The movie begins with a monologue from the director, talking about lycanthropy and the history of belief of men changing into wolves. It contains lines such as "the legends have persisted since the beginnings of man's memory of time", so you know from the very start that you're in for your standard fun B-movie fare complete with dodgy acting and poor dialogue. Yay!
From a historical point of view, this movie is absolutely fascinating. By the end of the 1940s, interest in classic movie monsters such as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man had very much begun to wane in favour of atomic space age or science fiction movies. That's why this was the first 'serious' werewolf movie to be released in ten years, and why they've tried to mix it up a little with science fiction elements (which kind of renders the opening monologue about werewolf legends somewhat obselete). First things first, we are introduced to our hero Duncan Marsh who wanders off the street into a bar and seems to be suffering from amnesia. He doesn't have a clue who he is or where he is going, and soon excuses himself only to be followed and mugged by a local hoodlum. The two men struggle, and amid the sounds of fighting we begin to hear strange growling noises.
Needless to say, our friendly neighbourhood hoodlum ends up with his throat ripped out and the locals set off to track down the stranger who has disappeared off into the night, only to come across wolf tracks out in the woods. Curious! The local sheriffs begin a large-scale manhunt for this fugitive, who is confused about what has happened to him and what he has become but suspects that a scientists of doctors who conducted some weird experiments have something to do with it. It begins as a mystery, but the man's past is soon revealed as is the cause behind his condition so it becomes more of a standard werewolf-on-the-run story.
"The Werewolf" is actually surprisingly good for a movie of its time. A lot better than I expected, anyway. Although the pacing is all wrong and the acting is understandably poor, the story is interesting and the film is fairly well-made. As a fan of old movies I was entertained from start to finish. I'd even go as far as to call it a classic werewolf movie of its time, every bit the equal of "I Was A Teenage Werewolf" which came out the following year and was a much bigger hit, reviving some interest in the genre. I wouldn't be surprised if this movie was the chief inspiration behind AIP's "Teenage Werewolf". It was made by Clover Productions, who made their name with "It Came From Beneath the Sea" and are probably most well-known for "Earth vs the Flying Saucers", which came out around the same time as this movie. Both were made by Fred F. Sears, who seemed to direct the majority of their movies..
This movie is essential viewing for any hardcore werewolf movie fan, and it's an important piece of werewolf movie history. It's recently been put out on DVD by Sony so it's now widely available for the first time in years. Check it out.
I remember seeing this movie as a kid of 10 years old in 1956; it scared the livin crap out of me, and I had night mares often. It started me on the life long interest in werewolf movies.
I'm thrilled to see that its available on DVD and my youngest daughter is anxious as well to see it with her dad.
The biggest highlight of this movie is its music.
The acting is not worth recommending, honestly the only good acting comes from Duncan and his werewolf, followed by his son and his wife. The rest are nearly vulcans, which is saying something after you've seen Sanaa Lathan in Alien versus Predator.
Quite a few archetypes they try to cram in here, such as the tortured goodly man, evil scientist, conflicted authority figure, and even the blundering drunk. For the most part, they don't come across well. Part of that comes from the short length, another hour would have helped amp character depth and emotional impact, both of which are rather sorely lacking.
The villains needed work. The henchman persona was just awful. The head scientist showed more promise, at times showing complexity, but most of the time just being dull.
Camera work quite good, especially the two main jail scenes, and the views of the men with torches marching upon the wolf-man, made me feel rather sorry for him at time.
The sound work for the killing of the immoral scientist, and when the wolf-man was being chased about near the end were great.
Pacing was...awkward. Too much being crammed into too little time ended up crippling it.
Story-telling was not half bad, but not great either. In truth, all it would have needed was a contagious werewolf clawing and then the plot could have easily gotten a few more twists, such as our deputy-sheriff actually being the one to kill the sheep.
They may have also been striving for some political messages through the mention of the holocaust, the dutiful wife...and some other things. May have been also a subtle metaphor with the melting snow, and how they 'caught the wolf-man,' but I may be reading too much into it. In any case, they failed to deliver any of it.
The wolf isn't great, but it's initial transformation is nice. The copious amounts of drool are fantastic. The face itself is also quite creepy, although I'm not convinced it was intentional.
In summation, the movie could have been more, but not enough effort was put into it. It just barely edges into 'Good.' Fun to watch at some points, but at others almost a pain, and when not either just tepid.
I saw this movie in 1957 when I was 9 years old. My sister and her boyfriend took me. This movie scared me so bad I would not go in the basement of our house for over a year and had nightmares for 2 years. The scariest feature about the Wolfman was his eyes. For it's time, a really scary movie.
The werewolf design we see here is very similar to the likes of "The Undying Monster" and "The Mad Monster" from the 1940s, where they were trying very hard to recreate the look of Lon Chaney Jr in the Wolf Man but obviously didn't have the budget or expertise of Jack Pierce. Still, it looks perfectly fine for its time and actor Steven Ritch pulls it off pretty well.
We're treated to a nice transformation scene midway through the movie, and this is how we are first introduced to our wolf man in all his glory. It's done the standard way, with simple crossfades and varying degrees of makeup. I tell ya, the guys who did the special effects for these pre-1980s werewolf movies must have been watching "The Wolf Man" on a loop while they were working. Even "Werewolf of London" did something different, but who the hell wants to copy that one? Nobody, that's who!
So in this particular movie our protagonist has been transformed through the use of a serum, in a fashion pretty much identical to "The Mad Monster" (except this is a much better movie). At the end it all starts to go a bit "Frankenstein", and we even have a mob of angry townsfolk chasing the poor wolf man down the road. There's no silver bullets or full moons in this since that would veer too much in the direction of traditional horror; this definitely wants to be more of a science fiction piece. And as such, the werewolf eventually meets his end by being shot multiple times with normal bullets, and then we have the ol' reverse transformation scene where he becomes human once more. Sad.