Universal Monsters: She-Wolf of London (1946)

Written by George Brickner, Dwight V. Babcock (original story)
Directed by Jean Yarbrough
Starring Don Porter, June Lockhart, Sara Haden, Jan Wiley, Lloyd Corrigan
US Release May 17, 1946
RT 61 min.
Home Video Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Classic Horrors rating = 5 (out of 10)

she-wolf-of-london-poster-01-2

Spoiler Alert: The following contains revelation of key plot elements, which may ruin the movie’s surprises.

When I wrote about Werewolf of London, I mentioned pictures of Henry Hull in full makeup that appeared in monster magazines and books when I was a child. As I began watching She-Wolf of London (1946), I realized I didn’t recall any pictures of June Lockhart in similar makeup.  Little did I realize that it was because there is no wolf, she or otherwise, in the movie at all.  Yes, it’s a direct sequel; however, it’s a crime mystery rather than a typical Universal Monsters horror movie.

For a good portion of the movie, you don’t realize there’s no werewolf. In its opening moments, a title card reminds us of the Allenby legend and a Scotland Yard inspector attributes a brutal murder in the park to a werewolf.  It does seem to make more sense than the stray dog theory, and Phyllis Allenby (Lockhart) is portrayed as the sole inheritor of not only her family’s fortune, but also its curse.

When the suspected murderer leaves the house walking upright and wearing a hood, I began to suspect something different was happening. Sure enough, Phyllis is being set up and her own belief in the curse may be driving her crazy.  It’s a clever twist, but one I can’t decide if audiences were thrilled by or disappointed by.  Once my suspicions were raised, I was pretty sure I knew the identity of the villain, but the movie is reluctant to say for sure.

It actually could be one of two women, if the evidence gathered is accurate about indicating the perpetrator’s gender. Both Martha Winthrop (Sara Haden), Phyllis’s stern aunt, and Carol Winthrop (Jan Wiley), her cousin, act suspicious at various times.  Martha would be the more obvious choice, but Carol would be a more shocking choice.  How far will a 1946 movie really go?

While She-Wolf of London may be atypical in many ways, its melodramatic climax is nothing but typical. The real killer reveals herself and is overheard, initiating a chase through the house that provides the real lessons of the movie: don’t run in a long dress and don’t run with a knife in your hand.  Just as the police arrive, drugged Phyllis murmurs, “She’s going to kill me,” to which she’s replied, “No, dear… she’ll never kill anyone else.”  Music swells, credits roll…

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