Werewolf of London (Stuart Walker / U.S., 1935):

The Tibetan opening offers crags slanted like claws and a moonstruck white blossom, the perfect lunar preamble. Back in London, the biologist (Henry Hull) is summoned from his studies to a garden party, and Stuart Walkerís laterally panning camera connects the floral specimens in the laboratory to the socialites milling about the glasshouse. (Vegetal tentacles wiggle as Spring Byington flutters and swoons, "Nature is very tolerant, sir.") "It makes you want to howl," says the neglected wife (Valerie Hobson) to her former beau (Lester Matthews), though it is Hull who gets to reveal the fur beneath the tuxedo after a run-in with a fellow doomed explorer (Warner Oland), who strokes his lupine scar like an illicit lover. Finally, the transformation: protruding lower fangs, bushy sideburns and Lugosian widowís peak, each hairy mutation taking place as the protagonist stumbles behind a colonnade. Lon Chaney Jr.ís later creature has East European dismay, here is a particularly British beast, down to the Jack the Ripper tinge of its nocturnal rampages and the proto-Ealing drollery of the two wizened tavern biddies (Ethel Griffies, Zeffie Tilbury) who keep cold-cocking each other. (Nabokovís Despair is fascinatingly concurrent.) Lycanthropy as "evolution in a strange mood," a foundation for Terence Fisher and Ken Russell to build on, and an abstracted-husband fable to go with the anxious-bachelor comedy of Mamoulianís Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. With Lawrence Grant, Clark Williams, J.M. Kerrigan, and Charlotte Granville. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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