I really want to say Transylvania 6-5000 is smart and clever, but there are too many cons that hold me back from doing so. The concept is something I can get behind. A bunch of “monsters” are sighted in this Transylvanian village and two tabloid reporters are sent to make a cheesy report about it. I like the idea of how its taking the famed monsters and turning the mythos on its head. However, once the movie is over, I can’t help but realize there is a lot of room for improvements here and there. And I mean a lot…
Let me talk about the pros first, because there is some good stuff which makes the experience redeemable. Jeff Goldblum and Ed Begley Jr. are not too bad as the reporters. They can have a funny moment once in a while and surprisingly have good chemistry. While its not too iconic like Abbott and Costello, they still try to make the material they are given usable for laughs.
Even some of the side characters are memorable, too. I still remember how crass their boss (Normal Fell) is and how much he expresses his love for “crap” news. The first scene he is in clearly sets the tone for how much it doesn’t care what damage it does to the monster mythology like calling the Frankenstein monster “Frankenstein.” Jeffery Jones plays the mayor and, as always, he will give a fun performance no matter what he’s in.
Perhaps the ones I remember more are the butler Fejos (Seinfeld‘s Michael Richards) and the servants (Carol Kane and famed voice actor John Byner). Fejos is always showing off his comedic shtick even when its not needed. One minute, he’s using fake legs for a door injury, riding on a kiddie ride for no reason or playing around with puppets. The character is unpredictable. I also like the two servants, because both actors have a lot of funny scenes like trying to one up each other. Its such an odd pairing to have Kane and Byner, yet something just works so well with those two.
Another good thing is some of the funny set pieces. There’s a hilarious highlight where the reporters go to a local hotel and one of them asks if they have seen the Frankenstein monster. The attendants take this as a joke and keep riffing on how they believe in monsters. It’s the best laugh in the whole feature, aside from comedy 101 with Micheal Richards. There’s other little scenes here and there which are funny too. But not as big of a belly laugh as two reporters getting awkward laughs from an entire hotel staff.
And from there, it all goes downhill. What doesn’t work for me is the rest of the movie. It takes about an entire hour, until something interesting happens. And because of that, a lot of our attention is on Goldblum and Begley Jr’s characters. It’s sad because even some of the material they are given is not enough to work with. There’s drawn out moments where they look about the castle or try to figure out what is real. And for the most part, the movie just drags.
Afterwards, the plot kicks back into gear when we are introduced to a mad scientist, played by Joseph Bologna, who is keeping a bunch of “monsters” with him for experimentation…or that’s how it seems. It’s a very funny performance as Bolonga switches between a kind and caring man to a ranting lunatic. What makes this a negative is how we have to wait so long for a kooky character to be introduced to finally break up the clutter. We spend so much time with the reporters to a point even their material gets sort of thin.
There’s also some jokes that don’t seem to work or have a bizarre setup. For example, there is this fortune teller that recites lines from the original Wolf Man, who ends her routine by “going to rest” and whacking her head on the table leaving a big hole. It’s amusing at first, but then the joke gets tiring when we see it again and get the idea this is part of her shtick. It doesn’t really make much sense outside of the painful thought of why this woman doesn’t have a concussion yet. There’s even a brief moment when someone who looks like the Wolf Man calls Goldblum a “communist” for no reason. It just comes out of blue.
But the biggest thing that really ruins for it for me is the ending. I won’t spoil a whole lot, but I get the joke. These outcasts who look like monsters are not really monsters and the doctor has been trying to cure them this entire time to be normal. It’s not bad, but its executed in this really lame way. Wouldn’t it be more funnier if they were real monsters instead of people who look like them?
Sure, it does lead into a funny gag where Begley Jr. tries to manipulate an angry mob by acting as different mob members. But, it just becomes a disappointing conclusion to know the monsters are not real and it’s all one big misconception. Again, that joke can work, but it’s not done right. I feel the idea of revealing the Wolf Man as a really harry guy or the Frankenstein monster is just literally stitched back up together. However, there’s a lot of lost comedic potential here. Even a young Geena Davis sporting a skimpy outfit and acting as a vampire is not enough to save it.
