Werewolf of London 1935

 

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Origins

Initial release                                                   May 13th 1935 USA 

Director                                                               Stuart Walker

Produced by                                                      Stanley Bergerman 

Screenplay  by                                                 John Colton

Cinematography by                                       Charles J Stumar

Music by                                                               Karl Hajos

Released by                                                        Universal Pictures

Run Time                                                              75 minutes

Budget                                                                    $195,000

Cast

Henry Hull                                                             Dr. Glendon

Warner Oland                                                       Dr. Yogami

Valerie Hobson                                                    Lisa Glendon

Lester Matthews                                                 Paul Ames

Lawrence Grant                                                   Sir Thomas Forsythe

Spring Byington                                                   Miss Ettie Coombes

Clark Williams                                                      Hugh Renwick

J.M. Kerrigan                                                         Hawkins

Charlotte Granville                                            Lady Forsythe

Ethel Griffies                                                         Mrs. Whack

Zeffie Tilbury                                                          Mrs. Moncaster

Jeanne Bartlett                                                      Daisy

 

Synopsis 

Werewolf of London opens with Dr Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull), a botanist, mounting an expedition to Tibet to search for one of the world’s rarest plants, Mariphasa lupina lumina – the phosphorescent wolf-flower, which according to legend blooms by the light of the moon, not the sun. Intending to press on into a remote valley, Glendon faces rebellion from his native crew, who believe the region to be frequented by demons.

At this moment an odd figure appears. It is a priest (Egon Brecher), a white man, riding a belled camel led by a local man. The  natives fear he is one of the demons in question. They run away in a panic. Hearing of the expedition’s purpose, the priest’s mood changes and he tells them that there are some things that it is best not to bother with. He says he is not afraid, but does respect some of the superstitions of others. He also says he has never been  into the valley in question, but he also does not know of anyone  who has, who has ever returned.  Glendon and his assistant, Hugh Renwick (Clark Williams), disregard the warning and press on alone. The stranger tells them they are fools, but with no fools there would be no wisdom.

They press on and as they pass through a cave at the edge of the valley, Renwick experiences a strange sensation, as for some moments, he is unable to move his legs. When he manages to stagger onwards, the howling of a wolf echoes across the valley. Although he dismissed Renwick’s experience, Glendon has one of his own when an unseen something seems to push him aside and  he too, has difficulty walking on . Renwick however drops back, leaving Glendon to go on alone.

The botanist’s own weariness does vanish when, from the lip of a crevice, he is able to see through his binoculars the unique plant he is seeking. It is in  full bloom in the moonlight. He hurries down to it and begins collecting a specimen. He is however being watched from the rocks, but is unaware of this.  As Glendon works, he notices a strange shadow cast across the rocks nearby, seemingly of an animal but on two legs. Even as he peers into the darkness, Glendon is attacked by a man-sized creature. After a desperate struggle, he manages to draw his knife and fight it off, but not before he is bitten badly on the arm. The creature limps away, and Glendon, in spite of his own injuries, finishes collecting his specimen.

The story moves on and we are in London, Glendon’s private laboratory, which is attached to his lavish home. He is  working on the creation of artificial moonlight, trying to stimulate the blooming of the Mariphasa lupina lumina which has so far refused to flower at all in any conditions. He is oblivious to the gathering hosted by the Botanical Society in the grounds and conservatories of his house, until his wife, Lisa (Valerie Hobson), almost drags him out to their guests. He promises that once his experiments are over he will be more attentive. She light-heartedly dismisses his promises, saying it is not in him to do this.

He joins the guests and immediately tries  to avoid Lisa’s inquisitive aunt, Ettie Coombes (Spring Byington). She attempts to go into his laboratory on the premise of trying to find out more about  how he can make artificial moonlight. He manages to keep her away. Two of the other  guests at the party are Lady Forsythe (Charlotte Granville) and her grandson, the famous aviator Captain Paul Ames (Lester Matthews). Ettie drags the couple over to meet Lisa and we discover that Paul was a childhood friend, an old flame of Lisa’s.  Lisa’s eyes immediately light up as she announces that she had read he was back in England. We see her husband looking over and as he is  introduced to Paul,  Glendon is unable to conceal his immediate feelings of jealousy. We also learn that Paul has once proposed to Lisa, but she then says to disarm the situation, that  it was when there were six and twelve.

