She-Wolf of London (1946) May 26th, 2020
Of the seven Wolf Man films in Universal Studio’s monster blu-ray collection, She-Wolf of London is the final and worst of all. The film features no werewolves, she-wolves, full moons, silver bullets or transformation scenes. Don’t worry, it’s still monstrous.
Spoilers: She-Wolf of London‘s convoluted plot involves a matronly estate caretaker undermining a betrothed couple’s wedding plans because she wants her own daughter to marry the groom-to-be. The older caretaker gaslights the bride-to-be into believing she transforms into a werewolf at night and massacres pedestrians in the park near her manor. She wakes every morning with muddy slippers, bloody hands and a soiled nightgown. She knows her family name carries the curse of the werewolf (I’m sure this was established in a previous film but I can’t remember). As the only surviving member of her bloodline, it’s only reasonable to assume she’s responsible for these werewolf murders.
I would be really into this movie if it had presented itself as the story of a mother who gaslights her young ward into believing that every night the young woman transforms into a she-wolf and slaughters innocents. Believing she’s cursed with lycanthropy the young woman calls off her engagement to a wealthy young man the matron believes should marry her own daughter ensuring a life of wealth and prosperity for her only child. That premise is wordy but compelling, and it’s not the movie we get. We get a movie that shows us the presumed she-wolf having groggy conversations with her housemates and tearful breakfasts all in order to convince us she’s a nocturnal-canine-killing machine. Such a rich premise wasted.
While watching I thought to myself “Ok, while I patiently wait for any werewolf to appear I’ll enjoy the film as a seemingly Bechdel approved story about a female werewolf and her house full of unwed women. The bride-to-be, her matronly caretaker, the caretaker’s daughter and the elderly house-servant present a Golden Girls-esque environment where the female perspective is unoppressed by patriarchy and male privilege. Maybe I can tune out the boringness of this movie and enjoy this pre-Ripley female led horror vehicle? Yeah, I’ll focus on that.”
30 minutes and zero werewolves later “What? The groom-to-be is forbidden from visiting his bedridden fiancé by the matron… but the matron’s daughter just asked him ‘Haven’t you ever overridden a woman before?’ and with that the potentially empowering theme of female autonomy is undermined by a male writer.” It didn’t end there. The rest of the film is full of assurances that a woman’s worth is tied to the wealth of her husband. The matron needs the bride out of the way so her daughter can have more time alone with the groom. Obviously murdering a handful of people and convincing the bride that she’s a werewolf is the easiest and most rational solution. I guess a bride being unavailable the week of her wedding is enough to push any groom into the arms of the nearest breathing woman. All the matron needs to do is make sure that ‘legally alive’ woman is her daughter. Never-mind her daughter has no interest in marrying her friend’s fiancé and would rather snog her painter boyfriend in the same park where random people are nightly being ripped to shreds.
Even the bride and groom’s first scene depicts a friendly horse race where the winner gets to pick their wedding date. He wants to get married next week, she loves winter weddings and is hoping for a December ceremony. He makes it clear to her that he despises winter weddings, so get your dress ready because by this time next week you’ll be married. They race, he wins, she says “That’s alright, I lost on purpose, I didn’t want to have a winter wedding after all.” Why? Why pretend if you were going to sabotage your own race? Maybe she was just covering for her horrible riding and wanted to save face? Maybe she knew it would be worse for her if she won? I don’t know, I’m overthinking it. I will say it sure comes across like someone wanted to write a movie where women behaved like they ‘should’.
Lacking werewolves, female empowerment and making the twist the most engaging part of the picture makes She-Wolf of London a waste of time. I give She-Wolf of London zero five-pointed-silver-stars, this movie is dog doo.
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