31 Weeks to Halloween: She-Wolf of London (1946)
Under a shroud of fog... the She-Wolf strikes... and London town is gripped by terror!
When people think about the Universal Monsters, most think of the big names: Frankenstein, Dracula, Invisible Man... the heavy hitters. Many people won't associate Werewolf of London from 1935 as being one of the Universal Monsters, let alone the lesser known (and lesser appreciated) She-Wolf of London from 1946! She-Wolf is a film you rarely hear people talk about, and after finally seeing for the first time this week, I can totally understand why. The film is honestly unlike any of the other Universal films we've checked out during our 31 Weeks to Halloween countdown, and while it has its saving grace ending that makes the film good, She-Wolf is far from the legendary films that came before it. The film was directed by Jean Yarbrough and has some really awesome characters, but it is far from a monster movie and even further from a horror, compared to all of the other movies in the Universal lineup. She-Wolf of London is definitely more of a murder mystery than it is a monster movie, but I suppose it falls in with the monster lineup due to its link to werewolves. As a murder mystery film, it's actually pretty fucking awesome; but touting it as horror or a monster movie will do nothing but disappoint. If you don't mind a little slow burn with all dialogue and no action, She-Wolf of London is actually a fun little flick with a pretty wicked surprise ending along the likes of The Twilight Zone episodes! Readers beware: spoilers ahead! Normally I wouldn't spoil the film, but I felt its necessary for this review; you've been warned!
She-Wolf of London follows the story of the young and beautiful Phyllis Allenby (June Lockhart) in the days leading up to her wedding to her boyfriend Barry (Don Porter). The two are set to wed until a series of murders begin to break out in a nearby park in the middle of the night, where the victims viciously get their throats ripped right out of their bodies. The police and townsfolk contribute it to bloodthirsty dogs, but Phyllis is kept wide awake at night with another theory: she thinks it's her committing the murders! She believes wholeheartedly that the Allenby family curse - where members of the bloodline turn into savage, flesh hungry werewolves at nighttime - is more truth than legend, and that she is turning into a werewolf at night, escaping the house she shares with her aunt Martha (Sara Haden), her cousin Carol (Jan Wiley) and the housekeeper Hannah (Eily Malyon) and slaughtering innocent people. After all, the proof is in the pudding: she passes out at nighttime, only to awaken to blood on her fingers and clothes, and dirt all over her dress and bed sheets! Could it be this sweet, innocent babe is transforming into a bloodthirsty werewolf and ruthlessly murdering men, women, and children?! Or is there something more sinister at large?! Find out in... SHE-WOLF OF LONDON!
Like I had mentioned before, this film is all dialogue and no action; unlike the other Universal Monster films in the series, you see no monsters, you see no transformation and you barely see any footage of the actual murders. You see a lot of talking, a hooded woman walking around the park as she growls like a dog, and some shoddy police work. While I'm admittedly not the biggest fan of Werewolf of London, at least it actually has a werewolf in it and a decent transformation scene, at that. But She-Wolf of London is different; instead of a monster movie, it's a murder mystery and when the big reveal hits that there is no werewolf, there is no Allenby curse and that Phyllis is being drugged and manipulated, the film takes an unexpected turn with a pretty fantastic ending, again, along the likes of a Twilight Zone episode. So while this movie is far from a bad one, it's just important to know that as a monster movie it's bad, but as a murder mystery it's surprisingly done really well! I absolutely didn't hate the film, it's just disappointing to go from a Dracula and Wolf Man film to this, hoping to see a vicious, feral werewoman and instead, just getting some family drama. All of that aside, how could you go wrong with a crazed aunt, a lovable cousin, a concerned housekeeper and a persistent fiance who just wants to see his bride to be? You know you're in for a drama filled treat when all of these types of personalities clash and you have a handful of police officers who just seem clueless. The story in this movie flips the script and really throws some surprises at you, which makes it a recommended movie - I just wouldn't have personally included it in an essential Universal Monsters movie watchlist. If you like murder and you like mystery and you like surprises, She-Wolf of London is right up your alley! Check it out!