The Wolf Man

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"The way you walked was thorny..."

"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."


Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) is about to have a really bad night. He's just returned to his family's home in Llanwelly, Wales, to reconcile with his father. While there, he meets and starts pursuing Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers), a shopkeeper who sold him a walking stick adorned with a silver wolf's head (which she says represents a werewolf). In the course of rescuing Gwen's friend Jenny from an apparent wolf attack, Larry is bitten. He soon learns from a gypsy fortuneteller that the wolf in question was actually a werewolf, specifically her son Bela roaming the countryside in the form of a wolf. Bela had been a werewolf for years, and has now passed on the curse to Larry.

Can Larry overcome this curse? Are his friends and family safe from the roaming beast? Will anyone take a werewolf named Larry seriously?

The Wolf Man is a 1941 monster Horror Film written by Curt Siodmak and produced and directed by George Waggner, starring Lon Chaney, Jr., Claude Rains, Evelyn Ankers, Ralph Bellamy, Patric Knowles, Bela Lugosi, and Maria Ouspenskaya. The title character has had a great deal of influence on Hollywood's depictions of the legend of the werewolf. The film is the second Universal Pictures werewolf movie, preceded six years earlier by the less commercially successful Werewolf of London.

Lon Chaney, Jr.'s Wolf Man was featured in four further films in the Universal monster cycle:

A remake of The Wolf Man, starring Benicio Del Toro as Lawrence Talbot, was released on February 12, 2010, is a Pragmatic Adaptation and more of an Homage to its predecessor. Some of the most noticeable differences from the original are that it's now set in 1891 England as opposed to 1940s Wales, and is also much darker and more violent than its 1941 counterpart.

However, it still manages to keep most of the names of the original characters and some key plot points. It even even adds new characters and expands upon old, and the werewolf designs are kept similar to the designs in the original and even use real makeup and costumes instead of relying on CGI.

Despite not being a box office success, the remake did receive an Oscar for Best Makeup. Shortly afterwards, Universal announced plans to make the Wolf Man into a direct-to-video film franchise.

Tropes used in The Wolf Man include:

Both Versions

The 1941 version

  • Chekhov's Gun: Larry's cane
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Pretty much the reason for the existence of Frank Andrews in the film. Universal had used this same trope in Werewolf of London (and indeed in the original cut of Frankenstein as well, in which Henry had been killed).
  • Damsel in Distress: Gwen at the end.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog
  • Foot Focus: On the night of his first transformation, Larry removes his shoes and discovers strands of fur on his shins. The camera continues this focus as Larry transforms and is seen walking through the woods.
  • Furry Confusion: When Bela the werewolf attacks Jenny and Larry, it is in the form of a quadrupedal, totally bestial-appearing wolf; when Larry the werewolf attacks, it is in the bipedal form of a Wolf Man.
  • Human-to-Werewolf Footprints
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Though Larry's accent is justified by the statement that he has been away in America for years, it is still remarkable that in a story set in Wales not a single character speaks with a Welsh accent. Perhaps the most glaring examples are Ralph Bellamy's Colonel Mountford and Warren Williams' Dr. Lloyd, both clearly Americans -- but even the British cast members are all clearly either English or Irish.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: In addition to introducing the Wolf Man variant to popular culture, this movie also introduced the silver vulnerability to the mythos, as well as the forced shape-shifting under the full moon, and being marked with a pentagram.
  • Roma: Maria Ouspenskaya's old gypsy fortuneteller, Maleva.
    • And to a lesser extent, Bela Lugosi's role as her son.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Larry. At least, he comes off as this for the first ten minutes of the movie, because it becomes less stalker-ish as the movie goes on. Gwen is initially perturbed because she's already engaged to another man and she's uncomfortable at the thought of Larry being able to peer into her window. For most of the movie, she seems to clearly be struggling to not be attracted to him, making her a very unusual case of a "love interest" in a film like this.
  • Trope Codifier / Trope Maker: For the werewolf movie. Also for werewolves in general, as there's no lycanthrope's equivalent of Dracula.

