By Adam Frazier
â€œEven a man, who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.â€
There is a moment in Tod Browningâ€™s 1931 film, â€œDracula,â€ that is eternally imprinted into my memory. It is the moment when Count Dracula begins ascending the staircase and Renfield begins to follow him. Suddenly, Dracula hears wolves howling in the distance.
â€œListen to them,â€ he tells Renfield. â€œChildren of the night. What music they make!â€
Many of the horror genre’s most well known conventions — creaking staircases, cobwebs and swirling mist, howling wolves and the mobs of peasants chasing monsters with torches and pitchforks â€“ originated from â€œDraculaâ€ and Universal Horrorâ€™s cavalcade of monstrous icons.
One of those icons is the savage Wolf Man, originally portrayed in the 1941 film by Lon Chaney Jr. Now, after almost 70 years, the Wolf Man returns to the silver screen with the help of Director Joe Johnston.
In â€œThe Wolfman,â€ nobleman-cum-actor Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) is lured back to his family estate after his brother is brutally murdered. Reunited with his estranged, eccentric father (Sir Anthony Hopkins), Lawrence sets out to find the man or beast that slaughtered his brother. In the process, he discovers a dark secret that reveals itself to be his own tragic fate.
â€œThe Wolfmanâ€ is an amalgam of Tim Burtonâ€™s â€œSleepy Hollowâ€ and Francis Ford Coppolaâ€™s take on â€œDracula.â€ The film embodies the style of the classic Universal Horror pictures, complete with creaking staircases and blood-curdling screams. To see Wolf Man perched upon a gargoyle staring over the city, howling at the full moon, is something the monster lover in all of us craves.
The practical effects and makeup are wonderful, while the computer-generated transformations are completely adequate. If only there could have been a better marriage between the two, real movie magic could have taken place – instead, the Wolf Man busting out of his boots mirrored Bruce Banner turning into The Incredible Hulk.
While the filmâ€™s plot is fairly thin and predictable, â€œThe Wolfmanâ€ is still a chilling, completely entertaining romp through nostalgia to the days of classic Universal Monsters. If youâ€™re expecting â€œCitizen Kaneâ€ of monster movies, you might be more than disappointed â€“ but if youâ€™re looking for a bloody good time, watch Benicio Del Toro channel Lon Chaney Jr. and rip peasants and gypsies limb from limb.
Blu-Ray Details and Extras
The uncut version of the film (don’t ask me what’s different – presume this version just encompassed a little more ‘gore’?) is accompanied by 2 alternate endings, some deleted and extended scenes (nothing especially interesting was left on the cutting room floor) and some fairly informative featurettes – largely to do with the Wolfman’s look. Best of all though, there’s a ‘U-Control’ feature that enables the viewer to learn important and entertaining details about the movie (for instance, how makeup effects wizard Rick Baker created the Wolfman himself/itself) as they’re watching the film. There’s also an information track that provides “Wolfman” trivia along the way.
This is what they call a well-handled Blu-Ray release – it has lots of extras, it’s easy to navigate around, encompasses a super transfer (1080p, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), and best of all, comes with novel features exclusive to the medium – making the choice of whether to pick up the Blu-Ray over the standard DVD release an easy one.