Howl till it hurts

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

THIS RAM­BUNC­TIOUS vari­a­tion on Uni­ver­sal’s 1941 were­wolf clas­sic has been knocked around the release sched­ules for so long it comes as a sur­prise to dis­cover it’s ac­tu­ally in colour. Over a year af­ter shoot­ing wrapped, we fi­nally get some sense of why the stu­dio was so re­luc­tant to show it to us.

Com­ing in at a sus­pi­ciously brief 98 min­utes (though the In­ter­net Movie Data­base thinks it’s nearly half an hour longer), The Wolf­man has the look of some­thing that’s been edited with a blow­torch and a chain­saw. As a re­sult, not only is the fin­ished re­sult pre­pos­ter­ous, over­heated and un­in­ten­tion­ally hi­lar­i­ous, but it also makes ab­so­lutely no sense. This ver­sion looks like the trailer for a ter­mi­nally un­re­leasable dis­as­ter. If only.

The plot is sur­pris­ingly sim­i­lar to that of Curt Siod­mak’s ven­er­a­ble orig­i­nal. Beni­cio Del Toto stars as Lawrence Tal­bot, an ac­tor re­turn­ing to the fam­ily home fol­low­ing the mys­te­ri­ous death of his brother. Un­hap­pily for Larry, his fa­ther turns out to be An­thony Hop­kins at his most chewily un­rea­son­able. The dead man’s fi­ancee (Emily Blunt) might be a lit­tle nicer, but, given that most of her scenes seems to have ended up in the bin, it’s not all that easy to tell.

In an act of lu­natic hubris, the plot makes oc­ca­sional, ex­plicit ref­er­ences to Hamlet, but, in truth, the film is not quite as a good a drama as the Shake­speare play. Come to think of it, it’s not as good a were­wolf thriller as the Shake­speare play.

Del Toro, wear­ing old-school make-up by Rick Baker, stomps around the place growl­ing like a con­sti­pated car­pet. Hop­kins seems des­per­ate to get the whole ghastly thing over as quickly as pos­si­ble. But the prize for most glo­ri­ously ab­surd per­for­mance must go to An­thony Sher. Play­ing an ec­cen­tric doc­tor, Sher lec­tures an au­di­to­rium of col­leagues while, at his back, Tal­bot trans­forms into his lupine in­car­na­tion.

The au­di­ence yells and points,but Sher re­mains bliss­fully un­aware. “Be­hind you!” they scream. “What’s that you say, boys and girls?” he doesn’t ac­tu­ally re­ply.

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