The 2010 version

  • Action Girl: Gwen Conliffe eventually becomes the Victorian equivalent of this when she becomes so motivated by trying to save Lawrence that she totes a gun around while running around in a dark forest in the middle of the night -- certainly breaking the Damsel in Distress version of her character from 1941.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The 2010 version explores a very different side of the relationship between Lawrence and his father as well as the psychological aspects the 1941 version wanted to do intentionally.
    • Gwen and Lawrence's romance gets a little more foundation than in the original, mostly due to the fact that this time around Gwen doesn't exactly have a living fiancé.
      • It also does away with the creepy stalker undertones that took hold of the beginning of their relationship in the original.
    • The side effects of becoming a werewolf, such as fast healing, more acute hearing, and increased physical strength are shown.
    • Abberline is a new character, added to serve as a sort of an Anti-Villain.
    • Sir John's butler, Singh, is a new character as well.
    • We actually get to see Lawrence's brother and mother, who only received a passing mention in the original.
    • In the extended cut, a good chunk of pre-establishment about Lawrence's father and mother are left out.
  • Adrenaline Makeover: Gwen gradually gets this over the course of the movie. Initially, she comes off as a very proper and somewhat quiet woman. However, as she becomes determined to find a cure for Lawrence towards the end of the movie, she starts to wear less fancy attire and her hair is noticeably a little unkempt from her nights of searching for answers. By the finale, her hair is down, she is wearing a slightly lower cut and dirtier looking dress than her earlier attire, and carries around a silver bullet loaded pistol.
  • Affably Evil: Sir John turns out to be quite evil indeed...but dang! is he suave.
    • He is played by Hannibal Lector, after all, the king of Affably Evil
  • The Alcoholic: Lawrence comes off as this in the movie. Played pretty straight in the book adaptation of the movie.
  • All Just a Dream: Lawrence has quite a few hallucinations while recovering from his nasty little bite.
    • Also the hallucinations in the asylum.
  • Always Save The Guy: Gwen's actions in protecting Lawrence from Abberline are understandable, but she is also putting the chance that he can be cured above the likelihood that he will kill again (and in fact Lawrence does end up infecting someone directly because of her.)
  • Anyone Can Die
  • Ascended Fanboy: Del Toro himself had been a long-time fan of Lon Chaney, especially of his performance as Lawrence Talbot. He reveals in an interview that he always wanted to portray him, and wouldn't you know it, he got his wish.
  • Badass/BadassNormal: Abberline. But then again, when has Hugo Weaving ever played anything but a badass
  • Ballroom Blitz: The extended version has Lawrence's rampage through London take him into a conservatory ballroom. Carnage ensues.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: As part of the Grand Finale.
  • Battle Butler: Sir John's butler, Singh, is armed to the teeth with silver bullets and other monster-killing devices.
    • Didn't do him much good in the end though...
    • Also he loses points for not realizing the silver bullets are sabotaged
  • Bedlam House: Lambert Asylum.
  • Better to Die Than Be Killed: Averted. During one of Lawrence's rampages, he chases one of his hunters into a bog. Trapped, the hunter fires his revolver at Lawrence. It doesn't work, and the hunter attempts to shoot himself. Turns out that he spent his six on the beast, and gets graphically decapitated instead.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: The Talbots got issues to say the least.
  • Blood From the Mouth: One of the more squicky parts of the werewolf transformation. What? You think those pointy teeth just poof into your mouth?!
    • Might also possibly be from internal organs shifting around and what not...
  • Bloodier and Gorier: So very much more so than the original...
  • Body Horror: Just about all the transformation sequences, in all their bone-cracking, blood vomiting horror.
  • Campbell Country: Blackmoor definitely fits this trope, and it even comes complete with scary woods!
  • Chiaroscuro
  • Composite Character: Sir John Talbot replaces the Gypsy's son, Bela, as the werewolf who gives Lawrence his curse.
    • Also, Ben Talbot replaces Frank Andrews as Gwen's fiancé.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason For Abandoning You: He didn't want you to out him about being a werewolf and on inadvertently killing your mommy.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: You've had quite a nice little messed up childhood, haven't you, Lawrence? What with witnessing your mother's death and all.
    • Then being sent to a mad-house where you underwent all sorts of nasty treatments and then shipped off to live with a distant relative in America.
  • Death by Adaptation : Sir John
  • Death by Cameo: Rick Baker (the head make-up designer for the remake's wolfman and noted special effects guru for films like An American Werewolf in London) plays one of the first victims.
