Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Wolf Man (1941)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Wolf Man (1941)

In this Universal Studios, moody black and white horror film classic from producer-director George Waggner - this was one of the greatest, classic horror films - a tense, well-made, atmospheric and eerie production, and one of the last of Universal's great creatures or monsters (following Dracula and Frankenstein). The literate original script was written by German-American Curt Siodmak, the younger brother of noir director Robert Siodmak.

The shape-shifting transformation from a human into a "wolf man" was often interpreted as an allegory of the onset of puberty (and the rapid acquisition of additional hair), or the release of the animalistic and aggressive Freudian ID, to commit crimes such as rape, and murder. The romance in the film between Larry and Gwen was a form of the "Beauty and the Beast" legendary tale.

Universal's first werewolf movie was director Stuart Walker's Werewolf of London (1935) starring Henry Hull. The star of this 1941 film, Lon Chaney (Jr.) would eventually star in a total of five werewolf films from 1941 to 1948, but never again was "The Wolf Man" solely featured:

  • The Wolf Man (1941)
  • Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
  • House of Frankenstein (1944)
  • House of Dracula (1945)
  • Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

There was an additional remake, The Wolfman (2010), starring Benicio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins, and another The Wolf Man (2024).

  • the opening credits presented images and character names for each of the major actors in the film, and then an encyclopedia's definition of lycanthropy (werewolfism) ("a disease of the mind in which human beings imagine they are wolf-men"); it stated that the sign of the Werewolf is a pentagram, a five pointed star
Cast of Characters
  • in the opening sequence, easy-going, American-educated, innocent British heir Sir Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) was driven to Llanwelly, Wales to his ancestral home; he was returning to the castle-mansion of his estranged father Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains); he was to be formally reunited and reconciled with him after 18 years of being educated in America; Larry was set to run the vast Talbot estate, after the unfortunate death of his older brother John in a hunting accident
  • Larry spent some of his time anonymously spying with his father's gigantic observatory telescope on an attractive shop-woman in town, above the Charles Conliffe Antiques store, in her bedroom where he watched her put on earrings; while visiting the antique shop, Larry had already awkwardly fallen in love with the pretty blonde antique shopgirl Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers), the daughter of the shop owner; to please her, he purchased a rare silver-topped, wolf-headed cane-stick with a pentagram design - a symbol of the werewolf; she explained what a werewolf was: "That's a human being who at certain times of the year changes into a wolf...Little Red Riding Hood was a werewolf story. Of course, there have been many others."
  • Gwen also recited an old legendary poem for him: "Even a man who is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright"; more importantly, Gwen told him that a werewolf always saw the mark of a pentagram in the palm of his next victim's hand
  • back in the castle, Larry's father shared his knowledge of the werewolf legend, and repeated the poem: " most legends, it must have some basis in fact. It's probably an ancient explanation of the dual personality in each of us. How does it go? 'Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the Autumn moon is bright'"
  • that evening at 8 pm, the persistent Larry pressured Gwen outside her shop as she was closing up to join him for a 'date,' to attend a nearby gypsy camp festival; they were accompanied (or chaperoned) by Gwen's girlfriend - beautiful young Jenny Williams (Fay Helm); on the way, Jenny ominously picked wolfbane blooming in the foggy moonlight
  • Jenny was the first to have her palm read and fortune foretold by traveling gypsy fortune-teller Bela (Bela Lugosi); while awaiting their palm readings, Larry and Gwen had taken a walk into the moors (marsh), where she told him she was already engaged to a man named Frank Andrews (Patric Knowles), the gamekeeper for the Talbot estate
  • meanwhile, the results of Jenny's card reading were dismaying to Bela, who grabbed his forehead (revealing a pentagram star marking); her right hand's palm was even more alarming and showed her ominous future - it revealed the image of a pentagram, the sign of the werewolf; the prophecy was that she would be the werewolf's next victim; the exceedingly-distressed Bela dismissed the girl ("Go quickly") before proceeding with any further palm-readings, and she ran off into the foggy moors; her flight was witnessed by Bela's gypsy mother-sorceress Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) [Note: Her name was literally "Mal" (bad) and "Eva" (evil) combined.]
  • suddenly after hearing Jenny's screams nearby, Talbot attempted to save Jenny from being attacked in the throat by a beastly quadrupedal creature, and he was bitten in the chest by the ravenous, hairy werewolf (also Bela Lugosi); with his newly-purchased silver-topped cane used as a weapon, he beat the werewolf to death; in her arms, Gwen comforted the wolf-bitten Talbot; he was taken home to his castle by Maleva in her horse-drawn cart