On the whole, I’m not too disappointed in Transylvania 6-5000, but I do wish it could have been better. Occasionally, there is a very funny and quotable line along with a humorous scene or two. But I feel so much of the enjoyment rides on just how you view the way it concludes. Do you feel it needs a big Scooby-Doo ending or would it be funnier if they didn’t take this safe road? I can’t say for sure this is looked at too negatively and it does have a cult following. Heck, this movie was a small hit at the box office, despite some harsh reviews including an infamous one by Leonard Maltin. This is another case of watch and judge for yourself. Some of it does work, but I feel a great bulk of the movie lags under how it treats the concept. And if you want a true monster mash-up,stay tuned Halloween day for a special review on that.
Honestly, there is no reason this movie should be given a spotlight on this blog-a-thon. However, it does tie into the theme of “cult classics” (somehow) and the Universal Studio Monsters franchise is normally watched around Halloween. On top of that, I’m certain EVERYONE had something to say about this dusty turkey. And yet, if I had to toss my two cents in, The Mummy is without a doubt, on my roster, for being the worst movie of 2017.
Let’s back up a little and talk about some history. Universal Studios has been desperate in every way to try and bring new life to their horror themed franchise. Back in the 1930s, movies about Dracula, Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera and many others are what put the studio on the map. These are iconic pictures that leave a lasting impact upon the public, regardless if one doesn’t like black and white features. There is a glowing haunting impact that is still left from the ideas and building atmosphere.
Universal Studios has been toying with their creature features for a long time. I can’t tell you how many times they tried to get a Creature from the Black Lagoon remake off the ground. Even John Carpenter nearly got the chance to helm it; that is if a certain Invisible Man movie with Chevy Chase didn’t bomb at the box-office. Bottom line, this studio has been trying. They tried a new Wolfman in 2010, it didn’t do very well. They tried to give Dracula an origin story, it did moderately well, yet critics put a stake right into it.
Now, the new plan was to reboot everything and create a shared universe along the lines of Marvel Studios. Not a bad idea, but there is one crucial problem. In order to achieve it, you need to introduce your monsters individual first. Give Marvel some credit, it took time and effort to establish who their superheros were and why are they all connected. It made the debut of The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble in International waters) the more satisfying seeing characters we already saw. The concept of a shared universe seemed not needed when you consider there already exists a movie with all the monsters meeting (more on that later in the month).
Come the summer of 2017, a string of sequels and reboots that never seemed to catch on with some exceptions. Arriving to the big screen is The Mummy, a movie Universal Studios is confident will be a huge hit and ignite a massive interest in making a shared universe. And let me tell you, for a movie called The Mummy, it’s sad to see it plays out more like a 2 hour trailer for a franchise as opposed to a standalone feature.
Every problem can be summed up in the opening. First, there is a 30-second flashback to Medieval Times were knights hide a powerful ruby. Cut to modern times where a group of FBI-like agents find a tomb carrying said ruby. Then, it flashes back to show the origin of the mummy and how she came to be. What should be a simple introduction is really a massive exposition dump. There is too much being addressed and it doesn’t know what information is crucial to the narrative. It literally throws everything at you and expects a sense of understanding.
So, now your probably asking how is the rest of the movie? Well, here’s a hint. Notice how the focus of this article is about Universal’s choice to make a franchise. When you boil down to it, there isn’t much of a movie, or a story, to discuss. Tom Cruise is a treasure raider who finds a mummy, mummy curses him in a weird set up that sounds stolen from Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce, Russell Crowe shows up as Dr. Jekyll to talk about a set of agents who prevent monsters from going loose and that’s it.
Everything I summed up in that small paragraph is all you need to know. Sure there are things I didn’t talk about like the performances, a subplot involving a dead friend that is taken from An American Werewolf In London, the complex origins of the mummy that make no sense, the rampage on London near the end and the obvious tie-ins to “future entries.” Honestly, who cares? If Mummy just stuck to one story line, it would have been fine. Instead, it feels like different scripts were bunch into one and then hacked down with a chainsaw. All we get is a set of shreds that don’t add up. Stuff happens, but there is rarely any connection.
