Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Paranormal in Black and White

Stephanie's post on the original Lycan hero, The Wolfman and the wonderful actor who portrayed him, Lon Chaney Jr. got me thinking. What was it about Lon Jr. that made him not only instantly recognizable but handsome in that strange sort of way? He wasn't technically handsome other than being tall and dark; he wasn't misunderstood except in the most literal way when he begs to be locked up before he kills again. Yet, we're glued to the screen, awash in his torment, unable and unwilling to look away. That's the key to Werewolf attraction—that torment: "There's something very tragic about that man…and I'm sure that nothing but harm will come to you through him" goes the line in the original 1941 movie and it sums up the lure of the animal.

Larry Talbot isn't a gorgeous hunk but he's…haunted. He's tormented and guilt-plagued. What woman could resist that? Especially when it's covered in real fur? Come on, you know you're headed for it like bees toward a perfumed hat. The guy's a real animal and yet he's sensitive…kinda'. Not in a wishy-washy way like Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind—he really pissed me off—but he's emotionally aware: he killed someone, even if by accident and even if someone else was in danger. He worries about doing it again in another blood crazed lust—ooh a beast with a conscience. You just want to scream out, "Hey bite ME Buddy!" with a big toothy grin of your own.

But if Lon Jr. owned and owns the Wolfman persona, he didn't do it all alone. The film is a classic because of numerous factors (also why Steph's books are classics) such as the incredibly romantic setting of old traditional Europe against modern life right down to the requisite Gypsy connection, fortune telling and even a poem (albeit created for the film) about wolf bane and the full moon. There's the fog, a must for romance and or terror, beautiful women and hard headed practical men folk who poo poo the idea of anything that can't be shot down with a medical dictionary.

Put it all together add Lon Chaney Jr. and his stressed out emotions, voice and expressions and you've got the prototype for all Werewolf movies to come!

Oh sure you can add twists and turns and all manner of technology but underneath it all there's still a big hairy dude waiting for ya'.

What can I say?

"Here boy!"


  1. I love reading books and seeing movies with men who have problems that haunt them.

    Morgan Mandel

  2. Me too Morgan! They're my favorite kind!

  3. Wow! I totally love that movie too and found myself completely attracted to the character. Lon Chaney turns in a remarkable and haunting performance and the fact that it is his dad who had to kill him is just heartbreaking.
    Yes, Chaney is totally unconventional as a Hollywood hero of that time. Big AND sensitive. I totally fell for him and that character has haunted me since. I don't think it is very surprising that my first book out was a wolfman one :-)
    So glad to hear of someone else who loves Lawrence Talbot too.
    Some of the sequals are pretty lame but worth it just to see Chaney. His version of The Mummy is also worth a watch for a tormented character. I've not been able to watch the new Wolfman movie out of loyalty to the old one. Is it worth it?

  4. Angie, I haven't either. I can't bear it. But then I'm a sucker for the classics. I adore black and white old films!