This weekend (September 27th 2015) marks what is being called a “Super” Blood Moon Eclipse and also the first weekend of Autumn. So I thought it would be fitting to pay homage to Universal Studio’s “Lost Werewolf” Henry Hull. While we may all know Lon Chaney Jr as the iconic Wolf-man, whom Chaney portrayed as if he was born for the role, many are not aware of Universal’s first werewolf film and star Henry Hull in Werewolf of London (1935).
Hull was a very successful actor known for his unique voice starring in films from 1917 to 1966. Born on October 3rd 1890 (Happy Birthday Henry!!) in Louisville KY he got his start like many actors and actresses of the time on the stage frequently doing parts on Broadway. But it was one role in particular that would usher in a series of successful films for Universal Studios and that was the role of Wilfred Glendon a wealthy botanist who stumbles on the possible medical uses of the mariphasa plant and also ends up stricken with Lycanthropy seeking out the plant. Mariphasa could possibly be a reference to the better known Monk’s Hood or Wolf’s Bane plant, famous in Werewolf lore. (Side note: The Canadian films Ginger Snaps and Ginger Snaps II do a great job on the part Monk’s Hood and Wolf’s Bane plays in Lycanthropy)
Interestingly enough the original Werewolf makeup design by Jack Pierce looked exactly like that of Chaney’s Wolf-man but Hull protested the long hours of make-up and stated it restricted important facial expressions. So a more minimalist approach was taken and I think Hull’s make-up looked far better than Chaney’s. Another key piece of trivia for Werewolf of London is that the Werewolf howl was a mix of Hull’s actual voice and that of a real wolf. An audio effect never again repeated in Werewolf film history. At the time in 1935 the film flopped being criticized as being a copy of Jekyll & Hyde that was released a couple years earlier. Universal would not attempt another Werewolf film until The Wolf-man in 1941. But this should not discourage modern horror film buffs from viewing Werewolf of London. The script is well written and Hull’s portrayal of Glendon was well done drawing in empathy from the viewer. The minimal make-up is very effective as noted above and makes Hull’s monster even more convincing. Keep in mind a Werewolf is a human taking on characteristics of a wolf, or a hybrid of man and wolf – not becoming a full blown wolf itself. Personally I never agreed with the CGI Werewolves characters become it takes away from the conflict the human is going through while dealing with Lycanthropy.
So this weekend if you find yourself with a free hour to kill or wanted something fresh to watch in the Werewolf or horror genre before moon gazing then queue this classic film up. You won’t be disappointed and it does serve as the original film that would later make Lon Chaney Jr. famous for. Summon the inner wolf inside you and watch Werewolf of London 1935.
Lycanthropy or Werewolfism: The affliction of taking on characteristics of or becoming a hybrid of a wolf during phases of the full moon. Said to be spread by the bite or scratch of another Werewolf.
Monk’s Hood or Wolf’s Bane: A very poisonous and toxic plant in real life (don’t touch it!) the plant in Werewolf lore is known for killing a Werewolf or in the case of the Ginger Snaps films, Monk’s Hood was used as a possible cure for Lycanthropy. But in all seriousness, the plants really are toxic though attractive to look at.