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The Wolf Man (1941)

Tags: larry wolf gwen

Film and Plot Synopsis

Lawrence “Larry” Talbot returns to his ancestral home in Wales after living in the United States for 18 years. He buries his deceased older brother and makes amends with his estranged father, Sir John Talbot. Larry falls in love with a local girl, Gwen Conliffe, who unfortunately is engaged to another man. However, Larry’s life is complicated when he is bitten by a werewolf while trying to defend a local girl from the beast. Now, cursed with nighttime transformations into a murderous wolf, Larry does not know what to do to protect the ones that he loves.

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‘The Wolf Man’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Lawrence “Larry” Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) returns to his ancestral home in Llanwelly, Wales after an eighteen-year absence. Larry’s return is a solemn occasion as he is attending the funeral of his older brother. However, Larry’s return does allow him to make amends with his estranged father, Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains), who is genuinely happy to see his son again.

Not long after the funeral, Larry begins exploring the town and meets a local girl named Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers) who works in an antique shop with her father Charles Conliffe (J. M. Kerrigan). Larry is immediately smitten with Gwen and purchases an elaborate walking stick decorated with a silver wolf’s head as an excuse to talk to her. Gwen explains that the wolf’s head represents a werewolf, a mythical human being that changes into a wolf during certain times of the year. It is explained to Larry that the legendary werewolf always sees a pentagram on the palm of his next victim. Larry persistently asks Gwen out on a date, which she continually refuses. However, they ultimately agree to meet later that night.

That evening, Larry and Gwen are joined by Gwen’s friend Jenny (Fay Helm) and the trio agree to visit the local gypsy camp to have their fortunes told by Romani fortuneteller Bela (Bela Lugosi). During Jenny’s reading, Bela sees a pentagram on Jenny’s palm when he attempts to do a reading on her. Bela is disturbed by the vision, as he is a werewolf, and sends Jenny immediately away. Meanwhile, Larry and Gwen take a walk as they wait for their turns for a reading. Gwen informs Larry that she is engaged, which disappoints the American.

Suddenly, Larry and Gwen hear a scream from Jenny and rush off to investigate. Larry finds Jenny being attacked by a wolf and rushes to her defense using his walking stick to club the wolf to death. However, Larry is bitten in the chest during the fight. When police arrive, they find Jenny’s throat has been torn out and a bludgeoned Bela, but no signs of a wolf. Police immediately conclude that Larry’s walking stick was the weapon used against Bela and they become more suspicious of Larry when there are no signs of his chest wound the next day. Moreover, the town are suspicious that Larry and Gwen are involved in an adulterous affair since neither of them was with Jenny when she was attacked. The townspeople treat the two like pariahs even though Gwen’s fiancé, Frank Andrews (Patric Knowles), believes in their innocence.

Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright. Jenny Williams (Fay Helm)

Not long after, Larry, Frank, and Gwen attend a festival in the gypsy camp. Larry encounters Bela’s mother Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), a Romani sorceress, who reveals to Larry that Bela was a werewolf, and that Larry is destined to turn into a werewolf since he was bitten by Bela in wolf form. Maleva informs Larry that silver is the only thing that can kill a werewolf and gives Larry a charm to prevent his transformations. Larry is overwhelmed by the information and uncertain as to whether to believe the old woman or not. Larry gives the charm to Gwen for protection and then kisses her while Frank is away.

The next night, Larry transforms into a humanoid wolf hybrid and kills a villager. He awakens the next morning in his own bed without any memory of the murder. He finds muddy footprints leading from his window to his bed. He looks out the window to see policeman Colonel Paul Montford (Ralph Bellamy) following tracks from the woods to his father’s estate. Regardless, the police believe that the killing to be the work of a wolf and set various traps throughout the woods. The men form hunting parties to track down and kill the murderous animal. The next night, Larry transforms for a second time and becomes caught in one of the traps. Maleva finds the imprisoned werewolf and uses her magic to temporarily change Larry back to human form, which allows Larry to free himself from the trap before he is discovered by the hunting parties.

Perceiving himself as a danger to everyone, Larry decides to leave town. He goes to say goodbye to Gwen but sees a pentagram on her palm. Concerned for Gwen’s safety, Larry confesses to his father that he is a werewolf and that he is responsible for the deaths of Bela and the villager. Sir John believes that his son has become delusional and ties him to a chair to prevent him from leaving and to convince him that he is not a werewolf. Sir John then joins the hunting parties to track down the wolf.

When the moon rises, Larry transforms again and despite his bindings, he easily escapes and flees into the woods. The wolf man finds Gwen and proceeds to attack her. Sir John rushes to her aid and bludgeons the beast with the head of Larry’s silver-headed cane which Larry gave him for protection. The wolf man dies. Maleva arrives and again uses her spell. Sir John and Gwen stand transfixed as the dead werewolf transforms back into the lifeless body of Larry. When the other villagers arrive to find Larry’s body, they adopt the story that he was killed by the wolf protecting Gwen.

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The Wolf Man (1941)


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