Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Wolf Man

Anthony Hopkins is set to star in a remake of classic horror movie The Wolf Man (1941). People often forget that in the original film - as portrayed by Lon Chaney Jnr - the wolf man is actually Welsh.

The 1941 version is set in the fictional Welsh town of Llanwelly. It is the seat of the wealthy Talbot family (perhaps a nod to the Talbot dynasty after whom the town of Port Talbot was named). In typical Hollywood fashion the Welsh locals go around speaking with Irish, cockney or middle-European accents. Even characters like Dr Lloyd, Jenny Williams, and Gwen sound completely un-Welsh whenever they open their mouths.

Despite such anomalies, The Wolf Man is quite rightly regarded as one of the great horror movies of all time. Atmospherically shot, it has an outstanding cast with Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi and the wonderful Maria Ouspenskaya starring alongside Lon Chaney Jnr in the title role.

In 1943 there was a sequel: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. Some people might think having two classic monsters in the one movie is over-egging the horror pudding somewhat, but there you go. Once again Lon Chaney Jnr starred as Lawrence Talbot; and again the film has a Welsh setting. It starts off with a grave-robbing in Llanwelly, followed by various scenes set in and around a Cardiff hospital. In desperate search of a cure for his lycanthropy Lawrence Talbot eventually flees Wales to find Dr Frankenstein in Vasaria. Which is a bit like asking Harold Shipman to sort out your lumbago.

In the new version Anthony Hopkins is set to play Sir John Talbot, father of werewolf Lawrence Talbot (portrayed by the aptly lupine looking Benicio Del Toro). Unfortunately, in the remake, the wolf man will completely lose his Welsh identity and mutate into an English monster. Cultural imperialism, I call it. The film is set for release in early 2009.