Cry of the Werewolf, also known as Daughter of the Werewolf, is a 1944 film starring Nina Foch, based on a story by Griffin Jay and directed by Henry Levin. Following The Return of the Vampire, this was Columbia studio’s second broadside-attack on Universal’s stranglehold of the horror market.
Plummy-toned tour guide, Peter Althius (John Abbott) enthrals a captive audience with tales of the strange goings-on in the stately home of the deceased Marie LaTour, rumoured to have been a werewolf.
To cover all bases, voodoo and vampirism are thrown into the talk as well, though we are informed that being a werewolf is the worst of the lot, a fact proven by the evil quotient being so high that the being cannot help but transform into a bestial form to conduct its killings.
Dr Charles Morris (Fritz Lieber, previously glimpsed in Charles Laughton’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame) , the museum’s director, believes he has discovered the sinister secret about the lupine history of the house, prompting the museum’s janitor to warn LaTour’s daughter/gypsy princess, Celeste (the film’s biggest acting draw, Dutch-born Nina Foch, also seen in the aforementioned The Return of the Vampire).
Celeste acts (at least in the movement sense) and burns the offending evidence and we are introduced to a secret series of rooms accessed by a secret panel in the mantlepiece. Morris is also found dead and his son Bob (Stephen Crane, barely acted again, if you count his appearance in this as acting – he went back to being Lana Turner’s husband – briefly) and future Transylvanian wife, Elsa (Danish-born Osa Massen, later seen in Rocketship X-M) try to piece together the evidence to solve the mystery of the house, past and present.
Also along to fight crime is hard-boiled Lt. Barry Lane (Barton MacLane, The Mummy’s Ghost, 1941’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) who starts as he means to go on, barking (or howling) up the wrong tree and ignoring the supernatural elements and pointing fingers at more obvious suspects. Amidst the perpetual long shadows, Celeste and Elsa face-off to hide/uncover the wolfy goings-on, whilst the men of the picture wander around haplessly spending more time preening and checking legal paperwork than stopping marauding monsters.
Is this the worst werewolf film ever made? Well, latter-day shot-on-video or CGI efforts would definitely take that crown but this is a genuine contender, made worse by the fact that Columbia were making a concerted effort to erase all Universal’s efforts in the process. Their previous horror outing, The Return of the Vampire had been well-received in many quarters but had the added attraction of Bela Lugosi and a thinly veiled (and copyright-dodging) storyline which expanded on 1931’s Dracula, in all but name. Cry of the Werewolf has none of this; Foch is alluring but unbelievable as either a werewolf or gypsy royalty; MacClane is fun but clearly hasn’t been told he’s in a horror film and turns the whole film into a plodding noir crime yarn – elsewhere, some of the acting is excruciating, Crane, it goes without saying but also Abbott who sounds like jumper-wearing comic-folk minstrel Jake Thackray.
In pre-production, film was intended to build on their previous success and be titled Bride of the Vampire, elements of this evidently remaining in the plot, but the success of 1942’s Cat People and the opportunity to exploit a more tragic angle proved too enticing and by the time of filming, vampires has taken more of a back seat. The frantic re-write by Griffin Jay who had, it must be said, more of an affinity with bandages (The Mummy’s Ghost, The Mummy’s Hand and The Mummy’s Tomb were all his) lacks any threat whatsoever, has far too many irrelevant characters and still wasn’t entirely sure where it was going – even at filming stage, it was due to be titled Daughter of the Werewolf. The film marks the debut of director Henry Levin who had a long career, fortunately avoiding further horror films – his most famous effort is probably Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Perhaps inevitably, given that World War Two was raging, the budget was meagre… and it shows. There is a distinct lack of music in the film, what there is being recycled stock cues. The ferocious werewolf is actually an alsatian, the remedy for the poor hound’s lack of terror being an elastic band wrapped around his muzzle so that it permanently exposes its teeth. Of course, this is also visible to the audience. Inevitably, even War-weary audiences failed to warm to the film and it was hastily repackaged as a double-bill with The Soul of a Monster, at least offering twice the value if not twice the quality.
Daz Lawrence, MOVIES & MANIA
“A woman likes to have a man a little afraid of her.”
Image credits: Horrorfind.com
Cast and characters:
- Nina Foch as Marie Latour
- Stephen Crane as Robert Morris
- Osa Massen as Elsa Chauvet
- Blanche Yurka as Bianca
- Barton MacLane as Lt. Barry Lane
- Ivan Triesault as Jan Spavero
- John Abbott as Peter Althius
- Fred Graff as Pinkie
- John Tyrrell as Mac
- Robert Williams as Homer
- Fritz Leiber as Dr. Charles Morris
- Milton Parsons as Adamson, the funeral director
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