After Henry Hull’s turn as a lycanthrope in Werewolf of London had resulted in a box office disappointment it was Lon Chaney’s The Wolf Man that became Universal Pictures‘s default creature of fur and fangs, but in 1946 the studio released a werewolf movie that starred June Lockhart as a woman who believes that she has become a Wolf-Woman, and I must stress, she believes that she has become a Wolf-Woman and this is an aspect of the film that fans of werewolf movies will bemoan.
The plot of this Universal horror flick surrounds the plight of Phyllis Allenby (June Lockhart), the young heiress to the Allenby estate, who along with her cousin Carol Winthrop (Jan Wiley), and her domineering aunt Martha Winthrop (Sara Haden), live near a fog-shrouded London park that has of late been plagued with attacks that those with a more superstitious bent have been calling werewolf in nature, especially Scotland Yard Detective Latham (Llyod Corrigan) who is convinced that a female werewolf is preying on the citizens of London. Needless to say, his boss Inspector Pierce (Dennis Hoey) is less inclined to put stock in the supernatural, as one would expect from a man of the law, but when these brutal incidents continue and the Yard is seemingly unable to track the culprit, it looks like only “one who is pure of heart” can stop these attacks.
The ostensible hero of this tale is Barry Lanfield (Don Porter), a London solicitor who is engaged to marry young Phyllis, that is until she begins to suspect that she’s been making nightly sojourns into the park to commit heinous crimes, like brutally tearing apart a young boy and slashing open the throat of Detective Latham, and much to Barry’s chagrin calls of the engagement. And just what evidence does Phyliss have to back up this bizarre belief? Well, it turns out there is something called the “Curse of the Allenby’s” and this so-called legend ties her family with wolves or some such nonsense, and then there’s the fact that she wakes up each morning to find her bedroom slippers covered in mud and her hands stained with blood. Clearly, the only reasonable explanation is that she has been slipping out into the night to transform into a she-wolf so that she can feed her unnatural fury. That or it’s the evil aunt gaslighting her so that she won’t go off and get married and leave her and her cousin Carol (Jane Wiley) homeless and destitute.
• While not a sequel to Werewolf in London this movie does take place in London, and for some reason, neither Don Porter nor June Lockhart made any effort to conceal their American accents.
• Aunt Martha walking up the stairs with the drug-laced mile is either an homage or a blatant rip-off of Cary Grant doing much the same thing in Hitchcock’s Suspicion.
• One of the pieces of “evidence” against poor Phyllis is a three-pronged garden cultivator found near her bed, but why would a person believing herself to be a werewolf need a weapon to claw her victims?
• Much of Martha’s gaslighting plot hinged on the gullibility of Phyllis and that she would believe in “The Allenby Curse” but her drug-fueled dreams of turning into a werewolf are a little too plot convenient.
Of all the Universal Monster movies She-Wolf of London is easily the weakest, yet it’s not because of poor acting or directing as in both those areas this film is more than adequate, and the cinematography by Maury Gertsman is top-notch, but where the movie does fail is in the very transparent mystery that even the most obtuse viewer will figure out within the first few minutes, not to mention the fact that we don’t actually get a werewolf in this movie and not even a proper imposter – there is no Scooby-Doo villain in a werewolf mask in this flick, just a woman walking around in the fog with a gardening tool – and the only possible reason to watch this film is to see the mom from Lost in Space slowly be driven crazy. Universal’s She-Wolf of London is guilty of being more boring than scary, making this Universal offering an easily forgotten entry in their monsterverse, one that should only be watched by classic horror movie completists.
You can check out my other reviews here: Universal Classic Monsters: A Cinematic World of Horror.
She-Wolf of London (1946)
Movie Rank - 5/10
That there is no female werewolf in a film called She-Wolf of London is the biggest disappointment coming out of this project but even if we let that slide the mystery itself is pretty damn thin and quite uninteresting, and certainly nothing I could recommend to fans of werewolf movies.