I tried to think of anything positive about this movie and I could only come up with two things. Tom Cruise plays the lead and, regardless of ego, he tries to be entertaining. His performance goes for a very goofy-action hero tone that matches Brendan Fraser, but it feels weird knowing he’s more equipped when it comes to spy movies. And for what little we see of Sofia Boutella, she tries to bring a sense of menace to her take of the mummy. Under all the poor CGI effects they paint over her face, she is really trying to stand out. Unfortunately, her presence is literally buried under Cruise’s rampant ego and “too many cooks” trying to steer this popcorn flick.
I really can’t even do much justice to recommend this train wreck. Your better off seeing the original 1932 Mummy with Boris Karloff. That one was more scary in atmosphere and selling the concept of reincarnation. Why can’t we have a movie like that anymore? A horror film that sells on scaring you with atmospheric tone and concept as opposed to jump scares. I’m certain there are some out there, but I can only imagine how few there are. This movie is pure proof that certain executives can’t keep up with the times on what audiences want. A lesson that is learned again and again as time goes on. Just when Hollywood thinks they know what people want, they come out with a movie too late once that previous obsession has died down. We are pass the bar of shared universes. Some can work, but this one doesn’t.
Avoid at all costs.
As I thought more about Dracula Untold, I kept thinking about how the well embedded Bram Stoker’s novel was into the public conscious. You think films would stay true to the source but there happens to be a small amount of Dracula adaptations that stay true to the original book. Even the 1931 Universal classic had its roots taken from a stage play giving a different take. But for all the different takes, each Dracula had one thing in common; they were scary. This variation we are looking at today is not meant to be horror based which is rather unfortunate. But hey, maybe there is something salvageable?
Luke Evans plays Vlad III Tepes, who looks nothing like Vlad the Imapler if you look at his portraits. As opposed to a long haired Romanian that looks like a Sultan, we get a young and innocent Prince with a couple of shirtless scenes to please the YA crowd. But hey, let’s give the movie a chance. And besides, Luke’s performance is not bad. He can be intimidating when he channels his vampire powers and presents his character as a tortured soul much more than the blood suckers in Twilight. True, he doesn’t care the menace that Lugosi or Christopher Lee left seeing they are playing this Drac to be more heroic. But hey, there’s over 100 Dracula movies out there so no worries.
The story to say the least is a creative mixed bag. I say that because there are some things I do like about it but some stuff that I feel iffy about. Apparently, Prince Vlad is under force by a Turk army to cough up 1,000 boys to be trained as soldiers in debt for some missing scouts. An Ottoman from the army thinks Vlad killed the scouts but its revealed that a nearby vampire in a cave took them as a midnight snack. Even more ironic seeing Vlad pays a visit to this vampire to ask for his powers to save his family and people before they are slaughtered by the Turks.
I like part of this idea despite it being a “Game of Thrones” variation. There is some interesting mythos to the Dracula story like his origin and the world itself is very grimy but appeasing to the eye. Again, this is not meant to diminish the original in any shape and does this new take. But unfortunately, there are some limits we have to accept when donning a new version of a story that has been told before again and again.
As stated, this new Dracula movie is not meant to shock or frighten. Instead, it has the pace of a Marvel comic book movie and this is where some of the problems begin to surface. Vlad is giving vampire powers for three days to help save his people. The catch is that he has to resist feasting on human blood or else doomed to be a vampire for eternity. A little fairy tale-ish but I can buy it. I am use to dark and brooding fairy tales like something along the lines of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. But where Henson’s Storyteller knew when to be adult and smart, Dracula Untold feels like something crafted from the mind of a teenager that just inhaled glitter up their nose. The powers Vlad gets from this transformation really seem odd. Who knew a vampire could get super strength, the ability to see warm blooded figures and super sonic hearing.
