Werewolves have long been a big part of cinema. What started with The Werewolf in 1913 (as far as we know) has howled its way through an entire century of cinematic entries and it doesn’t seem to be an end to how many different iterations there can be on the lycan beast of mythology. The lore and backstoriy has changed, twisted and revamped itself several times over time but the basics are mostly the same. A normal guy being turned, only silver can kill them and so on, and most of the films (at least in the ladder half of the century) are straight up horror-films, but in 1994 came a very different take on the lycanthropy legend. I’m sure most of you out there have already seen it, but without going into any deeper specifics of the movie, here are some of my thoughts on Wolf.
In the very first scene in the film, Will Randall (Nicholson), a senior-editor at a publishing house, is bitten by a wolf after hitting it with his car and he slowly begins to turn. It starts out as superhuman sensory perception during the day but the beast takes over at night, which is where we get the ever so popular scene where the protagonist (if you can call it that?) wakes up in the wild, not knowing how they got there, after he has brutally attacked and eaten a deer. After that we have the basic ‘learn about the legend from some old and wise person’ scene and this is one of the main things that differs from other iterations of the legend. According to paranormal scholar Dr. Vijay Alezai (Om Puri), in order to turn into a Wolf, there has to be something wild within from the beginning, meaning that you don’t always have to get bitten, sometimes the passion of the Wolf is enough. An interesting take to say the least. Randall is also given a silver amulet that will restrain the wolf inside when worn next to the skin. Definitely an intriguing take on the whole thing.
With this Wolf inside him wrestling to take over, Will is facing a demotion at work, loosing both his job and his marriage to his protégé Stewart Swinton (James Spader), leading to a brief physical altercation where Will bites Stewart in the hand. Needless to say, his life is taking a rapid turn for the worse but in the midst of this chaotic existence, he finds a refuge of sorts in Laura Alden (Michelle Pfeiffer), the daughter of the new boss that demoted him. The two have one of the most rumbling but intense romances I’ve had the pleasure of seeing on screen, as Will still wrestles with his turning into a Wolf and her being of a more rebellious nature, but during all of this, Will manages to rally himself and a few co-workers and threatens to lead a mass writer’s exodus from the publishing house, in order for him to get his job back. A very interesting story inside the story that really drives the entirety of the film’s plot a notch further.
The main thing about this film, which I couldn’t stop thinking about throughout the watch, was the entirety of it. With everything from the pacing to the editing to the setting. It all moves slow but intriguing and the music surrounding it all gives it a certain ominous feel that most horror films of the last 20 or 30 years have been lacking. It all almost feels like it was made for the movie goers of the 40’s and 50’s but it doesn’t feel old, more like an homage to the old classics. Definitely a brilliant piece of cinematic art. From the writing to the directing to the acting, there’s basically nothing wrong with it.
Without dropping any more details about the film, I thought I’d round things off with a few thoughts on the production itself, starting with the actors. As far as the main Wolf, Will Randall, Jack Nicholson was the one and only choice for the part. Not only does he possess an immense amount of talent, but the sheer look on this guy’s face is that of a beastly nature. The man cringes his eyes and you’d swear that Hell is looking at you. Add to that some brilliant and beastly performed mannerisms and you have yourself the best Wolfman on screen to date. I shit you not, Jack Nicholson is the one and only actor I would ever want to play such a creature on screen and the way he did it in this film is way beyond magnificent!
James Spader’s Stewart Swinton is a douchebag and an outright dick to anyone that would ever stand in his way of success an the way Spader delivers his character is nothing but Spader-magic. Even back then, it didn’t seem the man could do no wrong and Wolf is not an exception. Brilliant as always!
And finally we have Michelle Pfeiffer. Wow, what a woman. Not only beautiful but oh so talented. From the very first line she has down to the very last, they are all delivered with an excellence unlike any other. She manages to take a somewhat uninteresting character and turn her into what drives the movie completely just by using her acting talents and that is saying a lot. A perfect performance from a perfect actress, ’nuff said!
Film was brilliantly written by Jim Harrison and Wesley Strick and along with the brilliant direction of Mike Nichols, this film can stand proud as the only Werewolf movie to receive the Tango’s ‘Platinum Stamp of Approval’. A brilliant work of art is what it is and without a doubt one of the greatest Werewolf movies of the last 50 years!
There you go, chalk that one up as Done! Now, it’s time for something else, but what that is is for you to tune in later to find out…..