Thursday, October 13, 2011

Werewolf in Legend and Movies

Legends of people shape shifting abounded in ancient times and variations developed in different cultures. In a Greek myth told by Ovid in his Metamorphoses, Lycaeon, the king, is morphed into a werewolf  because he served human flesh to Zeus; he didn't think he was a god. His test backfired; Zeus gave him the perfect body for participating in what was considered a horrible act, a definite taboo in that culture. Another Greek writer, Herodotus, told of the Neuri people transforming into wolves each year for awhile, and afterwards they regained human form. Norse folklore explains that very fierce warriors donned bearskins or wolf skins to go into battle from which the word berserker is derived. 
Some ways to become a werewolf include stripping down and buckling on a belt of wolf skin or the whole skin, slurp water out of a stream that several wolves have drank from, sip water out of a wolf's paw, be cursed, and birthed during a new moon. The bite cause became dominant in later fiction and films, but in folklore changing by the bite usually denoted vampirism.

One of the first werewolf films was The Werewolf (1913). The main character was an Indian werewolf; this adaptation is hinged on the Henry Beaugrand's story of 1898 entitled "The Werewolves." The original anthropomorphic wolf man appeared in  Werewolf of London (1935)  in which Henry Hull is the main character. Due to his refusal to waste many hours being transformed by Jack Pierce the makeup artist, this film  pounced on the concept in a  Balkan legend of a plant based lycanthropy, wherein Dr. Glendon, a man of science brings on his experience as a wolf man. It was produced by Universal Studios.

But in 1941, Lon Chaney Jr. became the categorical movie monster man playing Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man. This set Chaney's acting career as a wolf man in several other movies: Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1932), House of Frankenstein (1944),  and House of Dracula (1945). He was the wolf man in all of those films. Chaney also portrayed Frankenstein in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942); He was Dracula in Son of Dracula (1943), and he played the mummy in three mummy movies.

 Wolf man films have never totally disappeared from the horror movie genre. The teenage werewolf made the scene in 1957 with I was a Teenage Werewolf, Teen Wolf (1985), and Teen Wolf Two (1987). Ginger Snaps (2000) is the female teen wolf answer to the male versions.

The Howling appeared in 1981, film adaptation of Gary Brandner's novel.  A news reporter is followed by a serial killer and is almost fatally wounded. She is sent to a resort in the country because of amnesia. There are some strange characters there, and Karen learns about the werewolves as the story unfolds.

In 1981, An American Werewolf in London premiered. When two U.S.A. guys go backpacking on the English moors and encounter a werewolf, one of them dies and the other lives and his dead friend clues him in that it was a werewolf that assaulted them. With this information and help from his dreams he comes to understand the situation. He had been told it was a madman that jumped them. The doctor believes he is suffering from shock, but decides to make an investigation to confirm or deny David's story.

Davis ends up living with a nurse that had treated him at the hospital, and he is shot by the police at the end because he has been attacking people. He dies, but before he does Alex, the pretty nurse informs him of her love.

Werewolf movies keep breaking onto the scene: movies from the 1900's and 2000's coming next.

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