When you consider the classic Universal Monsters, I've covered most of them up until this point. But for so many, The Wolf Man really springs to mind, and I personally find it pretty interesting that this character wouldn't join their ranks until the 1950s, while names like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and The Invisible Man have all been products of the 30s. I might compare it presently to something like when Jigsaw joined the ranks of Freddy, Jason, etc, but he came along pretty late in the game (pun 100% intended).
One Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) learns of the death of his brother, and returns home to Llanwelly, Wales to reconcile with his father, Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains) whom he hasn't spoken to in ages. During his visit, Larry gets interested in a local antique shop owner named Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers). He soon pickes up a silver-headed cane from her; the head in the shape of a wolf. She tells him of the folklore surrounding werewolves, and the symbolism of the myth representing man's more animalistic and violent side.
Later on, Larry finds a wolf attacking Gwen's friend, Jenny, and he uses the silver-headed cane to beat the wolf to death (poor wolf). It's too late for Jenny, but Larry survives things with a bite to his chest. They later discover the dead body of the "wolf" to be a human Gypsy known as Bela (Bela Lugosi); son to a more elderly Gypsy fortuneteller named Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya). Confused by the events of the evening, Larry finds himself losing his mind, stuck with a potential curse that no one could possibly believe, including himself.
I think the most interesting thing about this movie is that it's very direct with its 'Jekyll and Hyde'-like symbolism. They even discuss the idea of the werewolf and the thought of a man able to believe he has the potential to be something just as dangerous, therefore seeing himself as "the wolf". It's a neat, very literal take on the folklore. But with that said, this gladly isn't a movie that's all talk, and drags on. I don't get from this what I got from 'Dracula's Daughter'. On the contrary, this one's actually a hell of a lot of fun, and has such a Halloween-ish atmosphere that it fits right in with the classic Monsters of the 30s.
I think my favorite thing about this is that they don't hold back on making the Wolf Man one vicious son of a bitch. When he transforms, it's pretty clear than no one is safe. If he sees you, he's just gonna attack. I may consider the Wolf Man to be the Freddy Krueger of that era; the difference being that Larry has a good side as a human being. On top of that, it's really cool to see some big-name crossover while they aren't playing their respective horror icons - Claude Rains and Bela Lugosi, namely.
There's really nothing much to criticize about this one. It doesn't drag, it suits the mood for Halloween, it's lots of fun, even at times funny (there's a scene here they use as stock footage for 'The Sandlot', which adds a dose of humor to it, looking back) and everyone performs very well here. I'm pretty partial to The Invisible Man when it comes to the monsters I have a really good time watching, but The Wolf Man is pretty much a solid coin-flip for "favorite Universal monster" - that's right, they both outdo the ever-famous Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster in my books, plus several others. I'm proud to say I had a blast with this title.