Dir. Stuart Walker
Reviewer. Dan Cook
6 years before Lon Chaney Jr.s’ iconic Wolfman howled his way into horror history, another lycanthrope was causing terror on the sets of Universal. Starring Henry Hull, Valerie Hobson and Warner Oland, Stuart Walker’s WEREWOLF OF LONDON is said to be the be the first mainstream Hollywood production to portray the moon-made beast of European folklore.
It is also, in my opinion, the first truly underwhelming entry in the Universal monster series. In WEREWOLF OF LONDON, Hull plays Dr. Wilfred Glendon, a highly respected botanist who ends up becoming a murderous creature of the night after being bitten by an unknown animal while searching for exotic planets in Tibet.
The make up effects by Universal wonderkid Jack Pierce are expectedly great and there are two downright hilarious performances from English actresses Ethel Griffies and Zeffie Tilbury as Mrs. Whack and Moncaster respectively, two gin-loving best friends whose slapstick banter lends WEREWOLF OF LONDON a more lighthearted tone than later lycanthrope pictures. They are easily the best and most memorable characters in the film and completely steal the show from under Henry Hull’s hairy feet whose hunched over body language and madcap scientist persona is more reminiscent of Frederic March’s Oscar winning Mr. Hyde than anything recognisably werewolf-y.
Inspiring both a great song by Warren Zevon and John Landis’ superlative AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, this obscure movie certainly has a legacy of its own. However, when compared to THE WOLF MAN which not only had more scenes of outright horror but also a deep sense of melancholic tragedy, WEREWOLF OF LONDON comes across as vastly inferior.