UHC Entry 002: The Werewolf (1913)

History’s first werewolf film appears with the Friday the 13th moon.

entry-002
Placard by Tantz Aerine.

 

EPISODE

UHC Entry 002: The Werewolf (1913)

IMAGE

werewolf01
The only surviving image from the film.

 

SOURCES

The Universal Weekly, Vol. 3, No. 24.  December 1913.

Moving Picture World, Vol. 18, No. 10.  December 6, 1913.

The Arkansas Democrat, pg. 8.  December 22, 1913.

The Huntington Herald, pg. 7.  December 13, 1913.

The Burlington Free Press, pg. 14.  December 27, 1913.

My Boody Obsession, a blog by Brad Middleton

Film Dirt, a blog by Kelly Robinson

IMDB.com

The Classic Horror Film Board

Nitrateville – Thread on “The Werewolf”

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5 thoughts on “UHC Entry 002: The Werewolf (1913)

  1. My answer to discussion question: I’m pretty certain that this female werewolf would have influenced later werewolf films, but I can’t tell if it would be a small influence or a larger influence. We see female werewolves already in the broader horror genre, but I somewhat suspect we might have seen more of them and perhaps better ones. As far as Universal itself, the question is much more difficult. On one hand, you had Bride of Frankenstein and Countess Marya Zaleska (Dracula’s Daughter) and all, and on other hand, still a more male dominated society and perhaps a more male-marketed Universal Horror line. So it feels like a toss up as to whether The Wolf Man 1941 would have been significantly affected or influenced. But maybe 2010’s remake The Wolfman might have been affected, maybe this 1913 film would have been remade instead or maybe Universal would have done some fusion film or something, or maybe the 2010 film still happens but this 1913 film is remade as a sequel. So hard to speculate.

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  2. There is a bit of a female werewolf tradition in classic horror films, but interestingly its often in disguised forms – I’m thinking of movies like Val Lewton’s ‘Cat People’ for RKO, or Hammer’s ‘The Reptile’. These are essentially werewolf narratives, in all but name – but perhaps the sensibilities of the time saw the wolf as somehow too fundamentally ‘masculine’ and so substituted an animal transformation they saw as more ‘female’- like a black cat or a snake. The thinking is not only in overt horror pieces. I’ve a feeling Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes has a moment in one of the Universal films – can’t remember which one off the top of my head but it may have been ‘The Spider Woman’ with Gale Sondergaard – where he deduces the crimes were committed by a woman because they have a ‘feline’ quality. Maybe had ‘The Werewolf’ survived we might have had more canine and lupine female monsters – who knows?
    In any case, I’m very grateful for the entry. I hadn’t known of the existence of this film before, and so you’ve saved me from an unwitting inaccuracy in a piece I’ve just published on ‘The Wolf Man’ on my site. I’ve acknowledged this with a link in the post, and I’ll follow the rest of your epic challenge with interest. Thanks again.

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    • Hi Michael,

      First, thank you for the interest, and for the very kind words! While I admit I’ve been slacking on the challenge side of things (my day job has taken much of my time as it is our busy season and my other job writing for the Fictosphere has recently picked up), I believe I will begin consistently updating again within the next week or so.

      I think you might be onto something regarding the whole “feminine animal” versus “masculine animal” thing, though that then raises a separate question of influence and source material. To my knowledge, Cat People has no comparable written work or novelization from which is draws influence, and while I’m unclear on the origins, I believe women have been described as feline for some time now (at least as long as I’ve been alive). I feel confident then that the argument could be made that Val Lewton drew on those commonly held beliefs for his inspiration. Hammer’s The Reptile was based on Bram Stoker’s novella Lair of the White Worm–so while it may very well be true that Stoker’s perception of the snake as a feminine animal was part of why he made the monster female, Hammer was simply vying for accuracy to the source material IMO (Supporting fact: In The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling wrote Kaa the snake as female as well…so the snake as woman may have indeed been a perception at one time, especially among denizens of the United Kingdom).