Talbot Fighting Off a Nocturnal Werewolf Attack Against Jenny in the Moors

Talbot Beating the Wolf With His Cane

Wolf-Bitten Talbot Comforted by Gwen After Failing to Save Jenny
  • later, when the murders of Jenny and Bela were being investigated at the scene by the local retired Chief Constable - Larry's old friend Colonel Paul Montford (Ralph Bellamy) and Dr. Lloyd (Warren William), only the bodies of Jenny (with her throat and jugular torn out by "powerful teeth") and a bare-footed Bela (with a crushed skull from heavy blows from a "sharp instrument") were discovered - there was no werewolf carcass; the group also found Larry's cane-stick with a silver wolf's-head handle near Bela's body that delivered the blows; they also noted wolf tracks leading up to the body
  • the next morning as Larry was questioned in the castle, he admitted to Montford and Dr. Lloyd that he had used his newly-purchased cane to kill the wolf: "That's the stick I killed the wolf with"; Larry's father was confused: "Larry, Bela the gypsy was killed last night. They found your stick by the body"; Larry couldn't believe it: "You mean, Bela the fortune teller? I only saw a wolf"; he then realized that his chest-bite wound had miraculously healed overnight ("That's funny, it must have healed up"); Larry asserted: "Don't try to make me believe that I killed a man when I know that I killed a wolf"; Dr. Lloyd recommended that Larry needed rest; Larry privately told his father: "They're treating me like I was crazy!"
  • the two officials and Larry's father were worried about Larry's sanity - and his strange imaginings about a wolf and a wolf-bite, and Dr. Lloyd surmised: "The patient is mentally disturbed. Perhaps the shock did it"
  • in the evening, Larry watched from the shadows as Bela's coffin was placed in a dark crypt within the church, and then he overhead the voices of Reverend Norman (Harry Stubbs) and Bela's mother Maleva approaching; she refused a traditional prayer service and expressed her relief: "Bela has entered a much better world than this"; she anticipated a customary pagan ceremony with singing and dancing amongst the gypsies; the Reverend called her beliefs "superstition"; in private, she spoke these prayerful words over Bela's opened coffin and corpse (as Larry listened): "The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Your suffering is over, Bela my son. Now you will find peace"
  • meanwhile, rumors had developed in town, led by Jenny's grieving mother Mrs. Williams (Doris Lloyd), who harshly accused and criticized Jenny's father Charles Conliffe (J.M. Kerrigan) in his home for Gwen's involvement in her daughter's death: "How dare you permit her to walk out with other men when she's engaged to Frank Andrews...It's because of her that my little Jenny was killed....She's to blame"; Larry's entry into the shop where the complaints were being voiced quickly broke up the gathering
  • in the home's parlor, Larry and Gwen both attempted to figure out the confused truth of whether there was a werewolf or not: (Gwen: "Well, maybe there wasn't a wolf. It was dark and foggy, and, well, perhaps the story I told you about the werewolf confused you"); when Gwen's fiancee Frank entered to speak to the two of them, his dog continually barked at Larry, sensing something evil or unusual; Frank was also disturbed by Larry's walking stick and cautioned her about Larry bringing harm to her: "Gwen, be careful, will you?"
  • during Larry's second visit to the gypsy camp for a festival, he encountered Gwen and Frank arm-in-arm, who invited him to participate in a side-show target-shooting contest; Larry balked when shooting at the figure of a howling wolf; Larry's father viewed the incident and wondered about his son's psychological state: "He's unstrung. Long trip. That unfortunate accident the other night"
  • at the encampment dwelling of Bela's gypsy mother Maleva, Larry recognized her from the night of Bela's death and also in the crypt; she told Talbot that he hadn't just killed any normal wolf, but Bela - a werewolf or lycanthrope: "Bela turned into a wolf and you killed him. A werewolf can only be killed by a silver bullet, or a silver knife -- or a stick with a silver handle"; Talbot became incensed: "You're insane! I tell you, I killed a wolf! A PLAIN, ORDINARY WOLF!"
  • she informed Talbot that he was now cursed and in danger from an "evil spell," because the bite was from no ordinary wolf - he had been bitten by a werewolf; she presented him with a silver pentagram amulet necklace - a charm to wear over his heart to help prevent a transformation into a werewolf; she explained that at each new full moon, he was now condemned like her son Bela was, and would be transformed; she warned: "Whoever is bitten by a werewolf and lives becomes a werewolf himself...The wolf bit you, didn't he?...Wear this charm over your heart always....Go now, and Heaven help you!"; afterwards, she whispered to other gypsies that they must pack up and leave immediately because of the presence of a werewolf in the camp
