My Favorite Horror Movie: ‘The Wolf Man’ (1941)

As a kid who loved to read, my favorite times in school were always trips to the library. Being one of that rare breed of student who read more than was required, I was always on the lookout for something new, something to drag me out of the long school days. That’s where I found The Wolf Man by Ian Thorne and published by Crestwood House.

The Wolf Man book in the Monsters Series introduced me to the 1941 film of the same name. The black and white stills in the book stirred my imagination, and it wasn’t long until my dad let me watch Chaney, Jr’s performance as Larry Talbot, the man that was doomed to become a wolf when the moon was full. This began my love for the Universal Monsters. Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster. Legosi as Dracula. But the one that always stuck with me was The Wolf Man.

The Wolf Man has so many things going for it:a creature stalking through the dark forest, looking for his next victim; the fog rolling across the screen; the gypsy camp and its mysteries; knowing that Larry could not help himself, which made him just as much of a victim as those he hunted.

I think this is my favorite thing about werewolf stories. The monster is actually not a monster. He/she is a victim as much as anyone, turning them into more than just a mindless killing machine. THIS is where the Universal creatures really shine for me. They are never simple antagonists. They are complex, layered, and nuanced. They are tragic figures that engender sympathy, at the same time evoking horror and fear. None of them embodied these concepts for me more than Larry Talbot. I FELT for him, even as he attacked the woman he loved. By the time the curtains closed on the tragedy of Sir John Talbot having to make an impossible choice, I realized that Larry was doomed from the moment he was infected by the wolf. And yet, I hoped that at the very last second that he would be redeemed.

In the end, we see ourselves in these “monsters.” We see our darkest fears, flaws, and insecurities laid bare. We identify with them, all the while hoping that someone or something will save them. Because if they can be saved, why can’t we?

My love of horror began with the black and white classics that comprised the world of the Universal monsters. It continues to this day through the works of Carpenter, King, Wan, and others. I’m excited to see the new direction Universal is taking with their beloved creatures, and where horror as a whole will go next. And never forget that even a man who is pure of heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright…

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