Werewolf of London

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Werewolf of London was the first Hollywood werewolf movie, filmed in 1935 by Universal Pictures and featuring Henry Hull as Wilfred Glendon, a scientist bitten by a werewolf (played by Warner Oland) in Tibet. Jack Pierce's eerie werewolf make-up was simpler than his version that appeared six years later for The Wolf Man but, according to film historians, remains strikingly effective as worn by Hull.

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[edit] Plot

Wilfred Glendon is a wealthy and world-renowned English botanist who journeys to Tibet in 1935 in search of the elusive mariphasa plant. While there, he is attacked and bitten by a creature later revealed to be a werewolf, although he succeeds in acquiring a specimen of the mariphasa. Once back home in London he is approached by a fellow botanist, Dr. Yogami, who claims to have met him in Tibet while also seeking the mariphasa. Yogami warns Glendon that the bite of a werewolf would cause him to become a werewolf as well, adding that the mariphasa is a temporary antidote for the disease.

Glendon does not believe the mysterious Yogami. That is, not until he begins to experience the first pangs of lycanthropy, first when his hand grows fur beneath the rays of his moon lamp (which he is using in an effort to entice the mariphasa to bloom), and later that night during the first full moon. The first time, Glendon is able to use a blossom from the mariphasa to stop his transformation. His wife, Lisa, is away at his aunt Ettie's party with her friend Paul Ames, allowing the swiftly-transforming Glendon to make his way unhindered to his at-home laboratory, in the hopes of acquiring the mariphasa's flowers in the hopes of quelling his lycanthropy a second time. Unfortunately Dr. Yogami, who is also a werewolf (specifically the one who'd bitten Glendon in Tibet) sneaks into the lab ahead of his rival and steals the only two blossoms. As the third has not bloomed, Glendon is out of luck.

Driven by an instinctive desire to hunt and kill, dons his hat and coat and ventures out into the dark city, killing an innocent girl. Burdened by remorse, Glendon begins neglecting Lisa (more so than usual), and makes numerous futile attempts to lock himself up far and away from home, including renting a room far from home at the inn, or with Mrs. Whack and Mrs. Moncaster. However, whenever he transforms into the werewolf he would escapes and kills again. After a time, the third blossum of the mariphasa finally blooms, but much to Glendon's horror, that too is stolen by Yogami. After turning into the werewolf yet again and slaying Yogami, Glendon goes the house in search of Lisa, for the werewolf instinctively seeks to destroy that which it loves the most.

After attacking Paul Ames, but not killing him, Glendon corners Lisa on the staircase and is about to move in for the kill, when Paul's uncle, Sir Thomas Forsythe of Scotland Yard, arrives with several police officers in tow. He shoots Glendon once, killing the werewolf of London. As he lays dying, Glendon apologizes to his wife and thanks Col. Forsythe for the merciful bullet. He then perishes, reverting to his human form in death.

[edit] Reaction

The movie was regarded at the time as too similar to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Fredric March, which had been released only three years before, and flopped at the box-office, but has been regarded by cinema historians as an imaginative classic.

[edit] Cast

[edit] Trivia

  • Even though Werewolf of London was the first Hollywood werewolf movie, it was not the first ever. The actual first werewolf movie is a 1913 short called The Werewolf.
  • Jack Pierce's original werewolf design for Henry Hull was identical to the one used later in The Wolf Man, but it was rejected in favor of a minimalist approach that was less obscuring to facial expressions.
  • The werewolf's howl was an audio blend of Hull and a recording of an actual timber wolf.
  • Bela Lugosi was considered for the role of Dr. Yogami.
  • Spring Byington, the star of the 1950s sit-com December Bride, played the role of Aunt Ettie. Three years earlier she also played the role of Marmee, the mother in Little Woman with Katharine Hepburn. Some concider Miss Byingtons performance to be the best given in the film. Her comedic abilities created a more up-beat expression which caused some reviews to describe the movie as "delightful" rather than "horrific".
  • Valerie Hobson, who played Hull's character's wife, also played Dr. Henry Frankenstein's kidnapped wife that same year in The Bride of Frankenstein.
  • At the beginning of the film, the supposed "Tibetan" spoken by villagers in the movie is actually Cantonese Chinese. Henry Hull is otherwise just muttering gibberish in his responses to them.
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