  • as he was walking out of the festival, Larry confessed to Gwen (who was alone after a quarrel with Frank) what the old gypsy woman had told him: "She said that I was a werewolf"; he offered his silver pentagram amulet necklace to Gwen to protect her: ("I won't need this. I want you to have it. It'll protect you")
  • in a series of bizarre hallucinatory images and a montage of dissolving and double-exposed visions including views of Maleva, Bela, a werewolf, the pentagram symbol, Gwen, his wolf's-head cane, and wolfbane, Larry recalled how he had become involved with the legend of the werewolf; he raced to the Talbot Castle to his bedroom
Larry's Hallucinatory Fears of Soon Transforming Into a Werewolf
  • as a result of being bitten by Bela, during an amazingly-effective transformation scene in Talbot Castle (when the moon was full) (filmed with a series of lap dissolves), Talbot stripped off his shirt, fearing that he was growing hair on his arms or face; he realized to his horror that his legs showed tufts of hair and were growing hairier and hairier through dissolves, followed by the appearance of paws for feet; ultimately, he was transformed into a blood-thirsty, bi-pedal furry creature (walking on his toes) with superhuman strength and long canine teeth; that same evening, the werewolf's first victim was a local villager - Richardson (Tom Stevenson), a gravedigger in the churchyard's cemetery
  • later, at the site of the gravedigger's murder, Constable Montford and Dr. Lloyd noted that the man was killed the same way as Jenny - with a severed jugular; they also spotted wolf tracks in the area
  • the next morning (Sunday), Talbot transformed back into human form, suffering from amnesia without any recollection of the previous night, although he saw muddy wolf tracks on his upper window sill and leading to his bed where they changed to human prints; he also noticed a pentagram symbol on his chest; Talbot saw that Dr. Lloyd was outside, examining the animal tracks leading straight toward the castle
  • in a subsequent discussion with his father Sir John about the legend of the werewolf, Larry was informed that it was an old legend found in the folklore of nearly every nation; he called "lycanthropia" a mental disease ("It's a variety of schizophrenia"); Larry replied: "That's all Greek to me"; Sir John explained further: "The good and evil in every man's soul. In this case, evil takes the shape of an animal"; he also stated his worries: Now, you ask me if I believe a man can become a wolf. Well, if you mean, can he take on the physical characteristics of an animal? No. It's fantastic. However, I do believe that most anything can happen to a man in his own mind"
  • as villagers gathered for church that morning, they spoke about the gravedigger's murder; the spiteful Mrs. Williams blamed the beast-murders on Larry: "Very strange there were no murders here before Larry Talbot arrived"; as Larry and his father entered the cathedral, Gwen gave Larry a very knowing and suspicious look; most of the parishioners in the pews glanced back at Larry, standing by himself at the back of the church; feeling uncomfortable, he hurriedly departed
  • later in the castle, as the threat of the wolf was being discussed, Larry corrected everyone: "It isn't a's a werewolf"; Dr. Lloyd agreed with Sir John's earlier assessment: "I believe that a man lost in the mazes of his mind may imagine that he's anything. Science has found many examples of the mind's power over the body"; they decided to set up some bear traps (covered with leaves) to capture the creature
  • in private, Dr. Lloyd recommended treatment for Sir John's son: "Sir John, your son is a sick man. He's received a shock that has caused definite psychic maladjustment. You must send him out of this village"; Sir John refused and suggested that Dr. Lloyd was talking like a "witch-doctor"
  • that evening, Talbot (again in werewolf form) became caught and ensnared in one of the wolf-traps; he was saved when Maleva's magical sorceress spell or chant brought him back to human form: ("The way you walk is thorny, through no fault of your own. But as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Find peace for a moment, my son"); transformed, Larry escaped before a search party (with hunting dogs) found him
'Werewolf' Caught in Bear Trap and Rescued by Maleva's Magic Spell
  • knowing he was doomed to be a werewolf, as he limped back into the village, Larry decided to leave town permanently; he awakened Gwen in her upstairs bedroom at the shop, and told her he had to leave; she changed her mind about joining him and helping him when he confessed: "I killed Bela. I killed Richardson. If I stay around here much longer, you can't tell who's gonna be next"; he became even more fearful and fled when he saw the fabled pentagram in the palm of her hand - a sign that she would definitely be his next victim

