Tag Archives: Henry Hull

Werewolf of London (1935, Stuart Walker)

Werewolf of London. He actually does need a tailor, because he’s a gentleman and gentleman dress for the evening. For whatever reason, director Walker seems to spend more time on lead Henry Hull getting dressed while a werewolf than doing much else while a werewolf. There are a couple effects shots in the film involving Hull as a werewolf, but Walker and photographer Charles J. Stumar bumble them terribly.

Walker has a very stagy understanding of composition. I’m using stagy as a pejorative. John Colton’s script does nothing to dissuade that style either. Werewolf of London isn’t a horror picture, it’s a society melodrama in search of a point. Yes, Hull is cursed with lycanthropy but he’s still just a jerk to his wife, a floundering but sympathetic Valerie Hobson. All he does is work. He’s one of those obnoxious work-at-home botanists. Hobson starts hanging around old beau Lester Matthews just as Hull becomes more and more insufferable. He’s not just a rude jerk to her, he’s a rude jerk to fellow botanist Warner Oland. Sure, Oland’s a werewolf too, but he’s a botanist first.

Hull’s bad. Oland’s good. Hobson is fine. Matthews is bad. It’s a bad script. Overall, Werewolf of London has nothing going for it. A better script or a better director would help, but it’s conceptually a mess. Walker can’t even take advantage of Hull actually being good as the werewolf or the makeup being excellent. He gets like three decent shots of the titular monster.

But there’s also Spring Byington. She plays Hobson’s society cousin. She’s awesome. Even in bad scenes, Byington is good. It’s like she knows how to make this material work for her. Same goes for Ethel Griffies and Zeffie Tilbury. They’re dueling landladies and drinking chumps who run afoul of Hull’s werewolf.

There’s also all the morality lessons in Colton’s script regarding wandering spouses, which encourage the idea of approaching Werewolf of London as a relic of mid-thirties Universal studio filmmaking and Hollywood and so on. It’s definitely a better approach than going into it looking for a good film.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Stuart Walker; screenplay by John Colton, based on a story by Robert Harris; director of photography, Charles J. Stumar; edited by Russell F. Schoengarth; music by Karl Hajos; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Henry Hull (Dr. Glendon), Valerie Hobson (Lisa Glendon), Warner Oland (Dr. Yogami), Lester Matthews (Paul Ames), Spring Byington (Miss Ettie Coombes), Lawrence Grant (Sir Thomas Forsythe), Clark Williams (Hugh Renwick), J.M. Kerrigan (Hawkins), Ethel Griffies (Mrs. Whack), Zeffie Tilbury (Mrs. Moncaster) and Charlotte Granville (Lady Forsythe).


RELATED

Advertisements

Boys Town (1938, Norman Taurog)

I can’t figure out–past being an inspiring melodrama–if the filmmakers were trying for anything with Boys Town. The question of its success as that inspiring melodrama is easily answered… it fails. The first act of the film deals with Spencer Tracy trying to get Boys Town, starting just as a home, started. It works pretty well, especially since there’s the heavily comedic interplay between Tracy and grudging benefactor Henry Hull. The Tracy and Hull relationship keeps up throughout the movie, which is nice, since Hull’s occasional presence in the late second act makes a lot of difference.

The problems start with the arrival of Mickey Rooney. It isn’t just Rooney, whose performance is affected and exaggerated (at times, it seems like he inspired Jack Nicholson’s Joker performance), but the present action’s lapse as well. An indeterminate period of time passes from the first act to the second and after the public service tour of Boys Town, the movie centers itself entirely around Rooney. Oh, there are some scenes with Tracy in there, worrying about the finances (which would have made a far more interesting story), but mostly Tracy’s just around to try to reform Rooney.

There’s also a significant problem with neon foreshadowing. When Edward Norris shows up what ought to be a brief presence, it’s very clear he’ll be important later on, so there’s nothing to do but wait for him to come back (and he does in an exceptionally contrived manner). Or precious Boys Town mascot Bobs Watson… he’s destined, from his second or third scene, to end up in a hospital bed for something.

A lot of the cheap storytelling undoes some fine acting. Tracy’s excellent, of course, though after a while, there’s nothing for him to do. Norris is good in his part and a number of the kids are good, particularly Frankie Thomas and Sidney Miller. There are no credited female performers (though some nuns eventually show up–another of the movie’s problems, establishing just how Boys Town actually runs) and their absence is felt.

Norman Taurog brings little in way of direction, but it doesn’t matter if he did, since editing miscreant Elmo Veron cut the film. Veron does an awful job, one so bad–even given Boys Town‘s other problems with artifice–he brings the production down a notch.

At some point in the film’s production timeline, it might have been a good idea (unless it was always just supposed to be a vehicle for Rooney) in addition to a well-intentioned one. But as it is, Boys Town is a failure. It misses telling the story it should and it doesn’t do a good job of telling the one it has (and shouldn’t bother telling).

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Norman Taurog; screenplay by John Meehan and Dore Schary, from a story by Schary and Eleanore Griffin; director of photography, Sidney Wagner; edited by Elmo Veron; music by Edward Ward; produced by John W. Considine Jr.; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Spencer Tracy (Father Flanagan), Mickey Rooney (Whitey Marsh), Henry Hull (Dave Morris), Leslie Fenton (Dan Farrow), Gene Reynolds (Tony Ponessa), Edward Norris (Joe Marsh), Addison Richards (The Judge), Minor Watson (The Bishop), Jonathan Hale (John Hargraves), Bobs Watson (Pee Wee), Martin Spellman (Skinny), Mickey Rentschler (Tommy Anderson), Frankie Thomas (Freddie Fuller), Jimmy Butler (Paul Ferguson), Sidney Miller (Mo Kahn), Robert Emmett Keane (Burton) and Victor Kilian (The Sheriff).


RELATED