Does he turn into a bat? No but a whole flock of bats. Its insane. The idea of Dracula and his entire body (along with his clothing) turning into a small bat is understandable but a whole gang of flying rodents? That’s just nuts. I guess each bat is a part of him and in one scene we see Vlad control a huge array of bats to vanquish an army much like in 1999’s The Mummy when Imhotep controls a sandstorm. So yeah, this is very much a Marvel Comics version of Dracula. I can’t say it doesn’t have any creative liberties seeing it is doing creative stuff and clearly there is a lot of effort thrown at it. But at the end of the day, your just looking at a Dracula movie to cash in with the younger crowd who love brooding and tortured souls and superhuman people with problems like Thor or Captain America.
On the other hand, there are some drops of Stoker’s novel here and there but its far and few between. There is this Renfield style character but he only gets one small scene and doesn’t show up until the very end of the movie. The idea of someone assisting a young Vlad could have been interesting and does raise tension when we see him try and avoid biting another one’s neck. But with only so few moments tossed in, it makes the story feel rushed as it builds to the big climax between Vlad and the Turk army while wrapping everything in a matter of minutes than let the story flow naturally. It irks me when little scenes here and there could have been played to be big and plot moving when they really feel more like a small drop of water. There is a good moment when Vlad’s people realize the monster he is and try to destroy him. Its great scene that could lead to some interesting character depth with the citizens he gave a home to and where Vlad stands with his decision. But then we have to focus on this big battle next making everything before that a small road block that could have added something.
Supposedly, Dracula Untold is meant to be part of this reboot of the Universal Monster franchise and it does feel like it. The ending clearly sets up a possible shared universe much like what the films of Marvel Comics are doing which is not a bad idea. Why not have a movie with Dracula teaming up with the Wolf Man? Or have the Mummy try and play off the Frankenstein Monster? Would the Phantom of the Opera be there? And what about the Invisible Man? Does Gill-Man (Creature from the Black Lagoon) have a bad-ass appearance like he did in The Monster Squad? We will never know. But after hearing that these new movies would be more action-adventure and less horror, it has my eyebrows raising in caution. What made the originals work was the horror and the shock aspect. Trying to image say the Wolf Man being set up as something like Iron Man or The Incredible Hulk feels very double edged sword to me. Are these monsters now superheroes or just anti-heroes?
Perhaps this idea of a shared universe is not fully throughout that much. On the other hand, Dracula Untold is a the first start of this “reboot franchise.” And if this is how each movie will be planned to be, I’m curious but at the same time part of me is disappointed. I do like the new stuff in this movie even if it gets a little over the top and out there. And the performances are trying to make this a good movie overall. On the other hand, maybe I’m too hard. This is meant to be more dark fantasy with curses and knights. I don’t think this is a bad movie none the less but the recommendation is difficult. I say see it as a rental just for caution. But fans who are looking for this faithful retelling of the Dracula myth might be biased and disappointed. I once again stress this is not meant to be a horror movie in anyway but more of a comic book movie which is interesting but also unfortunate. I am glad to see there are different variations of the Dracula tale out there and keeping the vampire fresh in the public’s minds. But I’m positive this harmless flick won’t do much damage to those who love the bloodsucking favorite but I’m positive this outing won’t be as memorable either. Not 100% bad by any means but not good either. Then again, as they always say, it could have been a lot worse….
Near the end of the 1930s, Universal’s line of horror films were under a decline. Not since had they delivered a solid hit since Bride of Frankenstein or Dracula. It seemed the quality in this genre they overlooked would send them in a turmoil. The story goes is that a double billing of 1931’s Dracula and Frankenstein was released and proved to be a huge success with the public. Some say it was a triple feature with King Kong involved while others say it was part of the staging of a movie theater close to bankrupt in Los Angeles. Either way, it was this double feature that lead Universal to craft another sequel and revive new interest in Universal’s line of horror films. And sadly, its nearly forgotten today.
