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.
As a kid I was extremely scared of this movie and werewolves in particular. Even now I have a strange attraction/repulsion to werewolves and werewolf movies. The Wolfman is a classic Universal horror movie from 1941 starring Lon Chaney Jr. as Lawrence Talbot, the man who is unfortunately bitten by a werewolf. Having just watched this yesterday I would say that it is not so much as horror movie, as there are really no instances of tension or horror, however it does work as a great psychological study of a man who is tormented by the things he will do when the moon is full and he changes into a werewolf.
The screenplay was written by Curt Siodmak, a German Jew who fled the Nazi atrocities of the 1930s for America. He is the person responsible for many of the traditions that are today associated with the werewolf legend, such as the transformation at the full moon, the werewolves victim being marked by a pentagram and that the only way to kill a werewolf is with silver. According to the excellent documentary that accompanied the DVD Siodmak wrote The Wolfman as an allegory to the genocide occurring in Europe at the time and how even the nicest of men could become beasts if the conditions were right.
Then there is the performance of Lon Chaney Jr, as Larry Talbot, the man who must carry the terrible curse of the werewolf. His acting seems quite over the top and hammy here but it does add to the fun of the film. The Wolfman became Chaney’s signature role and makes this movie a lot of fun to watch.