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Thursday, October 07, 2004

Werewolves!

The night creatures transformed from human into savage beasts by the full moon! There is so much to be said for the topic of werewolves, I merely hope to scratch the surface and give my readers something to think about. The mythology of the werewolves can be found in many historical texts, including some of the best-known accounts of the 16th century. Here we find the stories of men cursed to walk the earth as hybrid creatures of the night. One story originating from Germany (circa 1591) tells of a time where the dark shadow of ignorance and superstitions prevailed.

Towns were underdeveloped and people lived near woods and the fear of wolf attacks was based on real events. But in one case, a wolf was cornered by dogs and villagers and made a startling transformation. It was discovered that this man had made a pact with the devil to become a primal creature. This account took place during a time where fear of the supernatural ran rampant all over Europe and werewolf hunts between 1520 and 1630, were as common as the witch hunts in America during the mid to late 17th century.

Here is an opportunity to discuss Greek mythology that also testifies to the existence of shape-shifting werewolves. Legend has it that Zeus once disguised himself as a traveler and sought for hospitality in the court of a vicious Arcadian King named Lycaon. The King recognized the god and tried to kill him serving him human flesh. Zeus caught the terrible trick and did not eat. Outraged, He destroyed the palace and condemned Lycaon to spend rest of his life as a wolf. This mythology originated the word Lycanthrope which is used to describe the werewolf phenomenon.

Most of us don’t really concern ourselves with the historical aspect as we have been subjected to the onslaught of Hollywood tales that make up the majority of our werewolf lore. As you my know, a man who is attacked by a werewolf becomes a werewolf himself and he and anyone he attacks is doomed to walk the Earth as a beast or a cursed spirit of the dead until the head werewolf is killed. Since werewolves are not immortal, we have found ways to ward them off and kill them. Doubtless you have heard of the classic silver bullet. This arises from the many movies that have been made to tell the stories of the werewolves and their curse.

There is probably not enough web space in this blog to discuss all of the werewolf movies but I shall attempt to mention the most notable in my opinion:


  • 1935 – “Werewolf Of London” (The first movie about a werewolf to get on the big screen)
  • 1941 – “The Wolf Man” (which starred Lon Chaney, who became the first icon of classic werewolf films. He battled Dracula and Frankenstein and was a critical element of the early monster movie push. Starring in several other titles about The Wolfman including his final performance in this guise titled “Face Of The Screaming Werewolf” circa 1960)
  • 1957 – “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” (Look! It’s Michael Landon before his rise to stardom in the critically acclaimed television show Bonanza)
What followed is a string of movies throughout the 60’s and 70’s including films that attempted to further cash in on the movie monster craze by revisiting the Vs. theme. The persona of the werewolf was pitted against the likes of Dr. Jeckyll, Frankenstein (again), and other vampires. During this time the mantle of The Wolfman changed hands from Lon Cheney to Paul Naschy who went on to star in more than a dozen films about the iconic werewolf.

Entering the next era (the Silver age if you will) of werewolf movies, one of my favorites starts things off in 1980. “The Howling” that spawned 6 sequels throughout the 80’s and into the early 90’s, garnered a new generation of werewolf movie fans. I would certainly like to review this film in more detail some other time, but for now I would like to acknowledge the spectacular special effects of Rob Bottin. The next year (1981), “An American Werewolf In London” (Starring David Naughton) was released. This is, hands-down, my all time favorite werewolf movie that I will without a doubt review in a future post and discuss Rick Baker’s outstanding special effects contributions to the genre.

Honorable mention during this time period include:
  • 1981 – “Wolfen”
  • 1984 – “The Company of Wolves”
  • 1985 – “Silver Bullet” (Which brings Stephen King’s novella Cycle of the Werewolf to the big screen)
  • 1994 – “Wolf” (starring Jack Nicholson)
Now we are in what I call the modern era of werewolf movies and there are some titles that still make a trip to the megaplex worthwhile. “Underworld” (2003) brought back the classic vampire versus werewolf fight but in a whole new way. And most recently, “Van Helsing” featured a werewolf to supplement this archetypal tale of Dracula.

Aside from movies that I could go on about forever, I also wanted to mention another aspect of the werewolf phenomenon. There are many people who believe that the stories of history are not myths but real accounts that have been modified. Some even steer clear of the lycanthropy designation that is used to describe werewolves. Whereas this term refers to someone who suffers from a mental disease of fantasizing being a wolf, there are those that feel the true nature of the beast is a result of a curse, whether evil or self inflicted, that cannot be lifted through science.

  • Today's Cure song is "At Night" from the Seventeen Seconds CD - (1979) An interesting song that tells of the lonely viligence of a protector, but protection from what? Something in the night!

"At night
I hear the darkness breathe
I sense the quiet despair
Listen to the silence
At night
Someone has to be there"

CJ

6 Comments:

Blogger Didou said...

I remember the "Howlings" series. I was quite young at the time so I wasn't allowed to watch them. I still found a way to see 2 of them. I don't exactly remember which one of the Howlings it was, but it took place in a castle with a bunch of people that showed up there for a week-end or so & one by one they start getting attacked by the werewolf.
While we're on the Werewolves subject, I don't know if you've seen Dog Soldiers. I didn't expect much when I went to see it & in the end, I thought it was quite good. :-)

Friday, October 08, 2004 5:06:00 PM  
Blogger snicks said...

thank you again for posting on my blog, and i have to say i agree with you about "the howling" and "american werewolf". i think i liked howling more when i was younger, because it was the first werewolf movie i saw in a theater ( i was 10 or 11), and the transformation scene scared the hell out of me. i wish they would revisit the werewolf legend seriously on the big screen, in the same way they've done with the "dracula" and "frankenstein" myths....by the way, :) i'm sure you haven't heard of it, but a few years ago there was a movie called "curse of the queerwolf", which was a horrible film, but had a great title!

Friday, October 08, 2004 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

I loved American Werewolf in London. Such a great flick. The sequel, tho...what crap.

Saturday, October 09, 2004 5:16:00 PM  
Blogger Leah said...

Definitely something I am interested in!! I’ve read a lot of books about warewolves that totally romanticized them .. kinda like Anne Rice with vampires .. anyway, great post!!

Monday, October 11, 2004 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Sunday, November 06, 2005 9:54:00 PM  
Blogger marissa. c. ytuarte said...

I always knew that werewolves were historical creatures, and since they started making movies about them its even cooler to imagine!

Thursday, November 17, 2005 3:37:00 PM  

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