1939 saw Son of Frankenstein’s debut. It has been labeled as the last of Universal’s “A” list films. Everything from the 1940s and 1950s would descend into a line of “B” movies. And frankly, I can’t think of another film after this entry that was given such effort and care. Not just into the sets and drama but even into the characters as well. It should be also noted this was the first Frankenstein film that would pair Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi together. That’s two horror icons for the price of one. It was enough to get any horror fan of the time to reserve a ticket. Sure enough, this gamble would pay off well being a big hit at the box office. But how does it hold up to its predecessors?
Sherlock Holmes favorite Basil Rathbone plays Baron Wolf von Frankenstein, who turns out to be the son of Henry Frankenstein. After Henry kicks the bucket off-screen, Wolf inherits his father’s mansion along with the broken down laboratory and his prized secrets. Once Wolf and his family move in, we already sympathize with him considering the cold treatment the villagers give him. Not forgetting the events of before and shunning the family name Frankenstein as a curse. Of course, Wolf is different. He shares the same innocence as his father but only wishes to use his methods for his own curiosity and good.
Roaming around the wreckage of the lab is a twisted hunchback named Ygor who claims to have been Henry’s assistant. Before I discuss Ygor a bit, I must stress that because these sequels took so long to make that continuity would be the last thing on a viewer’s mind back then. True, there was an assistant in the first film but his name was Fritz and met a gruesome fate. So we can only guess that Ygor is manipulating Wolf or this film is a slight reboot. Despite the fan theories, we don’t care seeing this is one of Bela Lugosi’s most chilling roles to date. That twisted smile and thick Hungarian accent brings the devil’s advocate feel of the character. Even more interesting is his backstory where he claims the villagers tried to hang him resulting in Ygor getting a broken neck. The fact he says “Ygor is dead” with a sicken grin will leave anyone with chills.
But the twisted hunchback is not alone. Well hidden in the ruins is the original Monster (Boris Karloff returning for the final time) but in a deep coma. This time, the Monster is somehow under Ygor’s control as the pale creature is used to get revenge of the town that tried to kill him. As expected, Wolf revives the Monster by means to study after seeing how amazed he is by the superhuman abilities his father gave. Ygor has other plans…
But the complexity of the story doesn’t end there. Lionel Atwill plays Inspector Krogh, a man who is aware of the danger the Frankenstein name gave but still sees some sign of hope in Wolf. In his first scene, he recounts a chilling story where he lost his arm from the Monster’s rampage. Its a very skin crawling moment that doesn’t need deep detail. All we need is a vague explanation and the sight of his fake arm slammed to the wall showing its stiff inclusion. Krogh is not a villain but aware of the past along with the horrors it brought.
The rest of the movie holds up surprisingly well from its story to how well shot it is. All the while, we worry about the state of the Monster as he gets juggled between Wolf’s amazement and Ygor’s bidding to kill. Our perception of the creature’s nature is not revealed until the final 20 minutes and this is in part because of how Karloff’s performance is placed in the foreground. To be fair, its a nice break seeing how central the Monster was in the first two films and we do get a couple of great scenes like one where he examines himself in the mirror with much disgust. Gone is the Monster’s ability to talk as Karloff is reduced to grunts and groaning. But it still proves a good performance can be giving even when speechless.
Arguably, this is probably the last movie I can think of the time that is giving such effort in the set design. A lot of the sets and twisted shots have a nightmare-like presentation. Almost akin to German Expressionism but done in a Hollywood way with twisted staircases and exaggerated building designs. The look of the movie is highly iconic and overshadows the story sometimes. While easy to follow, the story seems to float around a bit from one motive to the next but still holds together like a noir story.
Even funnier is how a lot of elements were taken from this movie when Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein came on the scene. I remember seeing the parody first and noticed a lot of connections between the horror comedy and the first two Frankenstein movies. In hindsight, it feels like a true spoof in regards to Son of Frankenstein while the other two get a nice mention or highlight. Even right down to the story, I applaud Mel for reminding us the attention of continuity and cliches of a horror film while twisting them around. It reminds us of our appreciation for the genre just as Son of Frankenstein reminds us how good a sequel to its horror icon can be.
