Werewolf of London Blu-ray Review

The Ripper of Werewolves

Werewolf of London started everything, a film of historical significance. This is where the full moon/werewolf legend sprung. Not in 1941’s Wolf Man (that added silver bullets and others), but this 1935 werewolf film.

There’s more too. The Universal narrative style simmers within Werewolf of London. A researcher is punished for his allegiance to science instead of religious belief. On a mission to Tibet to recover a rare flower with potential curative properties, Dr. Glendon (Henry Hull) receives a lycan bite. For him, he’s forever cursed. Plus, he loses his wife in a panicked attempt to save himself, all of this for his dedication to science.

Set in a fanciful portion of London, scenes feature elaborate dresses and parties. This is the snooty, pompous rich, lessening the cruelty of the inevitable murders to follow. So near a post-depression in ‘35, watching elites get taken down by a monster was certainly satisfying. Turns out, it still is.

Hull’s madness sustains the story if little else

Famed make-up artist Jack Pierce provides a unique creature look, more man than wolf, but angular and fierce too. Werewolf in London does perform the (now) nominal transformations. Hull sits still, make-up is applied through dissolve edits, and out pops a werewolf. But, there’s a brazen transformation too, more impressive than any in the core Wolf Man series as Hall passes by foreground pillars, each move adding pieces to the character. That’s stellar now, let alone in 1935.

The rest of Werewolf of London limps along. A triangle romance is trite and predictable. Hull’s madness sustains the story if little else. Numerous parties and social gatherings stall pacing. A little over an hour, the lack of cinema style and energy make watching Werewolf of London feel like double that length.

What’s tragic is a loss of empathy. That’s why The Wolf Man has a legacy. Larry Talbot’s characterization made a Universal icon. By comparison, Dr. Glendon acts primarily for his own selfishness. Talbot is willing to die to stop killing; Glendon seeks a cure to pursue his own research.

With the London setting and Glendon draped in a trenchcoat, hiding in shadows, there’s a clear link to Jack the Ripper. The period look and his affinity to prey on women doubles that effect. As such, Werewolf of London’s third act is a dry murder mystery where the killer’s identity is already known. That’s not engaging, and little of Werewolf in London is.

Video

With the exception of some banding, Universal treats their first werewolf outing with care. Grain is intact and pleasingly resolved. Behind that, some noticeable fine detail. Close-ups, those not done with the classic cinema haze, produce facial definition.

Strong adherence to gray scale and dense black levels give Werewolf of London striking dimension. Moments of bright contrast when Glendon shines moonlight onto his plants accentuates intensity.

Mild, acceptable wavering on the source print doesn’t cause any problems. A little flickering in the shadows is a nominal issue for a movie over 80 years-old.

Audio

While video is preserved with care, the audio takes the opposite approach. Haunted by extensive and obnoxious popping, Werewolf of London seems in desperate need of careful remastering. This DTS-HD track pushes a stream of static behind scratchy dialog. It’s organic in nature, but withering.

Also note an instance at 56-minutes. The volume suddenly falls 10 decibels or more, and continues like that for a some time. It’s fixable with a volume increase, but it’s a sudden drop.

Extras

Only the trailer is included.

Werewolf of London
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Movie

Werewolf of London holds significance as Universal’s first wolf man film, but it’s a dry, disinterested story outside of its history.

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