  • Death by Irony: Dr. Hannigan claims that Lawrence will no more likely change into a werewolf than he is likely to sprout wings and fly out the window!
    • Well, he doesn't sprout wings at any rate...
  • Deleted Scene: In the trailer, there's a scene where Wolfman!Larry, on his London rampage, bursts into a masquerade ball and then proceeds to kill and splatter blood on the guests. However, this scene was sadly cut probably due to time constraints.
    • Apparently there's actually 20 minutes of footage left out of the final cut of the movie that will be featured on the DVD.
  • Demoted to Extra: Maleva, who was one of the more helpful and prominent characters in the original, gets this. Although, Gwen sort of fills her shoes as the figure trying to help Lawrence with his curse this time around.
  • Development Hell: The movie was planned out and was to be directed by Mark Romanek (of One Hour Photo fame), but he left due to not being able to make changes during the writer's strike at the time. Joe Johnston took over and shot the film in spring/summer of 2008 for a fall 2008 release, but was held back until 2010 due to re-shoots by demand of the studio.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight After Gwen's Shoot the Dog moment, Lawrence returns to human form and spends his last moments of life in Gwen's arms before he appropriately dies at the end
  • Diving Save: Lawrence saves a gypsy child by doing this right before the first werewolf attacks her.
  • Dream Within a Dream: During one of Lawrence's hallucinations while in the Asylum and while healing.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Lawrence after learning of Ben's death and then seeing what's left of him.
  • Ethereal Choir: This is Danny Elfman we're talking about, but it's not used as much as an effect compared to his other scores and is only used in a few scenes.
  • Erotic Dream: Err, Somewhat. During one of Lawrence's hallucinations in the asylum, we see a back-naked Gwen for a few moments.
    • Probably Foreshadowing to his growing feelings toward her and a possible subconscious desire to be with her.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: More like "Evil Detecting Horses", in this case.
    • Also evil detecting bear and evil detecting deer. Ironically averted by the single one dog (it always growls at Lawrence, well before he is infected, while it is completely oblivious to the original werewolf because he is its owner)
  • Excuse Me, Coming Through: A more humorous moment in the film where Abberline invades a house and interrupts an in-progress violin recital in order to catch up to Lawrence during his London rampage
  • Executive Meddling: The reason the prologue is so short and why a good chunk of character development and establishment are left out. Suits though the audience would want more Wolfman and less storytelling.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: Complete with the classic little Victorian British boy in a cap on the corner of the sidewalk selling newspapers.
  • Extremely Dusty Home: Talbot Hall is certainly untidy to say the least.
  • Eyes of Gold: Werewolves' eyes turn gold as part of their transformation.
  • Fake Memories: As a child, Lawrence's memories of his mother's death were re-formed during his time in the asylum so he would believe that his mother killed herself and concealed his real memories of his werewolf father tearing her throat out.
  • Forging Scene: When practically the entire village brings their silver to be forged into bullets for protection.
  • Gainax Ending: Sorta...It's more of a really ambiguous cliffhanger ending
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: When Lawrence begins his first transformation, his father moves into the shadows, with his eyes creepily glowing in the darkness - albeit only for a moment.
  • Go Among Mad People: Lawrence gets tossed into a hellhole asylum, the same one he'd been committed to as a boy.
  • God Help Us All: Inspector Abberline upon the seeing the Wolfman escape a barrage of gunfire during the London rampage.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Love it or hate it, the movie had awesome costumes.
  • Grave Clouds
  • Hands-On Approach: In the stone-skipping scene. Oops, is that a little blush we see on your face, Gwen?
  • Hannibal Lecture: From Sir John Talbot, appropriately enough
  • Healing Factor: One of the upsides of being a werewolf.
  • Hearing Voices: Lawrence
  • Herr Doctor: Dr. Hannigan
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Abberline spends most of the movie hell-bent on killing Lawrence, but in the end he's bitten by Lawrence and it's implied the curse has been passed on to him.
  • Historical Domain Character: Abberline is a fictionalized version of the real life Inspector Frederick Abberline.
  • Hope Spot: In the final scene, we see that Gwen is able to reach Lawrence and stops him from attacking her. It seems, for a moment, that Lawrence may actually pull through. That is, until the hunters show up, and break his moment of clarity, which inevitably forces Gwen to shoot him.
  • I'll Kill You!:

