Thursday 1 November 2007

Cry of the Werewolf (1944) Henry Levin

As if to prove that Barton MacLane was everywhere in Hollywood for a couple of decades, I switch entirely by accident from a couple of Torchy Blane movies featuring MacLane as a police lieutenant to a horror movie featuring MacLane as a police lieutenant. He's Lt Barry Lane here, investigating a murder by werewolf. Unfortunately he doesn't have Torchy to back him up and solve everything for him.

We start out in the La Tour mansion which has been kept as a museum of the supernatural because the lady of the house, Marie La Tour was apparently a werewolf who savaged her husband and escaped through a window, never to be seen again. Dr Charles Morris, investigator into the paranormal, runs the show and is about to write a book about the La Tours and Marie's daughter, a gypsy princess called Celeste, isn't about to let that happen.

I can't decide if this film is better than it ought to be or worse. As far as atmosphere, style and power, it plays like a junior version of a Val Lewton horror film. As befits such a description, it also belongs to the women. Osa Massen has some excellent moments, though her Danish accent doesn't work as Transylvanian, and Nina Foch is especially good as Princess Celeste. I've seen her young and I've seen her old and she's always impressive. All of this bodes well, so perhaps the film is disappointingly poor given its promise.

On the flipside, it's more likely that Nina Foch and some of the setups actually give it far more credence than it deserves, because much of the rest is notably poor. The story is completely ludicrous, with a gypsy tribe staying put in the same spot for decades so that they can run a devil worshipping sect or some such underneath the home of their princess's mother. I'm not even sure why she's a princess if her mother's dead but I can look past that one at least. The whole werewolf sister thing is insane and it just seems a little bizarre that the girl who works at the museum just happens to be from Transylvania and so know about voodoo dolls. Yeah, voodoo dolls are apparently Transylvanian now, even though we're in New Orleans so it wouldn't exactly be difficult to find a more believable alternative. Barton MacLane isn't bad but the rest of the cops are embarrassing. Yes, we need Torchy.

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