The Monster Mash: She-Wolf of London

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“Thy currish spirit governed by a wolf who hanged for human slaughter. Even from the gallows did his fell soul fleet, and whilst thou layest in thy unhallowed dam infused itself in thee; for thy desires are wolfish, bloody, starved and ravenous.”

I knew absolutely nothing about She-Wolf of London (1946) going into it, and that’s probably the best way to experience it for the first time. Its unfolding mystery is captivating and rewarding even if the ultimate plot and characters don’t have a lot going for them.

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Phyllis reads up on lycanthropy.

Phyllis Allenby (June Lockhart) believes she is suffering from the Curse of the Allenbys, which speaks of people turning into werewolves, when people are found with their throats ripped out in the park. Rumor is starting to spread of a wolf-woman seen walking through the park at night. Phyllis fears the worst when she starts finding muddy shoes and bloody clothes every morning.

Her aunt Martha (Sara Haden) tries to convince her that it’s just a silly legend, but as Phyllis’s marriage to a barrister (Barry Lanfield played by Don Porter) approaches, Phyllis begins falling apart under the mental strain of possibly having killed a handful of people. An investigation led by Detective Latham (Lloyd Corrigan) may reveal the details of the killings.

I don’t want to say any more about the plot, because it’s a  fairly fascinating mystery. And I do want to stress mystery. She-Wolf of London has some unsettling moments, but it shoots for suspense and questions over nail-biting thrills.

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Phyllis doubts what’s she’s being doing at night when she finds dirty shoes in her room every morning. Her fiance is concerned, but, as her aunt tells him, she doesn’t want to see anyone.

That makes it unique among the films we’ve talked about this month, and it’s all the better for it. She-Wolf of London aims higher than what’s expected of a small B-Movie and looks to hit the suspense level and psychological intrigue of a Hitchcock production. I can’t say She-Wolf reaches quite that height in film making. There’s a real attempt, though, at making something different and special that isn’t just a mindless horror flick.

The what-ifs and Phyllis’s self-inflicted mental torture are slowly built up with a very deliberate pace. You think you’re watching a straightforward horror film, but you soon become as unsure as Phyllis as events unravel in sometimes unexpected ways. The atmosphere is grim, doubtful, and somewhat dreamlike, like you’re stuck in Phyllis’s nightmare.

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Shots like this give the film an unsettling air.

The plot is very simple, unfortunately, and there’s greater potential for suspense and mystery building than is present here. More time developing characters and introducing clues would’ve greatly helped give this interesting – but sometimes too predictable – story more twists and turns.

Despite the oversimplification of the plot that now can’t quite support its hour run-time, the climax is great and nail-biting, the film having built up to it appropriately by that point. It ends too abruptly, but I was surprised by how unnerving the climax was.

I know I’m speaking in vague terms – I’m sorry about that. I just don’t want to give too much away. It’s worth discovering for yourself. Don’t expect anything too grand and mind-blowing. This isn’t that good, but it’s certainly a pleasant surprise worth checking out.

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