When we think of werewolf films– at least, those from before an era where sexy beasts populate YA novels and their spin-off series– we’re likely thinking either of old-school horror (The Wolfman, Werewolf of London) or later cult classics tinged with humour (An American Werewolf in London, Ginger Snaps).
For this week’s Halloween Countdown, we’re examining two less-well-known works, and we’re starting in 1944, which heard the Cry of the Werewolf.
Universal ruled the horror genre during Hollywood’s Golden Age, but other film companies crept onto Gothic grounds. MGM borrowed Bela Lugosi in ’35 and made Mark of the Vampire. Columbia put out this low-budget lycanthropic offering in ’44.
Cast and Crew
Director: Henry Levin
Writers: Griffin Jay, Charles O’Neal
Nina Foch as Princess Celeste LaTour
Stephen Crane as Robert Morris
Osa Massen as Elsa Chauvet
Blanche Yurka as Bianca
Barton MacLane as Police Lt. Barry Lane
Ivan Triesault as Jan Spavero
John Abbott as Peter Althius
Fred Graff as Pinkie
John Tyrrell as Mac
Robert B. Williams as Homer
Fritz Leiber as Dr. Charles Morris
Milton Parsons as Adamson
Sam Appel, Tiny Jones, Hector V. Sarno, Harry Semels as Romani
The old Latour Mansion in New Orleans has been transformed into a museum of the supernatural. It also apparently has drawn unworldly forces. A murderer stalks the place, and it does not wear a human shape.
The film is closer to mythic sources than most Hollywood films, and one of very few older horror movies to feature a female werewolf…
…but it’s not especially exciting nor particularly frightening. A scene involving an elevator represents an excellent chance for genuine suspense, and the film walks out of the opportunity. Throughout, viewers will get the sense of a much better picture lurking behind this one.
Originality: 3/6 This isn’t the first time a traditional horror has been placed in the modern world, and this film imitates a range of films, from Universal’s horrors to the far superior Cat People (1942), which appears to have inspired Cry of the Werewolf. However, it does give us a female lycanthrope who can transform at will, twists mostly unknown to the genre at that time.
Effects: 3/6 There’s great fun in watching the fight with the werewolf. No matter how hard they edit and frame the scene, once you notice that the large, wolfish dog playing the werewolf is wagging its tail (Am I a good doggie? Do I get treatsies now?), you cannot un-see it.
Acting: 3/6 The film features an uneven collection of performances. Nina Foch has some presence as Celeste. Crane isn’t terribly compelling as Morris. The less said about the investigating police officers, the better.
Story: 4/6 The story features a good set-up, though some might balk at the presentation of the Romani—Gypsies—as sinister and criminally dangerous keepers of occult secrets. The police procedures are more than a little absurd. Investigators discount the role of an animal in the murders, despite clear, scientific evidence that an animal is involved, they assume guilt based on vague suspicions (in all fairness, not a few real-life police possess this flaw), and declare that a custodian’s fingerprints, if found near the site of a killing, would necessarily make him guilty. Seriously? The killing takes place in the building where the custodian works. It would be a small miracle if they didn’t find his fingerprints in the room.
Emotional Response: 3/6
Overall: 4/6 It’s not a great movie by any means, but it’s better than it sounds. I recommend it to fans of, especially, older horror movies and genre completists. The casual watcher seeking a Halloween thrill will most likely be disappointed.
In total, Cry of the Werewolf receives 24/42
October 3/4: Mandy (2018)
October 10/11: Cry of the Werewolf (1944) and Silver Bullet (1985)
October17/18: The Color out of Space (2019)
October 24/25: Rosemary’s Baby (1968): Novel and Movie
Halloween: The Magicians (2015-2020)