Original vs. Remake: The Wolf Man
Time for another face off between a classic movie and its remake. This time it’s The Wolf Man, the 1941 horror classic by Universal starring Long Chaney Jr. (also The Mummy in the Universal sequels), and the 2010 remake, starring Benicio Del Toro.
Lawrence “Larry” Talbot returns to his home in England after the death of his brother to help his father maintain the family estate. He befriends some of the locals but is attacked by a werewolf and becomes inflicted with its curse. Larry is assisted by a gypsy woman named Maleva and Gwen, a woman he’s fallen in love with, but is doomed to die as a result of the curse.
Incidental similarities: Both films feature a psychedelic dream sequence. In the original this happens just before Larry’s first transformation into a werewolf, in the remake on the night after he is bitten by the werewolf.
Original: In the film Larry Talbot is a telescope salesman living in the 1940s. Gwen Conliffe is a local woman working at a jewellery. In the film, it’s mentioned that Larry’s brother died during a hunting accident but the event is never mentioned beyond the beginning.
Remake: Lawrence Talbot is an actor living in the late 1800s. Gwen is the fiance of his late brother. Larry’s brother, Ben, is killed by his father while in werewolf form during the opening scene of the film.
Original: Larry becomes infected with the werewolf curse when he is attacked by Bela in wolf-form.
Remake: The first werewolf is Larry’s father who attacks him while Larry is seeking clues to his brother’s death in the gypsy camp.
Original: Larry only kills two people in the movie. Bela the gypsy (in wolf-form) and, during Larry’s first transformation, an unsuspecting undertaker.
Remake: When Larry transforms he kills many people indiscriminately.
Original: Several characters believe Larry is suffering a mental breakdown, after having killed Jenny (actually killed by Bela), and some think he should be locked away. He is not due to the insistence of the local doctor.
Remake: On the morning following a transformation, Lawrence is captured and taken to a mental institution where he is treated violently for his supposed psychotic condition.
Original: Larry is killed by his father using the silver-handed cain which Larry bought from Gwen. As he dies he reverts back into his own form leaving his father in a state of disbelief
Remake: Lawrence is shot by Gwen with silver-bullets after Lawrence battles and kills his father in the burning mansion. He reverts back to his real form and thanks Gwen before dying. However, Detective Aberline was bitten by Lawrence before his death with the ending suggesting that he now carries the curse of the werewolf.
How is it better?
Original: The atmosphere and dialogue are much better – especially in the case of the latter, dialogue scenes are much more enjoyable due to the well-written dialogue and solid acting. The film also has some comic-relief to ease the atmosphere.
Remake: The film’s overt violence makes it more tongue-in-cheek but also adds a lot of entertainment value. The Wolf Man transformations look really good. The casting is top-notch.
How is it worse?
Original: There is no transformation sequence. All that is seen is Larry taking off his shoes and the hair on his feet is seen growing fast. The iconic full-moon and facial transformation scene was first seen in Frankenstein meets The Wolf Man.
Remake: The dialogue is pretty lifeless and the only actors you’ll pay any attention to are Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins and Hugo Weaving.
Final verdict – Which One to See?
Remake – While both films have their strengths, on the over-all, I have to choose the remake simply for entertainment value. The setting and the dark atmosphere is great yet the over-the-top violence keeps the movie from turning too serious. The original is a nice modest film but severely lacking in the horror department. Even though it has far more solid actor performances and better dialogue, it only makes the movie more pleasant – but not necessarily better – than the remake.