If you're talking about the representation of the werewolf on screen, then chances are that the first figure that comes to mind is Lon Chaney Jr's Wolf man and his legendary make-up. What seems to be forgotten however, is that that wasn't Universals first attempt to create the legend of the werewolf for the screen as 'Werewolf of London' came nearly ten years previously. It may not be as iconic as 'The Wolf Man', but it's a lot more entertaining.As seems to be the case with so many Universal pictures of this genre, 'Werewolf of London' revolves around a soon-to-be-tragic scientist Dr. Glendon (Henry Hull), who while on a trip to Tibet to search for a rare flower is bitten by a werewolf. Returning to London with the said flower he's visited by Dr. Yogami (Warner Oland) who reveals that he was the wolf and explains Glendons fate to him.
Boasting a confidence at sweeping from location to location and coming in at just over an hour 'Werewolf of London' boasts a good pace and incident-packed narrative that other Universal films sometimes lacked. Instead of building the wait for the monster up like the more famous 'Wolf Man' does, it sets its stall out from the very beginning and has a werewolf attack in the first ten minutes.
And once Glendon returns to London, the further attacks and transformations are pleasingly not cut back, giving you plenty of monster for the money. Although the film's dated quite noticeably, the look of Ye Olde London is still spookily atmospheric, conjuring up associations of Jack the Ripper and Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde as Glendon prowls the streets as a wolf killing at leisure.
The scary bits thankfully still hold up today making good use of fog and shadow to make it a dark treat for horror fans. And the transformation is also handled well here, using the trick of Glendon disappearing around several posts to disguise the stages of the make-up. The make-up may not be as instantly recognisable as Lon Chaney Jr's, but the transformation is a lot more innovative.
It lacks however the presence of a Lugoisi, Karloff or Chaney in the role. Henry Hull (who he?) is a bland lead and Oland makes for an interesting villain but vanishes from the story just when he's making his mark. This means that the climax is grasping for a tragic sensibility that a werewolf film should always have, but the actors and characters are too dull to give.Although mentioning 'Werewolf of London' to most people would probably elicit a look of puzzlement and the werewolf itself doesn't look as impressive as Chaney Jr's portrayal, it's a suspenseful and exciting little horror. Don't let time forget this one.