Upon returning home, Lawrence Talbot is bitten by a werewolf and
is doomed to become a werewolf himself upon the next full moon.
The Wolf Man (1941)
Directed by George Waggner
Written by Curt Siodmak
Starring Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Evelyn Ankers,
Maria Ouspenskaya, Bela Lugosi, Warren William,
Ralph Bellamy, Patric Knowles, Fay Helm
Of the original big three, (the other two being 1931's Dracula and Frankenstein), The Wolf Man is by far the best. It has aged considerably well and remains a timeless staple in the genre of horror, due mostly to the incomparable performance of Lon Chaney Jr. As was the case with the other two, this film has since become the basis for which all werewolf stories are compared to.
The film does a terrific job displaying a haunting atmosphere, where any dark creature could be lurking in the fog. Lon Chaney Jr. plays practical man Lawrence Talbot, who is returning home upon news of his brother's sudden death. Chaney's everyday man look makes his character all the more believable and relatable, a trait that neither Bela Lugosi nor Boris Karloff possessed. In Chaney's case, you felt sorry for him because he wasn't some soulless vampire or a man-made creation. He was just a man inflicted with a horrible disease that he had no control over. It is in this aspect that The Wolf Man exceeds the other two.
This film relies on strong characters and a memorable monster, both of which it has in droves. The makeup for the Wolf Man has since become the stuff of legend, forever associated with the cinematic portrayal of the werewolf. For a horror film that is nearly 75 years old, The Wolf Man still has the edge that turned it into a classic and I doubt it will ever lose it.