Werewolf of London (Blu-ray) (1935)
|Year Of Production||1935|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Stuart Walker|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 mono|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.37:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Botanist Dr Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull) is in Tibet searching for the extremely rare Mariphasa plant, which is only found in Tibet and blooms only by moonlight. He finds the plant in a remote valley, said to be haunted, where he is attacked and bitten by a wolf like creature. Back in London, Glendon works tirelessly in his laboratory to try to get the plant to blossom, ignoring his young wife Lisa (Valeria Hobson) even during a garden party held at their palatial home to show off his collection of exotic plants that is attended by an old flame of Lisa’s Paul Ames (Lester Matthews), nephew of Scotland Yard Inspector Sir Thomas Forsyth (Lawrence Grant). Also at the party is the mysterious Dr Yogami (Walter Oland) who wants to see the Mariphasa plant; he warns Glendon that the plant is the only known antidote for lycanthropy, a condition caused when a man is bitten by a werewolf and turns into a werewolf during the full moon with an urge to kill.
Glendon refuses to believe Yogami, but with the advent of the full moon he does turn into a werewolf and, on two successive nights, kills women, ripping out their throat. Dr Yogami goes to Scotland Yard but Sir Thomas will not believe his story that a werewolf is to blame for the murders, although Paul is not so sure. Fearful that he will kill his wife during the next night of the full moon, Glendon flees to Lisa’s family’s house in the country, only to be surprised by Lisa and Paul arriving. Paul and Glendon fight, but Glendon escapes. But that night, miles away, another woman is murdered by having her throat ripped apart, and Scotland Yard are faced with the possibility of there may be two werewolves on the loose. The next night, things come to a climax at the Glendon mansion.
In the 1930s Universal hit the jackpot with their monster / horror pictures starting with Dracula and Frankenstein (both 1931). These were not the first horror films of course; there was a silent Frankenstein as early as 1910 and the Dracula story had been filmed as Nosferatu in 1922. A werewolf, or wolf man, seemed a reasonable addition to the list of monsters and, indeed, Universal themselves had produced The Werewolf in 1913. However, The Werewolf of London did not launch a new monster franchise and that was left until 1941’s The Wolf Man which made a star of Lon Chaney Jr and spawned four sequels / spinoffs featuring the Wolf Man character.
There may be a number of reasons why The Werewolf of London did not take off like the The Wolf Man. At 75 minutes running time it is longer than most of the other Universal horror titles and certainly it meanders along when it could be focussing on the monster plot; there is a garden party and a soiree featuring “Toffy” English accents and silly chatter, of which Aunt Ettie (Spring Byington) is probably the most annoying, and scenes involving a couple of gin drinking “cockney” landladies, which just slow down the action. As well, Henry Hull, who had 113 credits listed on the IMDb in a career that stretched from 1917 to 1966 mostly is supporting roles, is glum and has little spark as a leading man. The best performance comes from Walter Oland who at least adds some ominousness to the proceedings. At this time Oland was a recognisable star for Fox, playing Charlie Chan in sixteen films between 1931 and 1937.
Perhaps the biggest problem is the make-up. The master Jack Pierce had created the iconic look for Boris Karloff in both Frankenstein and The Mummy but his design for the werewolf make-up in The Werewolf of London was disliked by Henry Hull and the film’s producers, who required Pierce to tone it down so that Hull after his transformation would still appear recognisable and human. The result certainly did that, but audiences were obviously not impressed; Pierce had the last laugh, thought, as his original design was used on Lon Chaney Jr in The Wolf Man six years later, becoming the iconic wolf man look ever since!
The Werewolf of London is perhaps a curiosity, a trial run for the more successful, and famous, werewolf monster films to come, but is worth a look.
The Werewolf of London is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.
This is a film that is now over 80 years old and while it is not perfect, it still looks pretty good. Although contrast does vary, most scenes have strong detail. Grain is evident, mostly under control although it is prominent is some scenes leaving greys a bit splotchy. Blacks are generally good, as is shadow detail. There are occasional artefacts, a couple of frame jumps and a couple a vertical scratches but nothing serious.
English for the hearing impaired, Spanish and French subtitles are available.
The only audio is English DTS-HD MA 2.0 (mono).
The audio is not as good. Dialogue was always easy to understand and the effects, such as they are, acceptable. However, there is frequent hiss and some crackles throughout the film and at 56:10 there is a sudden drop in volume so you need to turn the volume up for the rest of the film.
The score was by Karl Hajos; it is melodic and strident, as was common for the time.
Lip synchronisation was fine.
|Surround Channel Use|
On start-up you are required first to select The Werewolf of London or She-Wolf of London to watch. The selected film commences without a further menu, but you can use the pop-up menu via the remote to select top menu, chapters, subtitles and the film’s unrestored trailer.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This Blu-ray release of The Werewolf of London starts with the US FBI antipiracy warning. The film does not appear to be available anywhere as a stand-alone Blu-ray but is part of The Wolf Man: Complete Legacy Collection (see the summary below) available locally and in other regions. Buy local.
The Werewolf of London is a bit slow, silly in places, not overly scary and the monster make-up leaves something to be desired. Still, as the first “sound” werewolf picture it is a curiosity that is worth a look for fans.
The film looks pretty good on Blu-ray for an 80 year old film, the audio is the original mono but has some issues. A trailer is the only extra although there are two complete werewolf films on this Blu-ray.
The Werewolf of London is included in Universal’s 4 Blu-ray The Wolf Man: Complete Legacy Collection which has Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945) on one Blu-ray, Werewolf of London and She-Wolf of London (1946) on another and The Wolf Man (1941) and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) on separate Blu-rays, a collection that is great value for fans of Universal horror.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|