Lawrence Talbot: I will kill ALL OF YOU!

    • Oddly enough, it's almost a subversion. Despite the delivery, Lawrence is trying to warn the assembled doctors that he's a dire threat, rather than making a promise of revenge.
    • Played straight with Lawrence to his father when he learns he was the werewolf who bit him AND killed his mother and brother
  • I Kiss Your Hand
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Dr. Hannigan
  • Inspector Javert: Inspector Abberline, appropriately enough.
  • Interrupted Cooldown Hug: Gwen was giving a Cooldown Hug to Lawrence in the end, but of course, that dang angry mob just had to come by and ruin everything.
  • In a Single Bound: Larry quite impressively clears an entire police blockade in a single leap, much to Abberline's dismay.
  • It's Personal: Larry in relation to his own father, who is revealed to have killed his wife and oldest son and bit Larry, thus spreading the curse to him.
  • Jack the Ripper: It's mentioned that Abberline was in charge of the Ripper case before being assigned to Blackmoor. Historically, he was.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: And how!
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: It's not so much that he forgot, but rather Lawrence's memories were literally re-wrote so that real memories of his werewolf father killing his mother were made to appear that she had killed herself with a razor.
  • Let Them Die Happy: Lawrence dies in the end, but he stays alive for a few moments to reassure and thank Gwen for "setting him free." However, he dies before learning that he has bitten Abberline and that he may very well be cursed as well.
    • He could also be happy from realizing that since he was still alive to that point meant he had succeeded in defeating his father, meaning neither of them will hurt anyone again. However, this only makes the ending more tragic when we find out what becomes of Abberline.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Lawrence's father is the werewolf who bit him, and in turn, passed his werewolf curse on to him.
  • Logo Joke: The Universal earth reveals a full moon. Also the unrated version kept the Art-Deco Globe logo featured in the original 1941 version.
  • Losing Your Head: Several people are quite headless by the end of this movie.
  • Made of Plasticine: You might as well be if you're unfortunate enough to cross paths with the werewolves in this movie.
  • Madness Mantra: "Where is my father?"
  • Madness Montage: Did we mention all the hallucinations poor Lawrence has?
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: A big offender; dozens of men are killed and messily dismembered on screen while the very few female deaths are merely implied. Or, in the case of Lawrence's mother played for maximum tragedy and horror as against the Gorn the male victims go through.
    • A particularly bad example occurs in a deleted scene, in which the werewolf hears a blind woman giving a singing performance and goes to investigate. As he approaches the singer, a man grabs him by the wrist, thinking he's another guest (the performance is also a costume party). It makes sense that the werewolf would freak out and kill the guy for that, given how crazy we see werewolves are. Then we get all of the guests running away, leaving the blind singer alone and confused, not knowing who the growling person in front of her is. She starts touching the werewolf's face and he doesn't do a thing to her! In fact, he doesn't move until Abberline shoots at him through a window! The singer is left entirely untouched.
  • Mind Rape: What essentially happens to Lawrence after his time in the asylum, poor man.
  • Mind Screw/ What Do You Mean It's Not Symbolic?: Did Gwen really visit Lawrence in the asylum? Or did Sir John for that matter? Is there some hidden symbolism behind the razor and all the candles everywhere?! Not to mention all the symbolism and foreshadowing in the hallucination sequences.
  • Moral Dissonance: Gwen stops Abberline from shooting Lawrence, which in turn causes him to get bitten. However, this really didn't do much good since Gwen ended up shooting Lawrence herself in the end.
    • Although, she's somewhat justified since she was still convinced she could reach Lawrence, and well...she was right. Plus, she probably figured that Lawrence would have finished off Abberline instead of chasing after her instead.
