Saturday pizza and bad movie night with Svengoolie. Is it too much to say it was a howl?
Respected London botanist Dr. Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull) has found a rare plant in Tibet, Mariphasa lupino lumino (or maybe Mariphasa lumina lupine, as it’s referred to later), which only blooms in the moonlight. A camel-riding priest (Egon Brecher) the expedition came across warned them away from the valley where they discovered the flower, but, in true horror film tradition, they went ahead. While Glendon is taking a few clips, the audience sees what looks like a teddy bear face rise over a bank above the botanist. An animal attacks Glendon.
…who is suddenly back in his lab in London, trying to get his specimen of Mariphasa to bloom. His wife, Lisa (Valerie Hobson), tries to enter the lab, wearing a lovely round hat that would social distance all by itself. Wilfred doesn’t have time and, after some words with her, sends her away.
The next person to arrive is one Dr. Yogami (Warner Oland), who says they met briefly in Tibet. Glendon doesn’t recall meeting the gentleman. Dr. Yogami says the Mariphasa he has in his lab is a treatment—not a cure—for werewolfery. He himself knows of two cases of the condition in London and asks Glendon for two blossoms from his plant.
Glendon doesn’t buy this and throws him out. He’s seen his own hand turn hairy in the artificial moonlight he’s using for the plant. Later, the viewer sees a pair of hands clip the blossoms.
Glendon is too busy to go to a party Lisa’s Aunt Ettie (Spring Byington) is throwing. Whaddya know. Lisa’s childhood friend, Paul Ames (Lester Matthews), shows up, only too happy to escort her. What could go wrong?
Glendon is a jerk to his wife, losing himself first in Tibet and then in his lab. While he gives Paul the stink eyes and at one point even snarls that he’s had enough of childhood reminisces, he sees no reason Paul shouldn’t take his wife to Aunt Ettie’s party. By then, he’s got a lot on his mind. Dr. Yogami has told him how to keep from becoming a werewolf, but the blossoms he needs have mysteriously disappeared. The good doctor also warned him that the werewolf instinctively hunts the one he loves…
Part of the reason for making Glendon such a jerk is that the audience doesn’t mourn when he meets his untimely end. There is also some comic relief. Aunt Ettie is a party animal and likes her bottle. She refers to Dr. Yogami repeatedly as “Dr. Yokohama,” an indignity he bears with silent eye-rolling grace.
When newly-minted werewolf Glendon makes his first foray into the night, he dons a top hat and scarf. The werewolf make-up leaves enough of this face uncovered that other characters recognize him.
Variety (May, 1935) compared this movie to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which had come out in 1932. I can understand this not only because of the top hat and scarf, and the split personality theme, but werewolf Glendon has a penchant for chasing after young women who are alone. Longshoremen (or dockers since this is London) and boxers who might give the wolf a run for his money seem perfectly safe.
The print we saw of this was consistently nice and sharp. The audio was muddled at points, but still comprehendible. This was a pleasant surprise for an eighty-five-year-old movie.
Dr. Yogami’s (Warner Oland) was a familiar face. He played Charlie Chan in the innumerable Charlie Chan movies. He seems to have made a habit out of playing Asian characters, though he was of Swedish origin and immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was a child.
The special effects went smoothly enough, but really. This is 1935.
I enjoyed this, though I felt there were some lost opportunities.
Title: Werewolf of London (1935)
Harvey Gates…(adaptation) (uncredited)
Robert Harris…(adaptation) (uncredited)
Edmund Pearson…(contributing writer) (uncredited)
Cast (in credits order)
Henry Hull…Dr. Wilfred Glendon
Warner Oland…Dr. Yogami
Valerie Hobson…Lisa Glendon
Lester Matthews…Paul Ames
Lawrence Grant…Sir Thomas Forsythe
Released: May 13, 1935
Length: 1 hour, 15 minutes