Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Wolf Man-- Or Was He The Wimp Man?


As promised-- The Wolf Man.
When I was a kid, fourth grade or so, monster movies were all the rage. Long discussions took place about who was the baddest-ass monster, usually involving the big four; Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man, and the Mummy. Now this was before monster movies started being remade weekly. After the movies of the 30's like Frankenstein and Dracula, and the 1941 Wolf Man and the countless sequels like Bride of Frankenstein and the Wolf Man Meets Abbot and Costello, most of the rest of the films that featured monsters were morality tales about the danger of nuclear proliferation. Sci-fi monsters-- giant crabs and the like were pretty unscary. Except for Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing, most of the later so-called monster movies didn't really scare kids.

Now Dracula was really cool and sinister if not all that scary. Frankenstein was something you couldn't watch by yourself, and even a whole family of cowboys couldn't stop that guy. When I was a kid, Frankenstein cost me a lot of sleep. The Mummy again wasn't so scary for me, and he was slow. The Wolf Man didn't do much for me. He didn't make me want to puke or lie awake waiting for him to come. The Wolf Man was a wimp.

First the movie had a 40's sensibility. While pre-code Dracula and Frankenstein's monster chased around babes in nightgowns, the Wolf Man chased women who reminded me of the Andrew's sisters-- for those of you who are younger, that is not a good thing. And boo-hoo, the Wolf Man didn't want to be a monster. Once monthly this guy had a problem, and he agonized over it the whole darn movie! Come on.
I can't imagine Dracula or Frankenstein's monster complaining like this guy. I mean Frankie's monster didn't ask to be reanimated. Boris Karloff as the monster showed his confusion and humanity if you will, but even if the monster could articulate his feelings, I doubt he would belly-ache about his problems like Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man. Dracula never once complained about his blood-lust.
The Wolf Man set in motion a whole, unappetizing series of monsters full of angst that continues even today. Vampires are tortured souls. Wolfmen are tortured souls. Even Frankenstein's monster is a tortured soul-- more in keeping with the original Mary Shelly monster admittedly, but unappealing nonetheless.
Give me Bela Lugosi every time. He had no problem draining every last drop of not only blood but virginity out of Miss Lucy. Now that's a monster! No belly-aching. No whining about his monsterness. No siree. Just lust and blood!
Frankenstein's monster too could throw the wood-cutter's daughter into the pond just like a flower. No agonizing. Hey, I misunderstood. I thought she could float. I got a bad brain-- now where's my master's bride, I'm feeling kinda lonely.
Imagine Bernie Madoff acting like the Wolf Man. No way right? Now there's a monster. "I didn't mean to do it, but I'd do it again in a hot minute." We need monsters. The world needs monsters. Who wants to take their time "understanding" mortgage bankers and the snake-oil salesmen who, much like Dracula, steal some poor dying bastard's last dime. Hey, I don't care how come you're a monster, I want my money back. We need monsters because when trouble comes, even when we thought 50% annual return on investment was possible, someone has to be blamed. I'm not trying to be sarcastic. We want to grab the torches and chase down the monster into the old windmill and burn the s.o.b. alive. You fooled us, now shut up and take your medicine.
Am I ranting? Perhaps. But give me my monsters the old-fashioned way. Monsterous. Unrepentant.
Now if Lon Chaney Jr. had changed into a pit bull perhaps I would've been scared.

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