    • It might be more of a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero -- Abberline getting cursed is directly her fault and presumably she's going to feel guilty about it, but it's not like she deliberately threw Abberline to the wolves. She was instinctively trying to save Lawrence and things went awry.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Most of the movie takes place in sleepy little English hamlet of Blackmoor, that's not ominous at all!
  • Noisy Nature
  • Notable Non Sequitur: Sir John Talbot warns his son not to go out on the full moon, which, of course, sets up the inevitable werewolf attack. The Notable part of this is where Sir John tells Lawrence this because Sir John is the werewolf and (at least, initially) doesn't want to be responsible for his remaining son's death.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Justified with Lawrence, since in this version he spent most of his life in America where his accent probably dissipated, but even this American troper heard Sir Anthony's lilt.
    • Also since Benicio is a native Spanish speaker, his accent does seem to slip in a few scenes with varying degrees.
      • Might be justifiable as well, since his mother in this version was visibly of some Spanish decent.
      • But he still gets Brownie Points for a good effort.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Gwen stops Abberline from shooting Lawrence, thus causing him to be bitten and cursed to become a werewolf. Made worse that she eventually shoots Lawrence herself in self-defense.
  • Nightmare Sequence
  • One-Scene Wonder: an uncredited Max Von Sydow, in the extended version, as the mysterious man who gives Lawrence the silver cane.
  • Only I Can Kill Him: After many days of sleepless research, Gwen discovers only how to kill Talbot, not how to cure him. In desperation she searches for the Gypsy fortune-teller, but she only confirms it: A werewolf can only be slain with silver, and only by someone who loves him.
  • Or Was It a Dream??: Did Gwen really visit Lawrence in the Asylum or was she just a hallucination?
    • She probably did visit, although Lawrence was probably so whacked out his memories of her visit became very convoluted and hallucination filled.
  • Pater Familicide: Given that John is the one who killed his wife and Ben and probably would have succeeded in killing Larry if the hunters hadn't come along...
  • Papa Wolf: An instance of this occurs when Sir John tries to protect Larwrence from the angry mob trying to capture him by shooting at them, and possibly even blinding someone in the process, showing that he may truly care for his son.
    • Highly Subverted when he ends up trying to kill Lawrence later on after revealing he already killed his brother and mother...and that he's a werewolf himself...TraumaCongaLine much?
    • Also subverted when he lets the angry mob drag Lawrence off to an insane asylum right after the poor guy wakes up after the full moon and is scared and confused.
  • Painful Transformation: Much more painful than the ol' days of the stop motion transformation sequences where the worst part was just sitting still long enough while they applied makeup.
  • Parental Abandonment: Lawrence witnessed his mother's "suicide" as a child, and if that's not traumatic enough, his father throws him into an asylum and then ships him off to live with his aunt in America afterwards.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse
  • The Power of Love: Lawrence's feelings for Gwen bring out what's left of his humanity, but only right before Gwen "sets him free."
  • Pragmatic Adaptation
  • Rage Against the Reflection: More like, push away the reflection, once it starts to sink in what Lawrence is becoming, or that he might be going insane.
  • Reflective Eyes: "Gwen..."
  • Revised Ending: Apparently the original ending, in the rough draft of the screenplay that was leaked online before the movie's release, had Lawrence throw himself off a cliff in order to save Gwen from himself. Yeah, glad they re-worked that one.
  • Roof Hopping: Werewolf style!
  • Rustproof Blood: Averted: the dried blood we see on Lawrence ranges from rust colored to almost black in some instances.
  • Scare Chord: The overwhelming majority of the frights in the film are solely due to this, rather than anything that actually happens on screen.
