Chaney Jr.'s Finest Hour
Bill Fleck | 04/26/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Lon Chaney Jr.'s finest hour (other than his performance as Lenny in the Hal Roach production of "Of Mice and Men") came as the character he used to call "my baby" -- the Wolfman. Thanks to the great make-up artist Jack Pierce, Chaney's transformations from luckless wolfbite victim Lawrence Talbot into the Wolfman were defining moments in the history of screen special effects. But most importantly for Chaney, who spent much of his career standing in the shadow of his famous father and following up portrayals by Karloff and Lugosi by playing variations on Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster or the Mummy, the Wolfman character was truly his, and it looks like he will remain the only actor to portray both man and creature, as the Wolfman in the upcoming "Van Helsing" is noticeably a CGI beastie.Both "The Wolfman" and "Frankenstien vs. the Wolfman" are must haves for fans of classic Universal horror (the added bonus being that in the latter, you also get Bela Lugosi's one turn as the Frankenstein monster, which isn't definitive but is still interesting). Less successful but still interesting is "Werewolf of London," a sort of dry-run for "The Wolfman" starring idiosyncratic actor Henry Hull. This reviewer hasn't seen "She-wolf of London," and as an avid monster film fan, he does not believe this to be a good sign.Unfortunately, "The Wolfman's" status as a slightly b-team monster makes it impossible for Universal to put all his "golden era" performances in one place, as Chaney's "baby" always supported other more well known "names" in his latter appearances, and those names have box sets of their own where his appearances reside. For more of Chaney as the Wolfman, get the "House of..." movies ("House of Frankenstein" and "House of Dracula" are both in the respective "Legacy" editions of their own) and the hilarious "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," in which Chaney proves he could pull off comedy as well as drama by frequent "straight man" bits opposite Lou Costello. Some purists view the Abbott and Costello picture as a shameful finale to the great horror cycle, but it's actually a film that works both as a monster film and as slapstick comedy, and a very fine piece of work it is too. It was Jerry Garcia's favorite movie -- how much more of an endorsement do you need?"
Good B-Movie Set
mrliteral | 08/17/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Poor Larry Talbot. Frankenstein may be generally a good person but he's arrogant enough to challenge the forces of nature and risk lives to achieve his goals. Dracula is a force of pure malevolence. Larry Talbot, however, is a nice guy who by accident is turned into a murderous creature and is wracked with guilt because of it.
The Wolf Man begins Talbot's saga. Bitten by a werewolf, he soon becomes one himself, both incredibly strong and incredibly murderous. Lon Chaney is at his best in his original turn as Talbot, faced with becoming a killer against his will. In Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, he begins his quest for a cure after learning that not even death will permanently rid him of his curse; in the process, he meets Frankstein's creature, which sets up a battle between the two monsters at the climax. Both movies are satisfying if not really spectacular B movies.
For the other Lon Chaney/Wolf Man movies, the viewer must turn to House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula in the other "Legacy" collections; Chaney's final turn in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is not included in any of the collections. The remaining two movies in The Wolf Man set are completely separate stories. Werewolf of London, noted as being the first werewolf movie, is decent enough, featuring two werewolves who are more demonic than beastly. She-Wolf of London, on the other hand, is decidedly weak (in fact the weakest in all the whole set of "Legacy" films): the story of a girl under a supposed curse that turns her into a wolf, it is more of a mystery than a supernatural thriller and most viewers will have the whole thing figured out long before the end.
Of the three "Legacy" collections, this is probably the weakest in the bunch, but it has enough fun stuff in it to merit a weak four stars. If your budget, however, limits your purchases, go with the Frankenstein collection instead and save this for a later day. "