Werewolves are scary. REAL Werewolves, not that Twilight garbage. Hundreds of werewolf stories have been told over the years, and the lycanthropic fiends are a key plot point in any monster movie, show, comic book, etc. I could probably spend all month talking about all the different versions of the werewolf tale, but instead I’m going to focus on some of the best cinematic examples of the most popular character in the werewolf mythology. Of course, I can only be talking about the Wolfman.
The Wolf Man came out in 1941, and starred Lon Chaney Jr. in the title role. While not the first werewolf movie on the market, it is the first to introduce us to the character of Lawrence Talbot. Talbot is bitten by a werewolf (obviously) and soon transforms into the beast and terrorizes the village.
While sppecial effects were limited in 1941, the on-screen transformation was some pretty epic film-making. When Lon Chaney reprises the role in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, the transformation was even better.
Chaney went on to play the Wolf Man in a series of Universal monster movies like House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein. Chaney will always be remembered as not only the iconic Wolf Man, but also for playing every one of Universal’s movie monsters at some point in his career. Of course, Chaney wasn’t the only one to tackle the Wolf Man.
Like every other movie ever made (basically), The Wolf Man was remade in 2010, starring Benicio del Toro as Talbot. The Wolfman wasn’t a huge success, but was a decent enough remake. The effects and transformation of the character were clearly a homage to the original, and while it was a slightly different story, the horror of the Wolf Man remained present throughout the film.
There are a few other great examples that are all facets of the Wolfman character, while not exclusively being the original Talbot version. Movies like An American Werewolf in London (1981) took the transformation effects from The Wolf Man and kicked them up a notch. Rick Baker’s creature effects are to this day some of the best werewolf images we’ve ever seen, and further improve upon the story of the Wolfman.
Stand alone takes on the theme like Wolf (1994) give us an entirely different type of story while remaining rooted in the original mythology brought about by The Wolf Man. Even comedic takes like The Monster Squad and Teen Wolf draw from Chaney’s early transformations, continually reminding us of how great of a character Chaney’s Wolfman was. While werewolves have really hit it big in mainstream media lately with movies like Underworld and the aforementioned Twilight, nothing can compare to the early portrayals of the character and his fellow lycanthropes.
So what is it that makes Wolfman awesome? And not just awesome, but Halloween awesome? Well, quite simply, the story of the Wolfman and werewolves in general is very relatable. Everybody at some point has felt like losing control, giving in to the animal desires instead of the human cunning. Sure, werewolves are scary, hairy, and have large teeth. But what is really scary is that this one bite causes a regular person to absolutely lose control and let the beast inside take over completely. And then generally start eating people en masse until killed by a silver cane, bullet or a hail of gunfire.
The Wolfman sits pretty at #15 due to his legend and longevity. And because to this day I am still frightened by werewolves. Especially those Twilight ones. Horrifying.
Keep an eye out, another character on the Countdown will be revealed at every night at 12:01 am for the rest of the month. You’ll also be able to find them HERE.