Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thomas McNulty's WEREWOLVES!

Thomas McNulty's WEREWOLVES is an insightful, informative and scholarly look at the legend and cinestory (ie: film history) of werewolves.  Now, I consider myself a pretty fair hand when it comes to all things "lycanthropic," but McNulty has me beat.  I learned about films I'd never heard of before, such as The Werewolf, a lost 1913 silent film; 1995's Huntress: Spirit of the Night; and 2003's Dark Wolf.  I also learned a few things about werewolf folklore, as well: Pierre Bourgot, the Werewolf of Poligny, in 1502 France; Peter Stub, in Bedbur, Germany, 1590; and Jean Grenier, the Werewolf Boy of Gascony, in 17th century France. Along the way I learned even more about werewolves in literature, dating as far back as first century AD Rome: Petronius Arbiter's Cena Trimalchionus (The Feast of Trimalchio.) I was also pleased to read McNulty's mention of Little Red Riding Hood, which I've considered a werewolf tale ever since I was 8 years old and first learned about lycanthropes. (The recent film, Red Riding Hood, is an excellent take on the werewolf influence in this fairy tale, and far closer in spirit to the original Grimm Brothers' version, if memory serves me at all.)  And of course, there's mention of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which is nothing if not a tale of a good doctor possessed by the curse of lycanthropy, even though the curse comes in the form of a potion, rather than a bite from another werewolf.  McNulty also takes us on a grand tour of all the classic Universal Monster films. And I'd like to point out here something I've rarely heard anyone talk about: the next time you watch Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, watch for the scene where Bela Lugosi and Lenore Aubert (Paula Raymond, maybe?) are standing directly in front of a mirror.

You can see Dracula's reflection!  Is this a blooper? Or a gag --- another joke, another fun jab at horror films?

Thomas McNulty's Werewolves is a great read -- a fun and nostalgic prowling and howling through the moonlit forests of Lycanthropia. It's a love-letter to the genre, and more than that, a tribute, an affection homage to Lon Chaney (Jr), a VERY under-rated and under appreciated actor who is never given credit for some of his non-horror roles. I mean, Chaney's iconic performance as Lenny in the original film version of Of Mice and Men is one of the great and shining moments in films, a tour-de-force that still holds up today -- truly powerful. And I've also come away with a whole new appreciation of actor, writer, director Jacinto Molina, aka Paul Naschy. If you've never heard of him, Google him. He is an important player in Spanish film history.

Bravo, Tom!!!

I just started in on his epic biography, The Life and Career of Errol Flynn.