Werewolf of London. He actually does need a tailor, because he’s a gentleman and gentleman dress for the evening. For whatever reason, director Walker seems to spend more time on lead Henry Hull getting dressed while a werewolf than doing much else while a werewolf. There are a couple effects shots in the film involving Hull as a werewolf, but Walker and photographer Charles J. Stumar bumble them terribly.
Walker has a very stagy understanding of composition. I’m using stagy as a pejorative. John Colton’s script does nothing to dissuade that style either. Werewolf of London isn’t a horror picture, it’s a society melodrama in search of a point. Yes, Hull is cursed with lycanthropy but he’s still just a jerk to his wife, a floundering but sympathetic Valerie Hobson. All he does is work. He’s one of those obnoxious work-at-home botanists. Hobson starts hanging around old beau Lester Matthews just as Hull becomes more and more insufferable. He’s not just a rude jerk to her, he’s a rude jerk to fellow botanist Warner Oland. Sure, Oland’s a werewolf too, but he’s a botanist first.
Hull’s bad. Oland’s good. Hobson is fine. Matthews is bad. It’s a bad script. Overall, Werewolf of London has nothing going for it. A better script or a better director would help, but it’s conceptually a mess. Walker can’t even take advantage of Hull actually being good as the werewolf or the makeup being excellent. He gets like three decent shots of the titular monster.
But there’s also Spring Byington. She plays Hobson’s society cousin. She’s awesome. Even in bad scenes, Byington is good. It’s like she knows how to make this material work for her. Same goes for Ethel Griffies and Zeffie Tilbury. They’re dueling landladies and drinking chumps who run afoul of Hull’s werewolf.
There’s also all the morality lessons in Colton’s script regarding wandering spouses, which encourage the idea of approaching Werewolf of London as a relic of mid-thirties Universal studio filmmaking and Hollywood and so on. It’s definitely a better approach than going into it looking for a good film.
Directed by Stuart Walker; screenplay by John Colton, based on a story by Robert Harris; director of photography, Charles J. Stumar; edited by Russell F. Schoengarth; music by Karl Hajos; released by Universal Pictures.
Starring Henry Hull (Dr. Glendon), Valerie Hobson (Lisa Glendon), Warner Oland (Dr. Yogami), Lester Matthews (Paul Ames), Spring Byington (Miss Ettie Coombes), Lawrence Grant (Sir Thomas Forsythe), Clark Williams (Hugh Renwick), J.M. Kerrigan (Hawkins), Ethel Griffies (Mrs. Whack), Zeffie Tilbury (Mrs. Moncaster) and Charlotte Granville (Lady Forsythe).