Larry's Tortured Confession to Gwen: "I killed Bela. I killed Richardson"

Gwen's Palm With the Sign of the Pentagram
  • Larry rushed to the castle where he also warned his father that he was a werewolf (and had killed two people, Bela and the gravedigger), and that Gwen was next; Sir John was unconvinced and only thought his son was insane or delusional due to Maleva's influence: ("Larry, how can I help you get rid of this fear, this mental quagmire you've got yourself into?...The Gypsy woman!...She's been filling your mind with this gibberish, this talk of werewolves and pentagrams. You're not a child, Larry, you're a grown man and you believe in the superstitions of a Gypsy woman!")
  • to prove him wrong ("We'll settle this thing tonight"), Sir John bound Larry up in a chair, locked the windows and bolted the door to his bedroom; as his father left to join the search party, Larry cautioned him to carry his silver cane with him, as a precaution; with his super-human strength later that evening when he was transformed again, Larry broke free
  • in the final moments of the film, an atmospheric, exciting climax in fog-shrouded woods/swamp (during the full moon), Talbot's father Sir John (with the cane) joined a search party (some were holding shotguns which would prove ineffective without silver bullets) in search of the wolf; in the moors herself, Maleva assured him that he was safe with the cane: ("Don't be startled, Sir John. You have the silver cane for protection")
Wolf Man's Stalking and Attack on Gwen in Foggy Forest
  • Gwen ignored warnings given to her by Maleva, and went deep into the woods to find Larry, where the werewolf stalked after her and attacked; Sir John heard her screams and came to her rescue; the beast was bludgeoned to death with his silver-tipped cane, ending the man's suffering
Larry's Human Facial Features Restored
  • at the site, Maleva drove up in her cart and looked down at the body of the Wolf Man; she repeated her incantation: ("The way you walk is thorny...Your suffering is over. Now you will find peace for eternity") to revert the werewolf back to the human facial features of Talbot
  • Larry was praised by Chief Constable Montford as Gwen's heroic rescuer: "The wolf must have attacked her and Larry came to the rescue. I'm sorry, Sir John"; in the depressing conclusion, Sir John looked on in horror, realizing that he had slain his own son; Gwen cried out "Larry!" as she collapsed into the arms of her fiancee Frank

Encyclopedia Definition of Lyncanthropy (Werewolfism)

Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) Reconciled With His Estranged Father Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains) At the Talbot Castle in Wales

Larry Spying on Female in Second Floor Bedroom in Town With His Father's Telescope

Larry Purchasing Walking Cane-Stick With Silver Wolf-Head And Pentagram Symbol from Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers)

Gwen's Pretty Girlfriend Jenny Williams (Fay Helm)

In the Gypsy Camp (l to r): Bela, Gwen, Larry, Jenny

Walking on the Moors Together - Larry and Gwen - While Jenny's Palm Was Read

Jenny's Palm-Reading by Fortune Teller Bela (Bela Lugosi) - An Ominous Pentagram Image

The Next Morning - Larry Only Admitting That He Killed a Wolf With His Cane-Stick

Bela's Gypsy Mother Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) - Offering a Prayer Over Son's Coffin

Maleva's Chilling Revelation to Larry: "Bela turned into a wolf and you killed him"

Maleva Presenting Larry With a Pentagram Amulet Necklace to Protect Him From an "Evil Curse"

Larry Offered the Charm Necklace to Gwen, to Protect Her

The Chilling Legs and Feet
Transformation Scene

Fully Transformed Into a Werewolf

Werewolf's First Victim - A Gravedigger

The Next Morning - Sir John to Larry: "I do believe that most anything can happen to a man in his own mind"

Larry Eyed Suspiciously At the Back of the Church

Sir John Blaming the Gypsy Woman for Larry's Delusions

Maleva's Warning to Gwen to Stay Out of the Foggy Forest - She Ignored It

Sir John Beating the Werewolf to Death with the Silver-Headed Cane-Stick

Maleva Intoning Chant Over Dead Werewolf - Reverting It Back to Human Form

Sir John Realizing He Had Bludgeoned His Own Son

Gwen in Arms of Frank: "Larry!"


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