Watching this new interpretation of the great Universal horror film from the 1940s, is to know how to tell the young reviewers from the older and wiser among us because this movie has nothing to recommend it, with the exception that proves the old lines of Homer: “For rarely are sons similar to their fathers: most are worse--.”
It is, of course, very dark being shot mostly by the light of the moon or pre-electric castle rooms or up against walls where all the illumination is feeble. Why? Obviously, to save money with many of the special effects because when lights are low such effects need not be too expensively graphic.
It’s also amazing that little of the plot lines of the first Wolfman flick are used and instead of happening in the late 1930s, all is moved to the late 19th century. There instead of being an antique dealer Lonnie’s wife, the lady of the house, wanders and cries amid the jumble of furniture (obviously beyond her selling). She must also apologize for Lord Talbot’s excesses (not to mention Lonnie’s), because the original role of Sir Talbot (played with professionalism by Sir Cedric Hardwick) is nashed by Anthony Hopkins, who, it must be said, when he producers the teeth of a wolf is very capable of chewing up both the dialogue and the scenery.
There is little worth quoting in the script but I must include the ramblings of the Reverend Frisk, who sounds more like one of the commentators on Fox News as he emotes (I corrected much of the spelling): “There are those who doubt the power of Satan--the power of Satan to change men into beasts. But the ancient Pagans did not doubt, nor did the prophets. Did not Daniel warn of Nebakanezer? But the proud king did not heed Daniel. And so, as the bible says, he was made as unto a wolf and cast down from man. A beast has come among us! But God will defend his faithful. With his right hand, he will smite the foul demon. I say to you, the enemy's ploy is a devious one, twisting the accursed into beasts he seeks to bring us low, and make us as animals. Teach us self-loathing so that we forget that we are made in the image of almighty God himself. Why does our Lord tolerate this mockery? Pride goeth before destruction? A faulty spirit before the fall? I say it is because we have sinned against him. Because our crimes reek to Heaven, and they demand vengeance!
If they did give credit to the famous poem first uttered by Maria Ouspenskia playing Maleva, the Gypsy, I missed it but it was written by Curt Siodmak especially for the original film (he also wrote the intelligent script) and was uttered by Maleva when she sees the sign of the pentagram in Lon’s palm. “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,” says she. There is no effort to point out exactly what garden perennial is called wolfbane. And Maria was much better in the part than Geraldine who must have taken the assignment to pay off an old debt.
It is also the bloodiest such film I’ve seen in years and notable because there is little or no horror in the mind of the viewer because whatever the butchery, it’s without thrills or shivers; more like standing by as a food store butcher grinds your hamburger.