In the 1930s and 40s Universal Pictures began a series of “horror” films based on literary works. Curt Siodmak wrote several of these films, but it was an original concept based on European folklore that would become his greatest masterpiece—The Wolfman.
In a series of films, Lon Chaney, Jr. gave the Wolfman a human persona—Lawrence Stuart Talbot—who returns to his home in Wales after learning of his brother’s tragic death. Talbot’s Castle was a Gothic site ripped from the pages of old Europe.
The Roma (Gypsies) played an integral part in the story. History has shown that the Roma have been held in contempt for centuries; even today they are persecuted for their unique culture and way of life.
Lawrence Talbot comes home to mourn and to be reconciled with his father, Sir John. He falls in love with Gwen Conliffe and meets a mysterious gypsy named Maleva.
On a Gothic night Talbot encounters a “wolf” which bites him. He is able to kill the beast with his silver wolf head walking cane.
So begins Talbot’s downward spiral from civilized man to brute beast. Of course, Sir John believes all these tales of werewolves and curses are just a campfire teapot of rubbish being exploited by Maleva for her own ends.
It is near the end of the film when Sir John accepts the truth and says good-bye to his last son in a Gothic night of sorrow and grief. Gwen’s heart is torn to pieces by her agony over the death of Lawrence, a noble man cursed by the elementary forces of nature’s twisted devolution.
From a human biological, psychological perspective the raging beast is always hiding in the shadows of the human psyche we call the id. Sophistication and refinement may have made men and women into the Christmas baubles of civilization on the human tree of evolution, but the nature of humans is still a deadly beast which rears its ugly fangs in the blood-soaked pages of human history when the wolf bane blooms and the full moon is unclouded.
The first murder recorded was a brother killing his brother over religion in the dark shadows of evening. Not much has changed outside the Gates of Eden over the course of human history on this planet traversing the cosmos.
Curses and werewolves still haunt us today. Unfortunately, they take more lethal forms in society as the id seeks an outlet for its basic instincts of survival at all costs, a true rendering of survival of the fittest without morality and self-control.
G. D. Williams © 2013