As the party progresses, another party guest approaches Glendon and introduces himself as Dr Yogami (Warner Oland), a fellow botanist. Glendon is sure that they have met before and is told,  just once, in Tibet, in the dark. He says that they were on similar missions and  asks if Glendon  was successful in obtaining a specimen of Mariphasa lupina lumina. His  had died on the journey home. Dr Yogami follows after him.

Meanwhile Paul suspects that all is not well with Lisa and after receiving excuses as to the problem, he asks her to confide in an old friend. Paul is sad to see Lisa so unhappy and asks where the fight in her has gone. As she walks away she says there has been no fight in her since the night they broke up. The love interest we have come to expect has raised it head.

Back to  Glendon and we see a reluctance  to talk about his experiences. Nevertheless,  a persistent  Yogami  manages to engage him in a conversation. When the two men are alone, Yogami speaks to Glendon of werewolves, explaining that the Mariphasa is the only antidote to the bite. Glendon reacts with incredulous scorn, but Yogami insists that, to his personal knowledge, there are presently two men in London inflicted by the curse. He then puts a hand on Glendon’s injured arm, adding that the curse can be transmitted by a bite. At this critical moment, Lisa interrupts the conversation. Yogami  gives her a thoughtful look, but says nothing more in front of her. Lisa comments ‘what a strange man’?

The film moves on and it appears that Glendon is succeeding  in coaxing the Mariphasa into bloom, but this success is limited to just a single flower. He reacts with triumph, certain that the other two buds will open in the next few hours, while his assistant, Hawkins (J M Kerrigan), who has adopted a superstitious dislike of the wolf-flower, looks on in dismay. Just at this moment, however, Glendon happens to glance down at his own right hand, which is covered with hair. Getting rid of Hawkins, Glendon quickly snips free his single Mariphasa bloom  and squeezes the juice from its stem onto his hand. The hair vanishes as mysteriously as it appeared. The antidote?

Upstairs, Lisa is hosting a tea party, hoping that at some point her husband will join the party. Ettie is there, anticipating her house-warming party that evening at her new home. Lisa explains her doubt that she will be able to get Wilfred to attend, prompting an impatient suggestion from Ettie to forget Wilfred. She goes further and encourages Lisa to allow Paul to escort her. Paul is invited to stay for dinner with the intention to drive Lisa to the party that evening.

Yogami  now pays another visit to the house asking  if Dr Glendon is at home. Lisa tells him that her husband is too busy to see him. He also meets Ettie again and she  invites him to her house-warming. He makes the excuse that he is too busy, but she says that busy men also come to her parties, including the son of  Lady Forsythe, the chief of Scotland Yard.

In spite of Lisa’s refusal, he heads for the laboratory, where the security system alerts Glendon to his presence. He hurries out to head Yogami off, suggesting that he come back another day, only to be told that “another day will be too late”. He tells our host that it is the first night of the full moon. Yogami’s eyes rest sadly on Glendon’s exposed scars, prompting the scientist to quickly roll down his sleeves.

Yogami explains that the Mariphasa is not a cure for the werewolf bite but merely a temporary antidote, effective for only a few hours. When Glendon maintains his unhelpful  attitude, Yogami gives up and prepares to leave. He then turns back with a warning that the werewolf is instinctively driven to kill the thing it loves best. We have been warned!

We next see Glendon in his library as he carries an old book to his desk.There is a passage stating ‘that unless the rare flower is used, the werewolf must kill at least one human being each night of the full moon or become permanently afflicted’. Whilst this is going on  a mysterious pair of hands cuts and steals the two blooms. Stirring music adds to the effect.

Glendon’s reading is interrupted by Lisa and Paul. It is a peace mission. She tries once more to talk him into accompanying her to Ettie’s party, but he responds most unfairly to his wife by telling her that he’s listened to enough childhood memories for one night. Trying not to make the situation worse, Lisa tells him that she has had the brocade he bought her made up and we see her switch on the light to show him her outfit.

To her surprise, she gets a reaction she had not anticipated. Glendon reels back, his hands over his eyes, snarling at her to turn the lights out again. In the dimness once more, he pulls himself together and apologises, excusing himself by explaining that he has drops in his eyes and the light causes him pain. The double rejection is however too much for Lisa as she bids her husband a cool goodnight. As she and Paul turn away, Glendon impulsively calls her back. He hesitates for a moment, then takes her in his arms and kisses her passionately. She shows no feeling however and leaves.

