31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2016 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.
Nature of Shame:
Unseen Universal Horror.
Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1940’s
Classic Universal Horror
The Advance Word: None. Nobody talks about She-Wolf of London, which is why I’ve probably never bothered to watch it. Or why I never finished the entire Wolf Man Legacy Collection DVD set.
#6. She-Wolf of London
I watch and enjoy Universal horror movies indiscriminately. They’re comfort cinema. Therapy through high-contrast black and white cinematography. German Expressionism for the Moviewatcher’s Soul. My parents introduced these movies to me as a wee lad; The Invisible Man being the one that hooked me. The films aired non-stop on AMC (if I remember correctly) during the week of Halloween, and I’d cram as many as I could onto a stack of VHS tapes. As a result, I could hardly be expected to keep track of what I’d seen.
When I received the brand new collection of Universal Wolf Man flicks on Blu-ray, I scanned the titles, looking for an unseen gem to add to my CinemaShame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Challenge. The final flick on the collection, She-Wolf of London, caught my eye. Most certainly I’d remember June Lockhart turning into a werewolf. I mean… wouldn’t you?
Lockhart plays Phyllis Allenby, an heiress whose parents named her with the express intent of giving her agoraphobia or anthropophobia or at the very least making her an insufferable introvert. Phyllis lives in an old estate with her aunt Martha, cousin Carol, and servant Hannah. She is to be married to the in-demand bachelor Barry Lanfield. All seems well with the Allenbys. Except for the fact that Phyllis believes that at night she turns into a wolf and kills people in the park.
Without touching upon the film’s troublesome suggestion that Phyllis just needs a man in her life to make all her problems disappear, we’ll get right to the heart of She-Wolf of London‘s damning problem. There’s no werewolves in the film. Not one. Not even the shadow of one. The best we get is someone — clearly a human — barking behind some bushes in the park. If you’ve seen Curse of the Cat People, you’ll recognize the narrative at approximately the 15-minute mark. Trust me when I say I’m not spoiling the film here. She-Wolf of London might as well have made werewolf shadow puppets. That’s how much effort it put into the false assignation of crimes to lycanthropy.
She-Wolf premiered at the decadent end of Universal’s horror cycle hoping to capitalize on a slice of that Wolf Man name recognition. Familiarity might be the film’s best asset. The impressive, ornately furnished estate allows for typically above-average contrast and shadowy cinematography, but the set feels overly familiar. It would make sense that by the late 1940’s, Universal would have been recycling just about everything to strangle the last few dollars out of their goldmine horror franchises.
There’s novelty in seeing 21-year-old June Lockhart in one of her first starring roles. Dennis Hoey (Lestrade in the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films) stops by for an appearance as the Inspector that won’t fully buy into the werewolf nonsense. She-Wolf of London offers a couple of nuggets for Old Movie Weirdos to catalog in the back of their mind, but beyond that you’ll just be grateful that this toothless film lasts no longer than 70 minutes and offers a few unintentional laughs during the convoluted climax.
To satisfy my curiosity I sampled the transfer of She-Wolf of London on the original Wolf Man DVD collection and then jumped around the Wolfie Blu-ray titles on the rest of the set. You’ll find the expected difference in clarity from the DVD to the stepped-up Blu-ray but no extra clean up. She-Wolf of London apparently didn’t warrant the same care as the other titles, though I certainly can’t blame them for focusing their attentions elsewhere.
If you never get around to the end of this Wolf Man set, I wouldn’t worry much about it unless you’re a die-hard June Lockhart fan.
Blu-ray Verdict: It’s a collection of Universal horror movies from the 30’s and 40’s. Of course you should own it. Everyone should own it. The only caveat here is that if you’ve religiously purchased all of the Universal Horror Blu-ray sets the only new-to-Blu titles in this set are She-Wolf of London and Werewolf of London.