The Wolf Man (1941)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 3-Oct-2002

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Monsters By Moonlight
Audio Commentary-Tom Weaver
Gallery-The Wolf Man Archives
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1941
Running Time 67:03
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (52:12) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By George Waggner
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Lon Chaney Jr.
Claude Rains
Evelyn Ankers
Bela Lugosi
Ralph Bellamy
Maria Ouspenskaya
Warren William
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Charles Previn


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Arabic
Czech
Greek
Hungarian
Turkish
Romanian
English Audio Commentary
Arabic Audio Commentary
Czech Audio Commentary
Greek Audio Commentary
Hungarian Audio Commentary
Turkish Audio Commentary
Romanian Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Wolf Man is a film that has been made many times, firstly as a silent film in 1915, but it is this 1941 version that is generally considered the best version. It is also one of a number of horror films made by Universal Studio in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Mummy, King Kong, The Bride of Frankenstein, and The Creature From The Black Lagoon which are now generally regarded as horror classics.

    The plot revolves around Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains) and the return of his younger son Larry (Lon Chaney Jr., who played the wolf man five times in various films during his career), to his estate after an absence of 18 years, following the unfortunate death of his elder son. On his return, Larry wastes no time getting to know the people of the estate and the local village, in particular Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers) who has caught his eye. Gwen, who is already engaged, tries to dissuade his interest but also seems to be quite charmed by him and finally agrees to accompany him, together with her friend Jenny Williams (Fay Helm) on a visit to a nearby Gypsy camp in order to have their fortunes told. Jenny goes first to have her fortune read by Bela (Bela Lugosi) who sees the mark of the pentagram on her palm. We've earlier learnt that this is the sign of the werewolf and Bela advises Jenny to leave the area quickly. Meanwhile Larry and Gwen have wondered away from the camp and are chatting in the now dark and foggy woods when a scream rings out. Larry rushes in the direction of the sound and finds Jenny being attacked by a wolf. He succeeds in killing it but is too late to save her. Unfortunately, he is bitten by the wolf (and we all know what that means don't we?). Investigation of the incident by Col. Paul Montford, the Chief Constable (played by a very young-looking Ralph Bellamy) finds not only the dead woman but also nearby, not a dead wolf but the dead gypsy Bela. Somehow, he avoids getting into any trouble for killing a man rather than a wolf, mainly I guess because they start to think he's crazy. After all, even his bite wound has disappeared by morning so there's not too much evidence to support his story. Anyhow, at this stage, trouble with the police is the least of his worries.

    If you are interested in vintage horror films then this is sure to be a title to add to your collection. Certainly if you are a fan I recommend both the audio commentary track by film historian Tom Weaver and the Monsters by Moonlight featurette which are both full of interesting information. If you're just looking for a good scare then I don't think you're likely to achieve the desired effect by watching this film, as you've probably been spoilt by much more sophisticated modern films.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a sixty year old film and taking into consideration its age, the transfer to DVD is quite good. Clearly, the source material have been well looked after and is in good condition. I've certainly seen younger films than this that didn't look anywhere near as good.

    The original aspect ratio for this movie is 1.37:1 and this is almost the 1.33:1 that has been reproduced here. Naturally, given this aspect ratio there is no 16x9 enhancement.

    Sharpness and shadow detail are quite adequate although the sharpness does vary from time to time. There are a number of scenes in which there is fog and this quite naturally softens the image. There is no low level noise.

    This is a black and white movie and it exhibits a full grey scale.

    Film artefacts in the form of small black and white marks abound and appear constantly throughout the entire running time although these are mostly very small and I didn't find them at all distracting. From time to time there are also fine black vertical scratches. Film grain is also noticeable throughout the film. I didn't spot any telecine wobble or aliasing in this transfer.

    There are 14 subtitle options including English. I watched 10 minutes of these and found them to be just about word perfect. There are also subtitles for the audio commentary. A similar sample of these showed them to also be very close to word perfect. All the subtitles were well timed and displayed in easily readable text.

    Even though this is quite a short film it is still presented on an RSDL disc with the layer change occurring during Chapter 13 (which somehow seems to be the perfect place for a horror film) at 52:12. It is perfectly placed and hardly noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Although the audio has a dated quality to it, like the video, it is also in very good condition for a film of this vintage.

    There are two audio tracks and I listened to them both. Firstly, there is the movie soundtrack which is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and then there is the commentary track by film historian  Tom Weaver which is also Dolby Digital 2.0.

    I'd didn't have any trouble understanding the dialogue in either audio track as it was alway clear. I also didn't notice any particular problems with the audio sync.

    The music, in my opinion, in moments of the highest tension is overly dramatic and at other times overly sweet. If you're a fan of horror films from this period I'm sure you'll know just what I mean by this. In fact, I've always had the impression that the music from horror films of the period used basically the same score with only minor changes, so it was interesting that Tom Weaver made a point in his commentary about how most of the music in this film is original but that some was indeed recycled from other productions and how the music written for this film was also reused in later productions.

    As this is a mono soundtrack, the surrounds are not used. Even with my amplifier set to redirect the bass to the subwoofer there was only minimal sound emanating from it and this really didn't add anything to the overall sonic quality of the audio.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There is a nice collection of extras present that are very informative and provide heaps of information about this movie and the vintage horror genre in general.

Menu

    The menu is displayed in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and features Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio as well as animation.

Featurette-Monsters By Moonlight (32:36)

    Presented by John Landis, this is a fascinating look into the history of the Wolf Man, werewolves and related horror stories. It includes interviews with Rick Baker, who discusses the make up techniques used by Jack Pierce in this film, writer Curt Siodmak and others. This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Audio Commentary-Tom Weaver

    This is a fascinating commentary which is delivered at a rapid rate by Tom Weaver. It's full of fascinating background information about virtually everything and everybody connected with this film.

Gallery-The Wolf Man Archives (6:44)

    A nice collection of images of movie posters and still shots from the film which is displayed in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 music from the movie soundtrack.

Theatrical Trailer (1:49)

    This features Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio and is displayed in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The source materials used for this look every bit of their 60 plus years of age.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 and Region 1 discs are identical except that we have more subtitle options.

Summary

    The Wolf Man is only likely to appeal to fans of vintage horror, the plot being too obvious by today's more sophisticated standards.

    The video quality is in very good condition given the age of the film.

    The audio, although dated sounding, is also in very good condition for its age.

    The extras are very satisfactory and I'm sure that fans of the genre will enjoy the audio commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Peter Cole (Surely you've got something better to do than read my bio)
Saturday, December 14, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-995
SpeakersFront L&R - B&W DM603, Centre - B&W LCR6, Rear L&R - B&W DM602, Sub - Yamaha YST-SW300

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Robert M
The DVD Bits - Lorraine A
Web Wombat - James A

Comments (Add) NONE