Also, on a minor level, its strange to hear how originally the movie was meant to be shot in color but later discarded after a screen test proved it wouldn’t work. Either for budgetary reasons or artistic, I’m personally glad the movie was kept in its black and white roots. Many moviegoers can argue that the best movies are filmed without color aside from the shades of black and the brightness of white. Some home movies and test footage was discovered showing Karloff goofing around in the make-up as well as a bright green skin color for the Monster. Again, making it black and white was probably for the best.
Lastly, fans of Disney will be turning heads when I mention Donnie Dunagan has a part as Wolf’s son Peter. Many will remember him best as the voice of Bambi in Disney’s animated classic about nature. Why I bring this up? Well, think of this. Donnie went from being in a Frankenstein movie to voicing as a baby doe in a Disney flick. And even more odd is how after Bambi, he enlisted into the Marines where he later became a drill instructor. So the next time you make fun of child stars, watch out. Or else they might go from a cute innocent doe to the lead of the Marine Crops. Now that is a scary thought in a nutshell!
Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright….
This poem is the center of Universal’s The Wolf Man that adds on to the supernatural and superstitious feel. If Dracula questioned the existence of the unknown and Frankenstein had us venture into it, The Wolf Man is more of a reflection of superstition and beliefs which I feel is a big part of this one. The story centers around Larry Talbort (Lon Chaney Jr.) who returns to his home in Wales to spend some quality time with his estranged father. The first half is developed really well as we get an idea of who Larry is. A common everyday man that isn’t too concerned about basic fear of something silly like a villager’s poem or black magic. He just views it as a common fear that keeps everyone at bay. Its long till he gets attacked by a wolf but gets injured in the struggle. Even after killing the beast, he starts to become aware that perhaps the things others fear the most is not that far from being real as he finds out the wolf that bit him was a werewolf and soon enough, he too becomes one.
The selling point of this movie is not Jack Pierce’s make up or even the eerie atmosphere. This time its the character of Larry Talbort and Lon Chaney Jr’s performance. Lon really makes you feel sympathetic off the bat. He is visiting his father after hearing his brother died, he wants to have a relationship with his dad that he probably hasn’t seen in years and on top of that he starts to get romantically involved with an antique shop owner who just happens to be one of his next victims later in the movie. You can feel the struggle between man and beast here and really wish he gets a happy ending. Lon Chaney Jr. does a great job emoting that fear we all have of the creature inside us and how we wish the horrors and fears we hear about weren’t real. This is what sets Wolf Man apart from the other Universal Monsters. Sure we sympathize with the Frankenstein monster for how it wants to be loved and accepted. Here, we feel sorry because its a man trying to avoid becoming a monster even if he is good of heart. I’d say that is much more scarier in comparison.
The rest of the movie holds up really well. There’s a certain charm and eerie feeling with the forest sets even if they do look studio shot and full of fake fog. Something about it really adds on to the chill. Maria Ouspenskaya plays a gypsy fortuneteller who comes off as both sincere and frightening. She knows what Larry is going through and can only express sympathy while
seeing him being tortured. This would start the long running cliche of the resourceful old woman that knows all and sees all. But here, its used well enough to bring light to what a werewolf is and the modern mythos. In fact, its strange this wasn’t the first movie about werewolf-ism seeing Universal tried it before with Werewolf of London where a botanist tries to find a rare flower to cure his inner monster. However, what differs is that Werewolf of London was more of a Jekyll and Hide stylized story than rather one close to humble tradition. While the Wolf Man itself doesn’t run about on all fours, it does get the beastly personality nailed. The sniveling snarl, the clutching claws and the way he looks about the place like a territorial dog is sure enough to increase some intensity.
While the Wolf Man is well shot and has great performances, there’s a few nitpicks I do have with it. The make-up job is impressive (after all, it is Jack Pierce) but some reason the nose reminds me a bit more of a pig design and less canine. Again, there are some wolfish features in the fangs and hair but I find it weird that the only thing I seem to be bothered by is the design in the nose but its minor. For those hoping for a full transformation scene might be disappointed. There is a bit where we see his legs transform through a series of fades and a bit in the final ten minutes when we see Larry go from wolf to human. The later incarnations would feature the infamous cross-dissolve transformation while this one doesn’t as much.
