October 3 is the birthday of both Henry Hull and Warner Oland, and it’s well into the Halloween season to boot, a fitting time to celebrate a movie in which Hull and Oland co-star, Werewolf of London (1935).
In this, Universal’s first talkie werewolf picture, a scientist (Hull) goes to the Himalayas in search of a rare plant that only blooms in moonlight. Whilst there he is attacked and bitten by a werewolf. He manages to bring some specimens of the plant back and keep them alive, using “artificial moonlight.” Meanwhile, a mysterious fellow scientist, Dr. Yogandi (Oland), hovers around trying to get a look at the plants (they are supposed to be an antidote to werewolfery.) Soon it becomes apparent that the hero has become a werewolf. Every night he changes and kills somebody in the fashion of Jack the Ripper, as he jumps out of alleys and pounces on women.
Hull’s make-up is much less extreme than one finds in later werewolf movies. The moments of transformation owe a lot to the 1931 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Hollywood character actress Spring Byington (1886-1971), plays Aunt Ettie, the fussy lady whose fancy party is spoiled by, well, werewolves.
Out of desperation Hull locks himself in a boarding house. The film features a scene in a zoo with real wolves—John Landis pays homage to it in his An American Werewolf in London. Eventually, like all werewolves, he meets his fatal bullet. What makes this occasion slightly different is his lengthy death speech, which seems to run about five minutes.
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