The "Wolf Man" Cometh.
A Retrospective by Daniel Noble
The Universal monster films of the late 1930s and early 1940s, were quite a unique phenomenon. Although popular with audiences upon their initial release, they did not reach the height of their commercial appeal until the 1950s, when they reappeared on late night television, and spawned a completely new generation of fandom. Children of the 1950s and 60s, went "monster crazy", and along with screenings of "Frankenstein", "The Wolf Man" and "Dracula" on TV, came publications such as Famous Monsters of Filmland and Eerie not to mention countless others. It was thanks to the immense revisiting of these films, that we can attribute the popular interpretation of the reception of these works. To many, the names Karloff, Lugosi and Chaney are synonymous with classic horror, but in the years prior to the arrival of television, which many classify as the "golden age" of Hollywood, the genre of "Monster Horror" was not yet refined, and it is fascinating to study the effects these films had on society upon their original release.
Using the 1941 classic "The Wolf Man" as an example, I will examine the varying factors which led to the film's initial success, and how they have attributed to the mythology of Universal "Horror" as it is interpreted today.
It is not uncommon to associate the name Lon Chaney jr. with the horror films of the 1940s. During his contract with Universal in the 1940s, Mr. Chaney was the only actor to portray all of Universal's core assembly of monsters, including "The Wolf Man", "Dracula", "Frankenstein" and "The Mummy", becoming a legend in the process. Yet, prior to 1941, Mr. Chaney was merely a struggling actor living in the shadow of his late father's legacy. According to the official website of...