After a couple weeks of vampire tales, we have opted to switch to a different monster whose furry state might not be comfortable in these days of hot weather- but will be welcomed by the many viewers who have asked us to encore the origin story of the man-beast whose repeated appearances in various movies during the Universal classic monsters cycle were always played by the same actor- Lon Chaney Jr. We see how it all began- when the tortured Larry Talbot was first cursed to transform, during every full moon, into- the “ Wolf Man”!
The story opens in a melancholy yet sweet and hopeful way- young Lawrence is returning to the ancestral Talbot home in England, to mourn the passing of his brother and, more importantly, reconcile with his father. He joins his dad, an amateur astronomer, in working on a new telescope that has just been delivered, and, in a rather disturbing development while testing the new instrument, Larry plays peeping tom and spots an attractive young woman in an apartment window in town. With this one glance from afar, Larry is thunderstruck by her beauty and heads into town to try and find her. He succeeds, encountering this local lass- the lovely Gwen -working in her father’s shop just below the apartment where he had glimpsed her. The smart shop girl seems to be unimpressed by this stranger- especially after learning that he was spying on her! Not one to give up easily, Larry persists and makes a purchase- a walking stick with a heavy silver handle- shaped like a savage wolf. Spotting a caravan of gypsies ( as they are called in this era), he does his best to persuade Gwen to go out with him that evening to enjoy the visitors’ entertainment. The clever young woman actually shows up for the “date”- but was wise enough to invite her girlfriend Jenny along, much to Larry’s surprise and disappointment!
They visit the camp the traveling group of gypsies has set up to reside in while entertaining the townsfolk. The carefree happy mood changes when the friends decide to partake in the custom of having their fortunes told. While Larry and Gwen wander off, young Jenny goes first- only to have the fortune teller, Bela (played by a real-life Bela- Bela Lugosi!), see the fateful sign of the pentagram on her hand. He abruptly ends the session, shouting at her to leave at once- and the frightened Jenny flees, running blindly out onto the moors. Shortly after, Larry and Gwen hear her shocking shrieks, and Larry runs towards the cries, only to see a huge wolf attacking the helpless girl! Using his silver-handled walking stick, he beats the wolf to death, getting bitten during his failed attempt to save Jenny’s life. The local authorities come to investigate and find the body of the attacker-only to discover it appears to be no beast at all, but-a man! Though Larry insists what he killed was indeed a wolf- not a man- he can’t convince the authorities or the locals that he is telling the truth.
Larry returns to the camp- where he meets the wise elder Maleva- who reveals a shocking truth to him; the "wolf" he killed was her son Bela- who had transformed into a werewolf! When she hears that Larry was bitten by Bela, she warns him that now he too will become a wolf when the full moon rises! She instructs him on the werewolf lore- delivering the oft-quoted rhyme that forebodes Larry’s fate- and cautions him that he will see the sign of the pentagram in the hand of his victims. She provides him with whatever tokens of protection she can, but wants him to understand that he will be unable to escape this awful supernatural curse. Soon – as a full moon rises- Larry sadly discovers that she speaks the truth. Meanwhile, the stories of Jenny’s death and the “murder” of Bela spread, and the townspeople all think he didn’t do enough to save Jenny- and has also killed a man- and treat him like a pariah. His father begins to worry that he’s having psychological problems, and tries his best to get him the help he needs, and protect this son with whom he has only recently made peace.
The locals set traps for a wolf- but with the full moon coming again, Larry Talbot must convince his father of the horrible truth- and get his help in keeping the Wolf Man from going on the prowl and killing again!
The Larry Talbot character went on to appear in four additional Universal films after his 1941 debut and, in later films, seemed too focused on wanting to die- but always stayed true to the character. We’ll talk about the cast members like Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Evelyn Ankers, the afore-mentioned Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskya, and Ralph Bellamy, among others. We'll deliver a musical number, as usual- and we have a couple special segments – again, to make up for the lack of conventions currently- with highlights of the live on stage “40 Years as Svengoolie” interview we did at the past Flashback Weekend horror convention with our friend Nick Digilio of WGN radio!
"Wolf Man" is on tonight at 8 pm eastern/pacific, 7 central, or, check for channel and time in your local listings or at www.metv.com . MeTV invites you, as always, to live-Tweet during the show on Twitter- and use the hashtag #svengoolie. Once again last week, we were among the top subjects trending nationally! Our Chicago area viewers can get a second look at Hammer’s “Brides of Dracula" at 11 am on the U.
Tonight- once again- even a man who is pure of heart and says his prayers by night- can enjoy the original Lon Chaney classic and give himself a fright!!