Notes: Universal Pictures
    Larry Talbot: Lon Chaney, Jr.
    Gwen Conliffe: Evelyn Ankers
    Sir John Talbot: Claude Rains
    Maleva: Maria Ouspenskaya
    Bela: Bela Lugosi
    Doctor Lloyd: Warren William
    Colonel Paul Montford: Ralph Bellamy
    Frank Andrews: Patric Knowles
    Jenny Williams: Fay Helm

    Screenplay: Curt Siodmak
    Produced and Directed: George Waggner

Summary: A book opens to a definition of Lycanthropy which includes a reference to Talbot Castle. Larry Talbot returns to his father's estate in Wales. No mention is made of a mother, and older brother John Jr. recently died in a hunting accident. Sir John presumes Larry left 18 years ago because of resentment over favoritism, although Larry doesn't confirm this.

Sir John is modest about his award for "research" and has Larry--a hands-on man, not a theorician--tinker with his new telescope. With a touch of the "wolf," he spies on a young woman in an antique shop and into her room above the store. He visits this shop, smirks about knowing of her earrings in her room, turns down a cane with a little dog handle and instead purchases one with a wolf's head and star, or pentagram. Gwen Conliffe, the young woman and daughter of the shop owner (again, no mother is in the picture), says that the symbolism involves werewolves: "Even the man who's pure of heart and says his prayers at night / May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright." She also reports that the werewolf can see the pentagram on the hand of his next victim. Larry wants to stroll with Gwen that evening; she says no, but he smirks and says he'll be by.

Larry buttonholes Gwen, but she has asked her friend Jenny to accompany her, so all three go to the gypsy fair. Jenny prepares to have her fortune told by Bela, wondering when she'll be married, but his horror makes her ask, "What do you see? Something evil?" [Yes. Marriage and perpetual stupidity, you breeder.] He has seen the pentagram on her hand. Bela transforms (into a German shepherd) and kills Jenny later. Larry attacks and beats the animal to death with his cane, but is also bitten.

The ubiquitous pile of pompous men discover a barefoot Bela where a wolf should be, and Larry's wound has disappeared. Larry later witnesses the pagan prayer Maleva recites over her son's coffin: "The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own. But as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Your suffering is over, Bela my son. Now you will find peace."

Jenny's mother and other old biddies bitch to Charles Conliffe about Gwen's responsibility in not guarding Jenny, implying Gwen is slutty. Larry visits Gwen, but her fiancé Frank Andrews, the Talbots' gamekeeper, also visits with his dog. When Larry leaves, Frank says, "couldn't take my eyes away from that walking stick of his. Be careful, Gwen." Later, at the gypsy fair, Frank invites Larry: "Let's have fun. Two guns, please." At a shooting gallery, Larry freaks when faced with a wolf target. Maleva gives Larry a pentagram pendant, "the sign of the wolf." Larry then stupidly gives this to Gwen to protect her.

At home Larry takes off his shoes and shirt and we see the transformation of his feet. Outside he is dressed differently and kills Richardson the gravedigger. The next morning he wipes up muddy tracks in his room and on his sill. Entering church he and Sir John (in a dark hat) encounter Gwen and her father (in a white hat), and Larry can't remain for service. The Doctor tells Sir John that Larry's distress is a case of mass hysteria, mind over body, like stigmata. Colonel Montford and Andrews set traps for the wolf.

Larry as wolfman is trapped, but Maleva comes by on her buckboard and releases him, saying, "The way you walk is thorny. . . . Find peace for a moment, my son." Back to being human, Larry warns Gwen that he must run away. She announces to her father, "I'm going with Larry," and Charles is horror-stricken. Larry then sees the pentagram on her hand and flees.

Sir John wants Larry out of his "mental quagmire" and deduces that Maleva the gypsy has been involved: "she's been filling you mind with this gibberish. . . . You're not a child!" Dad is to lock Larry up this night and takes Larry's silver cane. We get an electric scene between a cool Maleva on her buckboard and a nervous Sir John. "You're not frightened, are you, Sir John?" He accuses her of telling "witch's tales" to Larry. "But you fixed him, Sir John. . . . Hurry, Sir John, hurry." Maleva tries to save Gwen, but she runs into the woods. The wolfman attacks Gwen, but drops her when he sees Sir John approaching and attacks him instead. Daddy bludgeons his son to death with the stick.

The wolfman transforms back into Larry in death. Sir John backs away in horror while Maleva approaches. "The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own. But as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Your suffering is over. Now you will find peace for eternity." A story circulates that the wolf attacked Gwen and Larry came to the rescue, but Sir John is aware, and Gwen says "Larry" ambiguously.

Commentary: James B. Twitchell's psychoanalytic reading of this film in Dreadful Pleasures: An Anatomy of Modern Horror (NY: Oxford University Press, 1985) "transforms" one's enjoyment of The Wolf Man. He traces in this and other films encoded family dynamics and incest taboos. In this case, the Talbot "family" consists of father and son, and has lost mother and brother. Maleva and Bela (mother and son) supply and function in these roles and all the parallels (and the weirdness between Sir John and the gypsy), suggest displaced symbolic relationships. Gwen lives with her father and no mention of a mother arises. The two fathers function as doubles. So symbolically, Larry seeks a relationship with his "sister" (who has no interest in him and is engaged to the gamekeeper). This is the buried taboo behind this monstrous transformation.

The saturation of the film with subtle dog references and appearances also is gratifying. Larry is called "Master Talbot": "Master" is an interesting term in light of dog training; and Talbot was a generic and typical name for a dog in medieval England, like Rover or Spot.

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