CRY OF THE WEREWOLF

Cry of the WereWolf (1944) has its moments but none of them include a werewolf as portrayed in the above poster.

The film opens with the matter-of- fact tones of museum guide John Abbott showing a group round a museum of horror and vampirism. He shows them the Voodoo room and reveals  that the building was once the home of ‘Marie LaTour’ who was a werewolf and is thought to be buried somewhere in the grounds.

 

The guide demonstrates how you kill a vampire . Of course you know it’s a stake through the heart.

 

The museum is run by Dr. Morris (Fritz Leiber) who is involved in psychic research, aided by his assistant Elsa  (Osa Massen) who is in love with the doctor’s son Bob (Stephen Crane).
Dr. Morris indicates he knows where the mysterious Marie LaTour is buried.

 

Osa Massen

 

Also working at the museum is creepy caretaker Jan (Ivan Triesault). Jan goes to the gypsy encampment where he reports to Princess Celeste (Nina Foch) and Bianca (Blanche Yurka).

Celeste is the daughter of Marie LaTour , and is also a werewolf. Bianca reminds her she must  fulfil her destiny , joining the next museum tour and murdering Dr. Morris in her werewolf alter-ego.
No blood or gore, just screams and animal howls from inside a hidden room. Unfortunately the tour guide sees the hidden room opening and goes in. When he comes out, he’s lost his mind!

Blanche Yurka, Nina Foch, Ivan Triesault

 

The police, led by Barton MacLane, are called in and find the doctor’s body showing he has been attacked  by an animal.

When we finally see the ‘werewolf’, it looks like a moderate sized Alsatian dog and not at all threatening!

 

it might have been more convincing if we had only seen the shadow.

One gripping scene with a Val Lewton touch takes place in a mortuary with  Stephen  Crane being stalked by Nina Foch. Of course, it is dark and we only see and hear Nina’s clicking footsteps which gradually morph  into the wolf’s paws padding along the floor!

When the cops finally corner the werewolf and pull out their guns, Barton MacLane says, “Aim at its eyes!”

They fatally wound the animal and another good scene shows blood dripping down the Princess’s arm and the screen changes her  into the wolf’s legs which also have blood on them.

 

 

 

Nina Foch, Stephen Crane, Milton Parsons.

(Another good character actor, Milton Parsons, plays an undertaker whom the gypsies ( did I say they were from Transylvania?) bring their dead for special ceremonies.

 

Stephen Crane, Osa Massen, Nina Foch.

Now that looks like a Werewolf!

 

Nina Foch, and the dangerous werewolf.

 

Nina Foch  is the nominal lead but is not seen for the first 20 mins. of the 63 minute running time. Under contract to Columbia early in her career, Nina never got the roles to show what a fine  actress she was.
Stephen Crane (one of Lana Turner’s husbands) only made three films before becoming a successful restauranteur. He didn’t stand out amidst all the good character actors in this movie.

Whenever I see Osa Massen, I always think of her as the whining wife of Melvyn Douglas in A WOMAN’S FACE. She’s ok here, even as she is hypnotised by the Princess Celeste who tells her, “when you awaken, you  too will be the daughter of a werewolf!”

One is used to seeing Ivan Triesault  as an autocratic spy or Nazi  ( think  “Notorious”) A powerful presence in most of his films, but this film was early in his career and he didn’t have much to do as the caretaker .

Hollywood, always rich in character actors, had Fritz Lieber as the museum director. Although only in a few scenes, he was impressive and believable.
Barton MacLane is his usual gruff self as the sceptical policeman who, at the end, turns to uncredited Ray Teal and says, “ You can say I saw it with my own eyes.”

I’m always surprised how much story can be told in just over an hour and although I may be making some fun of the film, aside from the unrealistic wolf, I enjoyed it a lot, especially because of the good cast. If only director Henry Levin ( his first film as director) had left the werewolf to shadows and sounds.

I watched it on You Tube.

 

THE GYPSY MOON

 

THE WEREWOLF’S DAUGHTER.

17 responses »

  1. Columbia was trying to jump on the Universal horror cycle with this film and Return Of The Vampire, also starring Nina. Apart from My Name Is Julia Ross her early films don’t give her great opportunities. I’ve become fascinated by her in recent years. Her great friend Julie Andrews gave a witty and amusing tribute at her memorial service, which is on You Tube. How about a blog about her ?

  2. I’m working on a post on Nina . That’s why I watched this one. She was held in high regard for her acting classes and Julie Andrews was coached by her. Thanks to George Lucas, a series of her classes for actors and directors can be seen on YT.

  3. That’s great news. Just watched Return Of The Vampire agin. It’s derivative but very well done. That fine actress Frieda Inescourt is an asset, as always. You might enjoy Boston Blackies Rendezvous. Much tougher than other films in this series, with Steve Cochran as a vicious killer. Plus Nina and Iris Adrian.

  4. It’s nice to see Blanche Yurka mentioned. She was one of the “great ladies” of the NY stage whose best-known film was perhaps “A Tale of Two Cities”.
    In 1934 Robert Henderson, co-head of my drama school in London (and the one who’d seen Ray Bolger’s original “On Your Toes”), directed Yurka, notorious “Mrs. Pat” Campbell and his wife Estelle Winwood in the premiere production of the Ann Arbor Festival, “Trojan Women” with choreography by Martha Graham! and in 1970 at Sokol Hall, site of Miss Yurka’s NY debut, in “Madwoman of Chaillot” as her swansong. Also in that cast were Jacqueline Susann, Peggy Wood (who Robt. told me was unkind about Yurka’s illness), Frederick O’Neal, “New Faces” producer Leonard Sillman and British actors Celia Gregory and Simon McCorkindale who were then Robert’s students in London.
    I’ve recently read that Miss Yurka was witness to the famous Reynolds tobacco heir murder involving Libby Holman. Quite a life! – and my long way of thanking you for writing about such movies. Foch in these photos looks a bit like Tallulah Bankhead! – also directed here in Toronto by Robert in “Private Lives”, with co-star Donald Cook at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.

  5. Blanche did a great interview with the long defunct Film Fan Monthly in the seventies. She didn’t hol her film career in high regard, unlike her stage work, and seemed surprised by Leonard Maltins interest.

  6. I look forward to this film and hopefully the interview. She was Gertrude to J. Barrymore’s Hamlet, the longest-ever run of that play. Robert said she was great to work with, despite coping with health issues at that time. I guess Foch’s best-known film is “Executive Suite” – a role so small she almost refused it, then was Oscar-nominated for it.

  7. Nina had the title role in MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS , a good part for her .
    Her friend John Houseman persuaded her to take the small role in Executive Suite.
    I wish Blanche Yurka had had a bigger role in Cry of the Werewolf.

  8. Sometimes people whose experience is solely commercial and film-based, can be intimidated by those with a classical or even just very solid stage background. That of course wasn’t true of Houseman as he’d managed the Mercury Theatre, but it’s very likely to have been an attitude Yurka encountered.

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