After seeing I Was a Teenage Werewolf yesterday, I was hungry for a bit more cinematic lycanthropy and finally got around to seeing the Benicio del Toro remake of The Wolf Man (1941). When the remake was first announced more than four years ago, it was widely reported that like the original, it would be set in Victorian England. Actually the original features 1930s automobiles, and although it is set in the small hamlet of Llanwelly, Wales, was obviously filmed in no place other than the Universal back lot. At least the remake is more definitely set in a certain era, even if it does contain anachronisms such as a completed Tower Bridge in 1891.
The original was very popular at the time of its release, spawning a number of sequels and spinoffs in which the Wolf Man met Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, Abbott and Costello, and it is deservedly considered a horror classic today. But the original has some problems, the biggest being that the audience is expected to believe that the towering and very American Lon Chaney Jr. could be the son of the short and very British Claude Rains. This problem carries over to the remake, and it is only slightly more plausible that del Toro could be the son of Sir Anthony Hopkins. Although del Toro is good as the tortured soul Larry Talbot, and, with the help of lots of CGI and Rick Baker makeup, excellent as werewolf Larry, he is not as convincing as Shakespearian thespian Larry, but this is only a brief moment amongst a lot of decapitations and throat slashing.
Many of the more awkward moments of the original have been thankfully excised. Although Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers in the original, Emily Blunt in the remake) still works in an antique store, she an Larry do not “meet cute” as they did in 1941, a lighthearted scene which was particularly unsuited to Chaney. Although Blunt looks great in the period costumes, and although she had never been in horror films, she does a good job of looking scared most of the time she is on the screen. A local colonel played by Ralph Bellamy in the original is replaced by Inspector Francis Aberline (Hugo Weaving), a real-life Scotland Yard official who was the head of the Jack the Ripper investigation and has already been portrayed by Michael Caine and Johnny Depp. Where is this guy going to turn up next? Not surprisingly, Anthony Hopkins adds a lot to the film.