Dedicated to the Study and Appreciation
of the Movies and Personalities of the Golden Age of Hollywood
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
After a Brief Intermission..
Meanwhile, here are a few afterthoughts about another of the pictures screened at Cinevent this year: Cry of the Werewolf (1944), a Columbia B-picture that took the screen in Columbus, appropriately enough, at midnight on Saturday, Day 2. This was the first directorial effort of Henry Levin, who would go on to a career not without its pleasant touches here and there: Mr. Scoutmaster, Journey to the Center of the Earth ('59), The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, Where the Boys Are. Unfortunately, Cry of the Werewolf isn't one of them. But it's not a total washout either. In the title role, believe it or not, is 19-year-old Nina Foch as a gypsy princess struggling with an ancestral lycanthropic curse. It's Nina Foch all right, but it wasn't easy to recognize her; in this she's softer, less hard-edged and (no pun intended) cougar-tough than she would appear later in movies like An American in Paris (can you believe she's only 27 in that one?), Executive Suite and Spartacus.
Beyond that rather interesting surprise, though, Werewolf is a pretty flaccid affair. It's clear that the boys in Columbia's B unit -- producer Wallace MacDonald, writers Griffin Jay and Charles O'Neal, et al. -- took a look at what Val Lewton was doing over at RKO with pictures like Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie and thought, "Hey, we can do that!" Well, no. That sort of atmospheric chiller, it turns out, is not as easy as Lewton and Jacques Tourneur and Mark Robson and Robert Wise made it look. It's not as simple as sending a German shepherd sauntering through a darkened set and telling the audience it's a wolf. Still, at 63 minutes, Cry of the Werewolf wasn't long enough to waste my time; on the contrary, it demonstrated by negative example just how efficient and effective Val Lewton's movies really were. Since "this utterly suspenseless film" (NY Times, 8/12/44) will probably never come out on video, it's thanks to festivals like Cinevent that we're able to make that kind of compare-and-contrast.
Posted by Jim Lane at 12:48 AM
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