  • Scenery Porn: There's countless gorgeous shots of the English country side coupled with the elaborate sets and props.
  • Sequel Hook: Lawrence Talbot bites Inspector Abberline
  • Slashed Throat: Several!
  • Shout-Out: Even though the remake differs significantly from the original, they did keep a few tidbits from the 1941 version:
    • Gwen's family owns an antique shop
    • Lawrence's cane is similar to the one in the original, sporting a wolf's head and star.
    • Plus, Sir John beating the crap out of Lawrence with said cane but not in self defense, oh, far from it
    • The telescope
    • Also a possible Shout-Out combined with a meta-example of a Stealth Pun:
      • Lawrence, who has lived in the United States since he was a child, and who has recently contracted lycanthropy, is sent to an asylum in London. Making him, naturally, An American Werewolf in London.
    • The gypsy girl Lawrence saves is named Maria, which might possibly be a subtle nod to Maria Ouspenskaya, who played Maleva in the original.
    • del Toro's Talbot bears a striking resemblance to Oliver Reed's Leon from the Hammer Horror Curse of the Werewolf.
      • And you don't get more Spanish with a name like Benicio del Toro.
      • The idea that love might inhibit the transformation is also from Curse.
    • Also might be a subtle shout out to Werewolf of London. Not just for the fact Lawrence terrorized London for part of the film, but mainly for the ending scenes. Lawrence stays alive long enough to thank Gwen for shooting him and reassures her that it was the right thing to do, much like Dr. Glendon reassures his wife and friends in a similar nature.
      • And the remake keeps it shorter, simpler, and much more emotional than Werewolf of London which got long winded, wordy and a little silly.
    • The fact that Sir John received the curse from the bite of a feral child is an even subtler one. In the earliest treatment of the original movie, the titular Wolf Man would have been an orphan raised by wolves. This upbringing would have been the source of his lycanthropy.
  • Shout-Out/To Shakespeare: Quite a few from Hamlet, considering Lawrence is an actor in this version whose most recent play was Hamlet and the references and parallels to the play are played pretty creepily in the film. And Hamlet was famously played by Sir Lawrence Olivier.
  • Silver Bullet: What kind of remake would it be if it didn't have at least one silver bullet?
  • Stop Trick: The transformation sequences were shot as a series of these.
  • Super Window Jump
  • Sword Cane
  • These Hands Have Killed / Blood on These Hands: Lawrence the morning after his first transformation.
    • "You've done terrible things..."
  • Time Lapse: The film is guilty of probably using one too many time lapses of the sky and moon. Although the majority are used as a part of a Time Passes Montage.
  • Tonight Someone Dies: It's never actually said, but it's strongly implied that someone ain't living to see the end of this movie.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Things just keep getting worse for Lawrence...
  • Travel Montage
  • Travelling At the Speed of Plot: In preparation for the climax, Lawrence, Gwen, and Inspector Abberline all travel from London to the village, leaving at roughly the same time. Lawrence is on foot and seems to be keeping away from the roads. Gwen is on horseback. Abberline is in a horse-drawn carriage with several other policemen. They all arrive on the same day.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Maleva tells Gwen that there might be a way to lift the curse, albeit very risky one... but we don't get to hear it. Cruelly subverted: looks like it's working, but ultimately the plan fails due to hunters arriving.
  • Victorian Britain: Setting for the majority of the film, until we eventually venture to...
  • Victorian London: The setting for part of the second and third act.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Ben Talbot is killed only a few minutes into the film.
  • Weird Moon: Subverted: The time between each transformation is roughly 28 days apart.
  • White Shirt of Death: Played for full horrific effect when Lawrence wakes up after his first transformation. The white shirt he was wearing was quite messy.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Sir John's lycanthropy has most certainly gone to his head.