But overall, its a classic struggle between man and monster this is truly iconic. I can’t think of any really problems I had with it other than the mentioned. Its rich in atmosphere and has a plot that neither drags or feels too fast. Its just one of those movies you can sit back during lunch and just really get into easily. I should address that The Wolf Man never had a direct sequel or even a franchise and probably that is for the best. It ends on a spot so tight that is no way it can be open to continue the story. You could probably count Frankenstein meets The Wolf Man as it does have some continuity in the first half but I wouldn’t count it seeing it does crossover with the Frankenstein saga. But as it stands, its a good movie hands down.
Now I am aware that there is a remake that was done back in 2010. I wanted to somehow talk about this one but I never had the full advantage to really sit down and revisit it in time. I won’t go too in-depth about my thoughts on it seeing I might review it next year. So this is just from what I can remember and some vivid memory. Its my current opinion but it might change.In the early times of the 2000’s, there were talks and plans to bring back the Universal Monsters in different ways. This was done before with The Mummy and Van Helsing but didn’t seem to take off that big despite being box-office hits. The Wolfman remake would prove to be a bigger challenge as it somehow went from one writer to the next, one director after another, one reshoot here and there and sure enough the result didn’t come off as successful as the studio hoped. It failed to bring back its budget and was savagely labeled by critics as being mediocre or poor. Even the president of Universal Studios went as far to say it was “one of the worst movies we ever made.”
While I understand The Wolfman had problems, I wouldn’t go as far to say its that bad. I remember enjoying it when I first saw it in theaters thought the idea it was being screened on actual film might have had something to do with it giving a nice grindhouse feel with small scratches and cigarette burns. I just think with the hampered and troubled production that more was focused on the chaos being produced and less on how the final product came. Personally, I think it gets too much of a bad rep and overall feel its a decent movie. It was directed by Joe Johnston who is well known for making action/adventure comic book stylized movies like Captain America, The Rocketeer, Jumanji and many more. I fell Joe’s direction lends better to the action scenes when the Wolfman is on the loose in the city or fighting another creature. He knows the beats to a fight and how to bring on a good adrenaline rush. That is when the movie is stronger to me. But when it tries to add some character development, it starts to get rocky as certain motives are made unclear like the town’s hate for the Talbots or even Larry’s feelings toward his own folks..
Speaking of which, Benicio del Toro does a good job playing a menacing Larry Talbort but what is missing is the sympathy. I can easily see him being a villainous version of the Wolfman if the direction was in the right place with it. When he’s trying to be sympathetic, it doesn’t come off as convincing. We want him as the wolf more than the human as we don’t see much torture at play with his character. Anthony Hopkins is a delight as his father because its Anthony Hopkins. No matter what he will be, Hopkins always his this crazy charm in his performance that is hard not to like. The make up effects by Rick Baker is a notable highlight seeing he was a big fan of the original Wolf Man and its clear his design was meant to pay homage to Jack Pierce’s original look. Its a shame he wasn’t able to do a practical version of the transformation scenes much like what he did for An American Werewolf In London but at least the Oscar he got for this film and it shouldn’t go unnoticed.
The Blu Ray and DVD offer an extended version that is surprisingly better than the theatrical cut. I actually recommend checking this version out as it adds pace to the movie and even adds some character depth that was missing. The most notable is a cameo by Max Von Sydow who meets with Lawrence earlier in the movie and explores most of the questionable supernatural elements that relfects the message of the original on questioning superstitious beliefs. There’s also a lot more violence and more time is spent knowing who the Talbots are before the first transformation. In short, this cut is a better movie which fixes some problems but it still doesn’t trump the lasting power the original had. While I still think the remake is a decent flick and I do recommend checking it out, there is only one Wolf Man and his name is Lon Chaney Jr.