Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Hollywood and Quality Film Review- The Wolf Man (1941)

Figure 1
The Wolf Man is a horror film written by Curt Siodmak and directed by George Waggner. It was released in 1941 and was produced on what was considered a b-grade budget. However the film became extremely popular and was the main cause behind the werewolf craze in cinema.

Figure 2
The story follows a young man called Larry Talbot, who returns to his childhood home Llanwelly in Wales, after hearing of his brother's death. This is the first implication of a mystery in this film, as Talbot's brother was apparently killed in a hunting accident, and the description of this event are not clear. This gives Talbot a reason to stay in his childhood home, as he is inclined to learn more of his brother's death. Whilst staying in Llanwelly, Talbot meets a woman called Gwen Conliffe, who runs the local antique store. There Talbot gains a walking stick with the head of a silver wolf on it; this item becomes symbolic to Talbot's story. He shows an interest in Gwen and she can be considered the maiden of the film, even though she is engaged to another man.

Figure 3
After meeting the gypsies, Talbot is bitten by a wolf and becomes a werewolf. When he comes to terms with his curse he confides in Gwen, as she seems to be the only person who shows him pity. The story comes to a close when Talbot is in beast form for the second time, and his father fights him off from Gwen. He beats him with the wolf head staff, until the werewolf falls to the ground dead.

Figure 4
Although this film had a B-grade budget, it holds a lot of values that made it into a descent story.

1. The main use of special effects in the film was in the making of Talbot's werewolf form. Prosthetics were used to create a beastly look to Talbot, whilst letting some human features remain. This makes the audience sympathize with Talbot, even when he's in the wolf form.
2. The story itself relates to a wide audience. Even though werewolves are beasts of fantasy, the idea is one that symbolizes many real demons that effect many people. Such as physical and mental illnesses.
3. The design of the sets used in the film works well for a production of it's time. Especially in the forest scenes, the silhouettes of the trees against the smoggy mist creates a haunting atmosphere that works brilliantly in black and white.
4. The story evokes a fear in people that's different to what other horror films portray. A lot of horror stories center on an outside threat that endangers the main character. For example 'War of the Worlds' is a story about aliens invading the planet, this is a fear that makes people want to run from. However the Wolf Man focuses on an evil that can consume oneself, and cause one to become the monster. It is a tale of a man who fears himself as he has become the beast.
5. The ending leaves a question for the audience. Talbot is killed by his own father, and Gwen is left grieving for him. Talbot's father realizes who he has slain and is left with the harrowing truth that he has slain his own son. This leaves the audience to wonder what happens next, if Talbot's father can go on after the ordeal, and if the werewolf is truly dead, or has the curse been passed on?

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Illustration List
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