As Glendon shuts himself into his study, he takes a glance at his hands. There’s nothing there, and he drops into a chair on the far side of the desk. He gives his cat a knowing glance, but to his surprise,  in an instant, it starts  hissing and  spitting at him. It snarls and strikes its paw at Glendon, who stares at it in bewildered distress. It then scrambles away and flees the room.The classic symptom?

Glendon now realises that his  calming hand is now covered with hair. This is the first transformation of Wilfred Glendon and we see the frightened, staggering Glendon pass behind a rows of columns, and each time he re-emerges, he has transformed a little more. He is now a werewolf.

Glendon’s uncertain steps take him to his laboratory. But what he does not know is that, as we saw earlier in the evening, there was a break-in. Both of the newly-opened buds have been taken. Only one more, as yet unopened bud remains. The transformed Glendon can only stare in horror at the severed stems. No antidote.

He sets out to follow Lisa and Paul. At her house-warming party Ettie welcomes them. She also introduces Dr Yogami and Sir Thomas Forsythe, the Police Commissioner of Scotland Yard, to each other. This time, it is Sir Thomas who insists that he and Dr Yogami have met before. Ettie a little worst for drink is seen chatting with Dr Yogami and we hear the howling of a werewolf. She returns to the party and Paul and Lisa have to escort her up to bed.

Glendon is now prowling outside in werewolf form and is seen scaling the gates and clambering up onto the balcony outside the room in which Ettie is recovering. She wakes, sits up, stares in disbelief and screams. The guests run to her rescue, but she has survived. Despite her pleas, her plight is put down to the number of drinks she has had.

As we have now come to expect in our movies, a woman walking home alone in the nearby streets is not so fortunate. When she first sees the figure of a man huddled in a corner, she casts an interested eye upon him, but then sees his face. Next the newspaper headline tells the story of a brutal murder. We observe a distraught Dr Yogami. He has the stolen blooms. One has been used, but not the other.

We now get a little light relief in the form of a portly Bobby who was at the scene of the murder. He is complaining about his fallen arches, all you understand, incurred in the line of duty. An excuse for failing to catch the murderer? He is giving his report. Paul Ames now arrives to visit his uncle and advises that Goose Lane is quite close to Ettie’s house. In spite of the howling, and the nature of the victim’s wounds, Sir Thomas and Paul agree that an actual wolf couldn’t have been responsible, not in London. They are not so sure, however, that Ettie’s story was pure fiction.

Surprisingly, Paul then suggests a werewolf, overriding his uncle’s doubt with an account of a series of murders in the Yucatan that were always preceded by howling  and which stopped when something was shot as it was slinking through the hills. They said it was a werewolf.

We now move back to  Lisa and we see her finally forcing a conversation about the growing estrangement with her husband. Commenting that she didn’t used to mind so much being neglected for his work, because his work used to make him happy, but now, it seems to be making him increasingly unhappy. She is becoming frightened. Despite his reluctance, and after pledging his love for his wife, he  agrees to go on a moonlight ride over the downs with her.

We now move to a scene in the laboratory where the remaining bud is refusing to bloom using artificial moonlight. Hawkins is happy that the real moon will achieve success, but strangely Glendon states that it will be too late. On leaving, we see it is time for the moonlight trip, but he  makes an excuse not to go. He also forbids his wife from going. She insists, but he warns her that she must be back before the moon rises. If he expected understanding, he had got it wrong. She dismisses his warning saying that she will ride any night she wants to.

Glendon now faces his fears and decides he needs to be alone and flees to a unsavoury part of London and rents himself a room. Led upstairs by Mrs Moncaster (Zeffie Griffies), Glendon is asked by his temporary landlady if he is a single gentleman. He tells her more single than she imagines and then asks her what would she say if he told her that it was possible for a man to turn into a werewolf. As one does.  Again a light hearted reply. She would say she was Little Red Riding Hood. She giggles. Once locked in his room, Glendon begins to pray, begging to be kept from transforming again. He immediately does begin to transform. We hear howling and breaking glass. Our landlady and a friend cannot contain their curiosity and creep up the stairs and use their pass key to take a look inside. As they do we hear screams and the scene fades.

