Howl till it hurts
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.