Archive for Werewolf of London


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on September 10, 2016 by dcairns


“One is starved of Technicolor™ up there.”

I’d been interested in ANGRY RED PLANET ever since I saw pics of the rat-bat-spider-thing in Famous Monsters magazine, probably. Though I came to know it would be disappointing in many ways.

It IS a cool monster. Better joints and better puppeteers could have lifted it a little (when the left leg goes up, the right leg goes down, hinting at an unlikely skeletal structure: the leg bone’s connected to the… leg bone?), but it’s superior to the predictable man-in-suit approach. With that rather nifty design, it could have made an ace stop-motion effect, if the movie had a budget.


I confess to mixed emotions about the giant amoeba. The idea is sound, and being able to see the most annoying character (Brooklynesque comedy relief astronaut) dissolved in its transparent stomach is a big plus, but the rotating eyeball is goofy. Its endless gyrations, as if the amoeba had gotten clonked on its “head” and was dizzy. made me wonder if this creature were in fact biomechanical, which might have been cool, but it’s still a silly way of suggesting it.


“There are two kinds of oxygen consumption in this world, my friend.” The prototype for Ben Grimm’s Thing waits patiently to be dissolved in a giant amoeba. This audience member was less patient.


What are the chances of me seeing two films in two days with two entirely gratuitous flesh-eating plants? The frog-eating bloom in WEREWOLF OF LONDON is just as ickily orificular as this Martian womaneater, but the designers have chosen different organs to base their plant-puppets on…

The film’s best feature is its novel use of tinting and solarisation to make its Mars-scapes truly alien. A cheap trick, but a stylish one — and it blurs the difference between the cramped studio environments and the crude painting — I won’t even call them matte shots because they aren’t usually composited in with anything live action. Having established what Mars is like, the movie feels the need to keep its astronauts returning to their rocket, because somebody has realised that heavily processed colour has an airless, claustrophobic quality to it, and we’ll need short breathers before we start getting restless. But these breathers serve no other purpose — there is no interpersonal conflict between the astronauts (though if I were cooped up with any of them for weeks, I would get at least a BIT snarky. In fact I’d probably take to booby trapping the airlock) and no driving external tension for most of the story. The film moves along in a series of separate blocks — solarised suspense alternating with sitting about chatting.


Actors are generally repulsive. The “best” is Naura/Nora Hayden, who overplays every moment and grins a lot. The actor, as opposed to the character, comes across as naively likeable. Space is fun!

Film is by Ib Melchior, associated in various writerly ways with PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES and REPTILICUS! He has the true pulp writers gift for wacky ideas and total inability to do characterisation or human drama. But most of his work is enjoyably DIFFERENT…


Around the World

Posted in FILM with tags , , on September 9, 2016 by dcairns


Parting shot: at the end of WEREWOLF OF LONDON, Valerie Hobson, safely widowed, flies off with her boring new beau.

“She never had much luck with men,” observed Fiona, which is true: Colin Clive (twice), Peter Lorre (in his dreams, anyway), Conrad Veidt, John Profumo.

The aeroplane departs screen left and we fade out, and then from almost the same corner of the screen, the plane appears again, as if it’s circled round ~


A mystery is solved! Valerie Hobson is the pilot of the Universal plane, no doubt clad in a darling Katherine Hepburn-style aviatrix costume.


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2016 by dcairns


We never get a clear look at Warner Oland’s chubby werewolf, and that has to be a good thing.

It’s taken me this long to watch WEREWOLF OF LONDON, and God knows I’ve tried. As a kid I was no doubt eager to see it, but it never seemed to turn up on UK TV. As an adult, I was excited to finally get my hands on the thing, and then found it impossible to sit through.

This time around — third time’s the charm — it didn’t seem THAT bad — despite several strikes against it, it has a number of appealing images and ideas.

First the bad — Henry Hull is written as a completely unsympathetic boor, and that’s just how he plays it, with an added suggestion of indifference and superiority to the material. In the abstract, it’s kind of interesting the way the character perversely contradicts his own motivations — he’s jealous of his wife but either ignores her or drives her a way, he quickly becomes convinced he is indeed infected with “werewolfery” (or worse, “lycanthrophobia”) but rejects offers of help from the man who infected him. In practice, these traits are frustrating and dramatically self-defeating. “It defeats its own purpose,” as Jake LaMotta would say.

Hull lacks the physical presence and skill to make a convincing transformation, and his werewolf performance consists largely of making a face like he’s going to sneeze.

The comedy relief, zesty and startling in a James Whale film, is lumbering and ugly here. Last time I watched, I got as far as the two drunken landladies (one of them, Ethel Griffies, is the ornithologist from THE BIRDS — not that old, she would live another forty years). The film is full of menopausal women, Fiona pointed out, and they’re all played as clowns. Spring Byington (“So romantic, with the Thames lapping at one’s very threshold”) is the main culprit. Worse is the way the so-called hero’s lunar depredations are followed by jocular scenes at Scotland Yard, with the police chortling away together despite the wave of manglings sweeping the metropolis.


Good stuff — going all the way to Tibet to get bitten by a werewolf is gloriously excessive.

Gratuitous killer plants! An entirely satisfying horror movie about rival botanists could probably be concocted with no need for werewolfery at all. Although, there’s THE WOMANEATER to prove me wrong.


Warner Oland in a role maybe planned for Lugosi — now he’s a professor from the University of the Carpathians, with a Japanese name. And he’s a LOVELY werewolf, much nicer than H.H.


Ah-ah-ah…. CHOO!

But I dig the way Hull remains somewhat compos mentis when wolfing about — he actually turns into a werewolf and then PUTS ON A HAT to go out. And he gets a deathbed speech in werewolf form. Though the principles of Lon Chaney wolfman mythos are being laid down here in an early form, the story is still in large part Jekyll & Hyde.

Also — GREAT first transformation, using foreground columns which occlude the frame, in a relay of shots connected by hidden wipes, so that Hull’s makeup (by Universal monster supremo Jack Pierce) can develop in yak-fur increments.