The  action now  cuts to a zoo, where the night watchman, Alf, a married man, is carrying on with a local floozy, Daisy (Jeanne Bartlett).  Glendon is lurking in the vicinity of the wolves’ cages, one of which he sets about unlocking. On hearing the howling our night watchman runs off to see what is happening, leaving his girlfriend all alone sitting on a bench. On seeing the werewolf she screams and runs off with our wolfman  following. At the lodgings the landlady and her sister on hearing Glendon’s return look through his keyhole and are horrified at what they see. Glendon has not returned to his human state. They put their experience down to drink.

At Scotland Yard the following morning,  Forsythe reads the riot act to his officers saying they will be seeking other professions if they don’t solve the murders. We see Dr Yogami gazing at the second of his stolen wolf-flowers, now also used up and dead. In an unexpected move, he goes to Paul, who takes him to see Sir Thomas. Paul introduces his companion as Dr Yogami of the University of Carpathia. He tells  Sir Thomas that they have indeed met before, as he suggested, seven years earlier, when he tried to enlist Scotland Yard’s assistance in a case involving a werewolf.

Yogami tries to convince him that there will continue to be murders committed under the full moon as there is a werewolf on the loose in town.  He insists the authorities seize the Mariphasa plant from Dr Glendon and learn how to cultivate and use it. Sir Thomas is dismissive, apparently having convinced himself that the escaped wolf is responsible for the killings. He is not pleased when Paul points out that the wolf only escaped the previous night but the murder in Goose Lane was two nights ago.

Glendon is seen returning home to check on the remaining bud, which is still refusing to bloom. Hawkins offers the consoling thought that surely it will only need another night. Glendon is shocked and we see the newspaper headlines relating to the murders rolling in front of his eyes.  Glendon  decides to run away again, this time to Falden Abbey, the country estate which belongs to Lisa, and where she grew up. The abbey has a desirable feature in the form of a cell known as ‘the Monk’s Rest’, into which Glendon arranges with the bewildered Timothy, the estate manager, to be locked for the night. He is not to be released, no matter what he says or does before dawn.

Where would we be without coincidence? Lisa and Paul have also decided to drive down to the Abbey,  the scene of so many of those childhood memories. Leaving the car in the road, they take a shortcut across the lawn in the light of the rising full moon. Glendon’s transformation starts again and he has a perfectly clear view, guaranteed to fuel his raging jealousy.

Perhaps it’s fortunate that he wasn’t also in a position to hear their earlier conversation, in which Paul declared his undying love to Lisa and told her that’s it’s obvious that she’s miserable. A certain suspicion appears now to be in Paul’s consciousness, as he confesses to being frightened for Lisa. She rejects both his fears and his love. They race across the lawn, which is  directly beneath the window of the Monk’s Retreat.

Glendon escapes through the bars.

As Lisa waits for Paul at Monk’s Tower, as werewolf Glendon appears through the bushes. She screams as he attacks her, seizing her by the throat. Paul rushes up and Glendon drops Lisa in order to attack him instead. He tries very hard to bite , but Paul manages to break free and clubs him down with a heavy branch. Being more concerned with Lisa’s safety, he carries her away, leaving Glendon where he lies.

The next day, Paul reports to Sir Thomas, telling him that there was something ‘grotesquely familiar’ about the creature. It was Wilfred Glendon.  Sir Thomas is still doubtful, but finally agrees to go to Glendon Manor. As they are about to leave they are informed of another murder, this time of a chambermaid at the Bedlington Hotel, some 150 miles from Falden Abbey. Sir Thomas takes this as proof that Glendon could not be the killer and insists on going to the murder scene before calling at Glendon Manor.They find out that is has been occupied by Dr Yogami. As Sir Thomas inspects the body, Paul finds two dead wolf-flower blossoms in the bin. He deduces that last night was the third night and puts two and two together. By this point even Sir Thomas is convinced, and the men set out again for their original destination. There is no sign of Wilfred Glendon, nor any of Dr Yogami. A police net is cast for both men.

Hawkins, in the laboratory, is startled by a knocking sound, and admits Glendon via a trap-door from a secret passage. He reports that the Mariphasa has not bloomed, but shows definite signs of doing so. Immediately, Glendon rushes to inspect it, not noticing that someone is creeping down the stairs towards him. Yogami?

