Tim and I went to see "The Wolfman" with Benicio Del Toro for Valentine's Day. We both love the old Universal Horror films, as does Mr. Del Toro, so despite some mixed reviews, we had high hopes for the film. We were not disappointed. We came right home and watched "The Wolf Man" with Lon Chaney (Tim had also watched it on Saturday night) for comparison's sake.
The new film begins with the poem that is oft-repeated in the original film. I was surprised that they made two changes to the poem, but not the one I expected.
The new poem is Even a man who is pure of heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.
The original by screenwriter Curt Siodmak is 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.
I'm not sure what the difference is between "pure in heart" and "pure of heart." I gather that "wolfsbane" is the correct name for the plant.
I expected them to change the last line, or rather to use the last line from one of the subsequent Wolf Man movies. Later films used "when the moon is shining bright" and "when the moon is full and bright" rather than the autumn moon reference.
Moving on, there's really just one major change in the basic story from 1941, and that's who the werewolf is who bites Larry Talbot. They could have stuck with Bela the gypsy and been just fine. What they did works fine, but it wasn't necessary.
The acting is excellent and so is the make-up. Rick Baker, famous for his work on "An American Werewolf in London" and a host of other films, did a great job on the transformation, keeping it faithful while also keeping it fresh. Mr. Baker also makes a brief appearance in the film as one of the villagers hunting the werewolf. Some CGI is also used, of course. You can't get away from that these days, and from what I've heard the studio demanded some changes, including more CGI and more gore (which really could have been scaled back without losing any of the intensity of the scenes).
Joe Johnston directed the film. I have always enjoyed his work, and he did a fine job on this film, setting a creepy mood and depicting the horror that Larry Talbot goes through after he is bitten.
I was sad that more people didn't come to see the film today, but we saw it at kind of an off-cinema in town; the Rave probably had more people, but we're made at them right now. Maybe most people don't want gore on Valentine's Day, either. A father and middle school age child was there, and a family with elementary school age children. Of course the youngest child was scared, or at least that's what he kept saying very loudly. At least the mother took him outside a couple of times. I do not understand what people are thinking to bring a small child to a bloody horror movie.
We'll definitely buy the DVD of "The Wolfman" when it comes out, and I sincerely hope that Mrs. Johnston, Baker and Del Toro will do a commentary with all three present in the studio. I think that would be very interesting and enlightening.