The Wolf Man (1941)

Written by: Curt Siodmak

Directed by: George Waggner

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Runtime: 70 minutes (1 hour 10 minutes)

Certificate: PG (UK)


If you’re a fan of the werewolf sub-genre of movies then you will undoubtedly know all of the classic tropes that have become somewhat stereotypical and predictable within most of them. Be it the werewolf’s weakness for silver, the gypsy curse, or the classic poem that begins “Even a man who is pure in heart…”. Well, those classic tropes all began with this classic film, and although this was not Universal’s first Werewolf film, it was certainly the most popular.


Lawrence ‘Larry’ Talbot has returned home to his father’s estate in Wales, and after spending some time adjusting to country life again after living in America for eighteen years, Larry meets a beautiful woman by the name of Gwen Conliffe. One night Larry, Gwen and Gwen’s friend Jenny pay a visit to the gypsies that have set up camp in the nearby woods, to have their fortunes told. However, things don’t go the way they’d hoped when all of a sudden, Bela the gypsy becomes unsettled and begs them all to leave.

Jenny is attacked by a wolf, and as Larry tries to save her, he is bitten and so from that night, he begins to undergo physical changes when the full moon rises.

Left to Right: Bela (Bela Lugosi), Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers), Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) & Jenny (Fay Helm)


Nowadays werewolf films share a lot of the same tropes and stereotypes that we come to expect, but what some people don’t realise is that a lot of these tropes began with this film. For instance, “the mark of the werewolf”, or “the mark of the wolf man” as it’s sometimes referred to, is said to be a mark that appears on the hand of either the werewolf themselves, or the werewolf’s next victim. It is often seen as a pentagram, a five-pointed star, but has been seen in some other media as either a claw mark or a wolf’s paw. In this film, it is the pentagram.

Another popular trope is the werewolf’s weakness to silver. Silver is a metal often associated with the moon, so it makes sense to make the connection between werewolves and silver. This film popularised that connection and so silver has been the most popular weakness for werewolves ever since. In this film, however, there are no silver bullets. Instead, Larry Talbot buys a silver-headed cane, that just so happens to be in the shape of a wolf’s head with the mark of the werewolf also engraved into it.

The most popular trope that came from this classic film, was the poem often repeated in many werewolf-centric films since this one. The poem reads:

“Even a man who is pure in heart,

And says his prayers by night,

May become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms,

And the autumn moon is bright.”

This poem was believed by many to be a historical poem but was in fact created by Curt Siodmak for this film, and has since been used in many werewolf films as either a warning or an explanation. Whether it’s a fully-fledged horror film or a kid-friendly family cartoon, this poem/quote has been used in so many films since 1941.


The design of the werewolf in this film is an improvement on Universal’s first attempt at a werewolf film in 1935’s Werewolf of London, in which the protagonist simply grows fangs and sideburns. Jack Pierce, the makeup artist for the werewolf in both films, originally designed this werewolf effect for the Werewolf of London film but Henry Hull, the leading actor in Werewolf of London, argued that it was contradictory to the script where it says the other characters would recognise Dr Glendon even as a werewolf, and so Pierce was forced to change the design for that film but later got the chance to re-use his original design for this film instead, but that also meant Lon Chaney Jr. was forced to sit in a chair for hours whilst the makeup was being applied to him. However, the makeup worked and The Wolf Man was very well received by audiences even to this day.


The 1941 film made one of the biggest and most important impacts on the werewolf sub-genre to date, and Lon Chaney Jr. went on to play the same role of Larry Talbot in multiple other films, including:

  • Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man
  • House of Frankenstein
  • House of Dracula
  • Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

However, even without Lon Chaney, the character of Lawrence Talbot and The Wolf Man has appeared in so much more and not just films, but also books, TV and animation too.


This film will forever remain one of my favourite classic monsters movies of all time. The plot is predictable by today’s standards, and as mentioned it’s filled with all the tropes we know and love today but you have to remember that those tropes exist today because of this film. The plot is easy to follow and has some incredibly tense scenes in which we see Larry Talbot suffering from his curse, making the werewolf a more sympathetic character, as many of the classic Universal monster movies did. Larry does whatever he can to protect those he loves and though he tries to get help, people just assume he’s crazy. The film ends in tragedy which makes it unlike most films as it doesn’t have a typical Hollywood happy ending.

If you’re a fan of the werewolf sub-genre, or you want to watch the classic Universal monster movies, then this film is a must-see.

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KRAD's Inaccurate Guide to Life

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DCs Earth-9

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