      With The Werewolf, though, it seems like the decision to associate the wolf with a female was an arbitrary one by Henry MacRae…or perhaps not. As said in the podcast (at least, I think I said it…it might have wound up on the cutting room floor), though MacRae cites Beaugrand’s story as the primary influence behind his film, the film is by no means an adaptation–pertinent to this conversation, the loup garou in the story are all men. Released around the same time (or close to the same time, within fifty years or so) as Beaugrand’s short story was another story with a similar title (The Were-wolf instead of “The Were-Wolves”), and though the setting was European (Scandinavian, I believe) and the plot likewise had nothing to do with MacRae’s film, the eponymous were-wolf was a female. My working theory, then, is that Henry MacRae names Beaugrand’s story, he probably knew of the other story as well. I have no way of proving this, and I’m not sure I’m committed to it 100%, but it is at the very least an interesting coincidence.

      Interestingly enough (at least to me), the masculinity of the mummy is likewise a curious thing. The most famous gothic Egyptian mummy story is (arguably) Bram Stoker’s novella Jewel of the Seven Stars, in which the mummy is a long-dead female princess looking to incarnate in a modern-day (for the time) double. Here, though, the reason behind Karl Freund’s choice of a masculine lead over a feminine one isn’t as obscure as Henry MacRae’s feminine werewolf: The initial draft for The Mummy was Cagliostro, The King of the Dead, an unmade Karloff vehicle–and The Mummy was just a retro-fitting of sorts.

      Wow, that’s a long post. My apologies. I think the tl;dr gist of it is that I agree, but that raises a new question then–one to which we, perhaps, may never know the answer.

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  3. Hi
    Thanks for taking the time to post such a detailed and thoughtful reply. No need to apologise for the length- it’s a genuine thrill to find someone so well-informed who seems to find this stuff as fascinating as I do. Besides, as someone who struggles to keep anything he posts below about 6000 words, the tl;dr acronym strikes much more terror into my heart than any number of werewolves.

    I think you make a really good point about the significance of the source material. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it given that I know both pretty well, but the connection between ‘Lair of the White Worm’ and ‘The Reptile’ had never struck me, though now you’ve pointed it out it seems glaringly obvious. In fact there was a loose literary source for ‘Cat People’ too, a 1906 Algernon Blackwood short story called ’Ancient Sorceries’ about a French town inhabited by a devil-worshipping sect of cat people. Lewton had certainly read the story, and according to a writer he worked with named DEWitt Bodeen, the intention at first was to make a straightforward period adaptation, but then Lewton changed his mind and opted for an original story with a more ‘relatable’ contemporary New York setting. So for both these films, you’re right to point out that the sources make the transformation chosen to some extent pre-determined.

    Co-incidentally, although I’ve never read the Beaugrand story which more directly inspired ‘The Werewolf’, I do have a copy of the 1890 Clemence Housman story you reference, and it seems to me (for what it’s worth) that your theory about it forming part of the inspiration for the director of the film is a sound one, even though we’ll never know for sure.

    As far as opening the can (or sarcophagus) of worms of mummy gendering much further, I’d just add that by the time ‘Jewel of Seven Stars’ was finally adapted for the screen, as Hammer’s ‘Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb’, I think Hammer’s motivation was at least as much to do with the possibilities arising from casting the statuesque Valerie Leon as any particular respect for the source material. Karloff never looked as good in a nightdress.

    Thanks again for your response, and for the ideas. I greatly appreciate both.

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    • Haha, I’m glad my wall of text isn’t a deterrent. I’m always worried that my responses (to anything) cross over into “ranting dissertation” territory. Likewise, I appreciate the stimulating conversation.

      I was unaware of the inspiration behind Cat People. I’ll have to read Algernon Blackwood’s story one of these days.

      Beaugrand’s story is unbelievably short–in fact, I think my summary of it in the podcast is longer than the story itself. Even then, I’m not 100% sure that a single werewolf actually shows up in the thing. Still, it is the stated inspiration for the 1913 film, whereas Housman’s story is not referenced at all to my knowledge–save in the detail of a female werewolf (if there is a werewolf in Beaugrand’s story, it isn’t a female, but one of a group of several male werewolves who might be Indians or might be white heretics). It’s a quick read, and…uh…well, I’m not even sure I can say it gives good insight into the tone of the film. But it’s not time-intensive, so that’s good at least.

      I tend to agree with anything referencing Valerie Leon and a nightdress, so you’ll get no argument from me there.

      Again, thank you for the post. I do appreciate it greatly, and think I will get back to the UHC very soon (within the next week, schedule permitting).

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