At this point, the flower does open, to Glendon’s infinite relief. He goes to harvest it, but as soon as his back is turned, Yogami slips across, cuts the flower and uses it. Yogami rushes up the stairs, but he only gets halfway up when Glendon grabs him. Yogami breaks his walking-stick across Glendon’s shoulders, but the scientist gets hold of his throat and drags him down. The two become locked in a deadly scuffle. Glendon then transforms mid-fight, and Yogami dies and werewolf Glendon howls in triumph.

The sound of the fight reaches Lisa and Ettie, locked in upstairs for safety, as does the howl. They catch sight of Glendon out on the lawn and telephone to Scotland Yard for help, learning that Sir Thomas and Paul are on their way. Glendon climbs up onto the balcony. The women bolt in the other direction, locking the bedroom door behind them and forcing their pursuer to smash his way through. Having done so, he catches sight of the newly arrived Paul and slips out through a window, stalking him across the roof and dropping onto him as he moves to enter the house.

Paul seems doomed, but Glendon releases him when he sees a horrified Lisa watching through a window. He breaks back into the house. Ettie faints, but Glendon isn’t interested in her, as he only has eyes for Lisa, who backs away in terror from the strange intruder. She now recognises him.

Backing slowly up the stairs, Glendon only a step away, Lisa begins pleading with her transformed husband, “It’s Lisa , Lisa! Don’t you know me? Wilfred!”

Glendon hesitates, just long enough to get a bullet from Sir Thomas in the back. He tumbles down the stairs to sprawl on the carpet. Glendon transforms back to himself. Just before he dies he says “Thanks, thanks for the bullet. It was the only way. In a few moments now, I shall know why all of this had to be. Lisa, good-bye, goodbye Lisa.  I’m sorry, I couldn’t have made you happier”

Sir Thomas says that in his report he will say that Glendon was shot by Sir Thomas by accident whilst he was trying to protect his wife.

The final scene shows a small plane in flight as our surviving couple fly off into the sunset.

Reflections

It is never enough to make a good film with a strong storyline. You need to create characters that the viewing audience cares about. The hero of Werewolf of London, Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull) is someone we can grow to care about and show sympathy towards. As the obsessed botanist he carries out his work to the extent that he neglects his beautiful young wife Lisa (Valerie Hobson) . As we see  his plight worsen so does our sympathy grow.

Another point to consider, and I am as guilty as most, is that when thoughts turn to the 1930’s horror movie, it always revolves around Karloff and Lugosi. We miss the fact that the first Werewolf movie made by Universal was very often overlooked. This was as far as I am aware the first to feature anthropomorphic werewolves. It is  important to also note that the film blends the werewolf legend with science fiction elements, its script is intelligent, the scenic sets impressive and director Stuart Walker keeps it taut and suspenseful.

A feature of all these type of film has to be the transformation scenes. Here these sequences remain shocking even to this day and compare well with those of  Wolfman. Both make-ups were effective, but here in WereWolf of London , more of the actor’s features were allowed to come through the make-up, making it in my opinion even more scary.

Hull never really specialised in the horror roles as Karloff and Lugosi did. He was able to perform  more  diversified roles, but never got  any recognition worthy of receiving an Academy Award nomination. If we are to remember him, it has to be for his performance as what is reportedly said to be as Hollywood’s first werewolf.

The comic relief in this feature comes  courtesy of two old lushes, Mrs. Whack & Mrs. Moncaster, who rent a room to the afflicted Dr. Glendon. After getting a peek of him in his werewolf form, they vow to give up the bottle. A promise I doubt they kept.

The film has a great  ending, especially the werewolf’s last line.

Final Word

Werewolf of London almost never gets mentioned when one talks of the classic Universal horror flicks of the 30s and 40s. Yet it is as good or better than most of them

Perhaps the film doesn’t get the recognition it deserves because of the absence of one of Universal’s major horror stars in the form of Karloff or Lugosi?

Prejudiced as I may be, it is also another opportunity to  appreciate the beauty and talent of Valerie Hobson.

Ethel  Griffies would eventually live long enough to become the oldest working actress in the British theatre, dying in 1975 at age 97

Stills

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Glendon discovers his plant, but at a cost ?

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Lisa and Paul are reunited

 

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Glendon meets Yogami

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Glendon and Yogami discuss their common interests

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Transformation into Werewolf

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Haven’t we met somewhere before

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Have you got a room to let ?

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Lock me in Timothy and don’t open the door until sunrise

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Even Lisa isn’t safe from our Werewolf

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Final transformation back to normality and death