A remake of the original Lon Chaney Jr. movie. Lawrence Talbot, son of a nobleman comes back home for his brother’s funeral, only to discover a wolfman is the murderer of his brother. When Talbot gets bit and becomes a wolfman himself, he realizes the original guilty party is his father. The worldview of this film is Romantic and in this sense is the direct opposite of Sherlock Holmes, which elevated the Enlightenment notion of science and reason as ultimate knowledge. This movie portrays science as incapable of understanding some things about human nature. The occult nature of the beast is reduced to neurosis by a scientific establishment that engages in bizarre practices itself like water immersion in icewater and other forms now considered to be torture. This is common fare in Romantic stories, where science is arrogant and seeks to naturalize everything, and in so doing misunderstands the truth. “We have made enormous strides in the scientific treatment of delusions,” says the lead scientist as he takes the wolfman into a doctor’s circle for analysis on a full moon. They think he will face his own delusion, but in fact, the scientists face theirs as they are attacked by the wolfman.
In this story, the comparison is made between father and son. A policeman states, “Rules. They’re all that keeps us from a dog eat dog world.” So civilization is what tames the beast within man. But the father has accepted the “beast within” as natural. “It is a mistake to lock up the beast. Let him run free. Kill or be killed.” This is obviously a cruel viewpoint in the film. It leads to death and destruction. Civilization must keep the beast at bay, must punish the monsters.
When the lover of the wolfman realizes he is the monster, she says, “If its true, then everything is magic, and God…” The obvious implication seems to be that there is no God if it is true. I have no idea where that idea comes from other than an agenda of the writers to deny God. Anyway, the theme is stated at the end narration “It is said that there is no sin in killing a beast rather than killing a man. But where does one begin and the other end?” I’m not sure what this means either, as it has the smell of attempting to sound profound, but actually fails to really mean anything at all. If it is a challenge to be careful about restraining evil with too heavy a hand, then it fails because the rest of the story proves that we should kill evil. But maybe it’s a challenge that we think we are different from the animals, but man is the most dangerous predator after all.
A glaring hole occurs when in the beginning the Gypsy lady says that a wolfman can only be saved by someone who loves him. But at the end, when the Wolfman is about to kill his lover as he is in the form of a beast, he begins to realize his connection with her, but then loses attention and starts to kill her. She shoots him dead and he thanks her for doing so. I cannot see how this is love “saving” the wolfman, other than maybe love will not accept evil and will fight it even in a loved one. So that true redemption comes from facing the consequences of evil rather than being ignored by loved ones. I am reminded here of the serial killers whose moms continue to believe in their sons rather than turn them in or support their execution. So maybe this is about tough love, NOT accepting the beast within, and killing it if it is destructive.