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Monday, March 24, 2008


THE WOLF MAN (1941): not the story of a lycanthropic hairdresser.

Though I'm usually the first to rankle at remake movies, I have to admit a certain anticipation for the upcoming remake of the Lon Chaney, Jr. Universal horror classic THE WOLF MAN. Werewolf movies are my preferred horror flavor, and building from the film that gave us most of the rules that we know about werewolves may result in another very good "modern" full moon flick. In the past decade we've been given two of the very best entries in the genre's history, namely GINGER SNAPS (2000) and DOG SOLDIERS (2002), both foreign offerings, and it would be nice to see a good homegrown version again. In fact, I don't believe there's been a good American-made werewolf flick since the underrated WOLF back in 1997.

The remake looks like it's sticking fairly close to Curt Siodmak's template, and that's probably a good idea since that story had everything one needs in a werewolf story; tragedy, a love story doomed from the get-go, a hero with no way out, and the collision of the fantastic and horrifying with a world that long ago dismissed such possibilities to the realm of myth and legend, it's all there. The involvement of Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro proves that a solid cast is present, and hauling makeup artistry legend Rick Baker once more into the lupine arena is the icing on the cake. Having wowed audiences with his groundbreaking work in 1981's AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON

"Nice doggie! OH, shiiiiiit!!!"

as well as providing Jack Nicholson with an old school fangs 'n' fur look in WOLF,

I guess it was a no-brainer to turn to the the guy whose skills in this particular horror niche are proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. Baker's take on the new Wolf Man strikes me as what makeup pioneer Jack Pierce would have come up with if the technology had been up to what his imagination could conjure back in the days. Compare these shots of the makeup to the shot from the original at the top of this post and I think you'll see what I mean:

The second of these shots looks like a contemporary evocation of the old Universal horror feel, and I love the happiness that brings to my heart. The Universal horror films are the movies that gave me my first dose of atmospheric, quality scary tales, and I often find myself dismayed by the way the generations that followed mine react to them. The old school horrors are often dismissed as quaint, creaky relics of a time before the display of explicit gore was kosher, and the black and white photography can be offputting to those not raised on a steady diet of "Creature Features" and such, as once found every weekend on local television in the pre-cable days of yore. If the new WOLF MAN succeeds both critically and commercially, I hope it will spur interest in the old chillers so the young 'uns can see from whence their cinematic nightmares sprang, and possibly intrigue them enough to immerse themselves into the rich tapestry of pre-FRIDAY THE 13TH American horror.


Jared said...

Oh c'mon now. Wolf was terrible. I couldn't even make it through that Nicholson ham-fest.

PBJ said...

Wolf was misunderstood. The working title was Wolves Who Love to Eat and to Say Peanut Butter & Jelly, but they lost the focus groups sweat test response reports, so hedged their bets with the brief title.

Anonymous said...

was brotherhood of the wolf an American movie? that was pretty kick ass. maybe it was french... look at me, i'm too lazy to use google. the irony is thick.
-big mike