|Thoughts on Horror Movies (or A Meditation on Monsters)
||[Oct. 4th, 2010|04:15 am]
Kelly J. Cooper
Even if only tenuously, the various Frankenstein movies were based on Mary Shelley's book of the same name.
And, even if only tenuously, the various Dracula movies were based on Bram Stoker's book of the same name.
The Mummy, I figured, was inspired by the Egyptology excitement of the early 1900s and the famous Pharaoh's Curse. And I was half-right. Wikipedia references Mark Vieira's book, Hollywood Horror: From Gothic to Cosmic (2003), saying:
Inspired by the opening of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922 and the Curse of the Pharaohs, producer Carl Laemmle Jr. commissioned story editor Richard Shayer to find a literary novel to form a basis for an Egyptian-themed horror film, just as Dracula and Frankenstein informed their previous hits. Shayer found none, but he and writer Nina Wilox Putnam learned about Alessandro Cagliostro and wrote a nine-page treatment entitled Cagliostro. The story, set in San Francisco, was about a 3000-year old magician who survives by injecting nitrates. Laemmle was pleased, and he hired John L. Balderston to write the script. Balderston contributed to Dracula and Frankenstein, and had covered the opening of Tutankhamen's tomb for New York World when he was a journalist. He moved the story to Egypt and renamed the film and its title character Imhotep, after the historical architect. Nitrates! Like a hot dog! Anyway, I started wondering, is there a story behind the various depictions of the Wolf Man? The werewolf existed in folk tales just as the vampire did before the 20th century, but was there a focusing text that made it ripe for movie adaptation?
And there is a story! But it's not what I thought...
This note is from the IMDB trivia entry for The Wolf Man (1941):
According to the documentary on the Recent Wolf Man DVD collection, the script for The Wolf Man was influenced by writer Curt Siodmak's experiences in Nazi Germany. Siodmak had been living a normal life in Germany only to have it thrown into chaos and himself on the run when the Nazis took control, just as Larry Talbot finds his normal life thrown into chaos and himself on the run once he is turned into a werewolf. Also, the wolfman himself can be seen as a metaphor for the Nazis: an otherwise good man who is transformed into a vicious killing animal who knows who his next victim will be when he sees the symbol of a pentagram (i.e., a star) on them. Further along in the trivia section is this note:
Many of the modern myths of werewolves originated from this film, such as a person becoming a werewolf through a bite, the only way to kill a werewolf is with a silver bullet, and changing into one during a full moon. These are original concepts created by writer Curt Siodmak. HOWEVER, per both the Wikipedia entry AND the IMDB entry, Werewolf of London predates The Wolf Man by 6 years and also uses the "bite" for transmission of this terrible condition and the full moon as a trigger.
Also, for the amusement value, I'd like to note that Werewolf of London inspired the Warren Zevon song (which came out in 1978, 3 years before An American Werewolf in London, which was inspired by the original movie as well).
The effects of silver do not appear in pre-20th century traditions. The transmission by bite did show up, but it was rare. There were a whole BUNCH of ways to become a werewolf and the biting was rarely cited. So the question becomes, what inspired the writers of Werewolf of London? In 1933, Guy Endore published The Werewolf of Paris, a horror novel. This site claims that the book was the inspiration behind The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), Hammer Films' only werewolf flick. Could it have been the influence behind the first mainstream werewolf film as well? There were other werewolf movies before this one; could they have inspired it? I think I need to poke at this some more.