When looking back at lycanthripic lore, you read countless tales and watch countless films that you become exposed to both werewolves that generally move around on all fours and wolf men that generally stand erect like a normal guy does.
Personally for me, since as far back as I can recall, have appreciated both pretty much equally. It’s difficult for me to have a favorite since both look so cool, although I will say that for me the ‘man’ side of the beasts have always been more identifiable and memorable on the more traditional biped side. When I think of werewolves I picture a regal, sophisticated Paul Naschy in his Waldemar Daninsky character or Lon Chaney Jr. These were both men who went about their daily lives pretty much as normal men…with the exception of nights when the moon was a wee bit full.
I feel that is why one can relate more to the Wolfman then any other of the classic monsters our there. I honestly cannot remember when I first saw a lot of iconic films but I remember when I first saw the Wolfman. It was on a late night after coming home from an exhausting night trick or treating. I don’t remember what costume my parents had bought me for Halloween that year. But I remember turning on the television and being mesmerized by what I saw on the tube in front of me…I couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7. My love for horror began around that time…
It took a bit longer to be exposed to Señor Jacinto Molina, better known as Paul Naschy. I think around 12-13 I had rented a VHS from a local store that had a robust horror selection. A friend who lived down the street from me and I had this contest where we would try and outdo each other with horror rentals…whatever we could sneak passed the noses of our parents. I rented a movie called Curse of the Devil…wow. To me it was the first time I saw the Wolfman in color so I was naturally excited. But I was also excited with how much charisma and charm Señor Naschy brought to the screen. My quest to track down as many of his films as I could back then in a pre-internet world and with limited funds began..
A lot of genre buffs would always hail Paul Naschy as the next Lon Chaney but he did so much more, he went so much further; portraying pretty much every iconic character you can think of. Dracula, Frankenstein’s monsters, the Mummy, the Hunchback (one of my favorite Naschy films), Rasputin, Fu Manchu and others. I played the Daninsky/hombre lobo character 16 times! How many times did Lon Chaney play the Wolf man? This is not intended to discredit Lon Chaney’s amazing work because he was a huge influence on Paul Naschy…just illustrating how much further and deeper Naschy took it.
The screen above is from Joe Johnston’s 2010 version of the Wolfman. While not a perfect film, it scores well in my book mainly due to its atmosphere and it being able to aptly capture the essence of the character, though either Chaney or Naschy could run circles around Del Toro’s dead pan, lifeless performance. I know, not a fair comparison. But nothing ever will match the greatness and legacy left behind by Chaney and Naschy.
So maybe there really hasn’t been so much of an evolution of the Wolfman after all. Advancements in cinema and special effects may have brought us cooler looking visuals, but the performances just aren’t there anymore. The actor no longer has to sell the character and make up as much because it’ll be done in computer. How much of that still from The Wolfman above do you think is ‘in camera’?
The great news is that thanks to the fact that there are so many outlets today to catch these films, one can continue to relive the classics over and over again. My wife recently had observed that I had not been buying new horror films. I responded ‘I don’t have to when I have such an amazing catalog of movies to watch that are way better than what’s being made today’, but I digress…
For further information on Paul Naschy’s films go to http://www.imdb.com and search ‘Paul Naschy’. Or just take a chance and purchase some on Amazon.
My recommendations would be:
Night of the Werewolf
Curse of the Devil
The Beast and the Magic Sword
La Furia del Hombre Lobo
Dr. Jeckyll y el Hombre Lobo.
-Orlando G Acosta
Cathode Ray Terrors