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By James Whittington, Saturday 10th February 2018
Come on, admit it! The biggest reason you watch a werewolf movie is to see the much talked-about transformation. You know, the bit of the movie that usually gets all the film budget (no matter how big or small) and the sequence where the rest of the movie will be measured.
Here's our top 5 but what are yours? Don't forget to catch Horror's Season of the Wolf, Saturdays at 10.55pm?
The Wolf Man (1941) Though not Universal's first werewolf movie, that was Werewolf of London in 1936, this was the biggie. Unleashed in 1941 it was a major success and made Lon Chaney Jr. a real star. His laconic take of a weary man cursed is truly engrossing but what probably makes the movie famous is the transformation scene, well the lack of it as unlike the sequels the main transformation is of his feet! There is a dissolve at the end, but this is backwards, wolf to man but its still an iconic piece of horror cinema.
The Howling (1981) One of the best werewolf movies also has one of the best sequences. This beautifully gruesome piece relies solely on practical effects from Rob Bottin, it's a bone popping extravaganza that packs as much in the horror stakes as does in comedy, just check out how the wolf smiles towards the end as it eyes up its prey. Director Joe Dante's use of shade emphasises the drama and leaves us gasping at an impressive, if very sweaty beast.
An American Werewolf in London (1981) Whilst most werewolf transformations are shot in a very dark light, John Landis decided that this one had to be fully lit so every part of the agonising experience could be witnessed by a gob-smacked audience. Rick Baker transforms David Naughton in full view and its still one of the best pieces of work I've ever seen in a horror movie. Raw, painful, and still stunning, it's a benchmark moment, so much so Baker won the first Oscar for Best Makeup. Sam Cooke's version of Blue Moon plays throughout adding an ironic and let's be honest, damn smart touch to it.
The Company of Wolves (1984) If you want your werewolves to be dripping in gothic angst, then this fantastic fantasy is for you. This is a more painful moment than usual as here we have skin ripping to allow the inner beast to be unleashed. It truly is a stunning piece, emotional and moving as we see the raw beast emerge with its muscles and limbs exposed to the air. Fairy tales were never this good when I was a kid! He does come to a swift end but hey, it's a great bit of horror movie history.
The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) You can't have a list of horror movies without a Hammer entry and this one from the early sixties is a true classic. This one gave Oliver Reed one of his first main parts and he delivers a considered performance even though the score is way over the top. The technique here was the classic "take a shot then add some makeup" variety but its charm is in the way in which Reed's eyes dart around the screen. They don't make movies like this anymore.
But there are so many more but more recent examples rely on CGI which for many don't retain the same organic feeling as these do. Maybe in the near future, if Universal's Dark Universe takes off, we may see a stunning, practical werewolf creation once more.
Related show tags: AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, JOE DANTE, JOHN LANDIS, RICK BAKER, ROB BOTTIN, SEASON OF THE WOLF, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES, THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, THE HOWLING, THE WOLF MAN MORE FEATURES 13 reasons why you need to watch The Evil Dead
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