She Wolf Of London DVD review

A tale of lycanthropy with a psychological edge, in a no-frills, budget release from Universal's impressive horror archive...

What a big book you have, grandmother....

Eschewing the special effects of Lon Chaney Junior’s The Wolf Man (1941) and its imitators, Jean Yarbrough’s 1946 murder-mystery takes a psychological approach to lycanthropy, as heiress Phyllis Allenby (a winsome and wide-eyed June Lockhart) fears she may be subject to the ‘Allenby Curse’ – that she is turning into a werewolf at night and committing the grisly and bestial murders in…

…actually it’s rather hard to say exactly where these murders occur, or where the action is set. London is naturally mentioned a lot, but I swear I recognise the route those fog-bound phaetons are trundling down as the standard tundra that formed the back-drop of Planet Of The Apes, Star Trek:TOS and numerous other Hollywood productions that kept costs down by doing their location work less than five miles from the studio.

Matters in this regard aren’t helped by the transplanetary accents of the supposedly English cast, with Watson-like police inspector Lloyd Corrigan not even bothering to attempt a British twang.

Anyway, back to our haunted heiress, who awakens nightly with blood on her hands, and wonders if she is too mad – or just too furry – to marry her sweetheart Barry Lanfield (played by workmanlike Don Porter).

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Meanwhile Phyllis’s connubial cousin Carol is having a harder time courting her penniless artist boyfriend due to the disapproval of her ultra-repressive mum (Sara Haden), who keeps her all-female household – consisting of herself, Phyllis, Carol, canny housekeeper Hannah and a very snarly dog who is itself under suspicion of the beastly murders – as free of men as possible.

She Wolf mercifully abandons early its attempts at underfunded location and studio work, largely restricting itself to the grand and gothic house-set, and some modestly outfitted environs. This keeps the atmosphere nicely claustrophobic and, with the oestrogen count going into the red, anticipates to a certain extent some of the sexually-frustrated grand guignol of the 1960s. Is the icy matriarch bringing out the beast in the girls by frustrating their sexual desires? Is Phyllis really going mad? Is cousin Carol really sneaking out to meet her artist lover, or to chow down on the locals?

The phalanx of authentically-outfitted coppers who scour the grounds for the ‘beast’ certainly aren’t going to be finding any answers, as they exist at an almost Lestrade level of stupidity, but it’s here that we witness one or two mysterious attacks by a cowled female figure, and the sound effects of snarling and tearing are very effective indeed.

I don’t want to overly intrigue you by suggesting that this is any kind of a horror classic – it isn’t. Most of the acting is templated, any location beyond the family mansion is poor at best, and the only really good dialogue in the film is in an extended quote from William Shakespeare, who treats of animalistic nature in The Merchant Of Venice.

On the plus side, the cinematography is excellent, as is the transfer of this DVD, which forms part of the horror strand of Universal’s new, budget-priced ‘no-frills’ releases. She Wolf runs at a very lean (and optionally subtitled) 58 minutes, and has enough atmosphere and quality to be worth a place in the collection of a mystery and suspense completist. All I can say, without (I hope) spoiling it too much for you, is that it’s not necessarily a must-have for lovers of werewolf movies.

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3 stars

She Wolf Of London is out today, RRP £9.99

 

Rating:

3 out of 5