December 15, 1941 [The Wolf Man]

Infamy, infamy: We’re where we knew we’d be, as sure as the Moon’s phases: all of us at War, the democracies finally siding with the communists, the fascists with the imperialists. And I don’t have time to split hairs, and wonder where the Good were when the first War toppled down, and what we did to pick up the pieces, and what we allowed to happen in the two decades since. Pearl Harbor is on fire, and it’s no use clucking our tongues or being sad.

--because Lon Chaney the Younger is sad enough for all of us. He has a strange face--more a Brooklyn mug than the Scottish gentleman Universal Studios asks him to be--whose constant look of dull despair made him a good choice for poor Lennie in Of Mice and Men two years ago. And so that’s where I turned, after hearing FDR’s strong, sad voice: to The Wolf Man, and Chaney’s weary lump, with his beaten Depression face--but realizing it only after the fact, the big galoot who shambles into a bloody mess.

In other words, a perfect werewolf, a victim of another's violent spree--Bela Lugosi's, in fact, the werewolf (actually named "Bela") that bites Larry, a lonely cipher who seeks death with all the energy of a convalescent-home inmate--while his werewolf counterpart rolls around in reckless glee through glade and glen, nimble as a faun, hungry as a satyr. But all that energy does not lead to "eternal delight"; no, Larry is only miserable, and the werewolf is simply scary. My middle girl wanted to see the movie, and she has spent the last two nights sleeping with my wife and me, haunted by the thing so perfectly at home in the thick fog, always snarling sotto voce, the only sign we need that he means business, and that business is booming--and shrieking, at least for a moment, until his slavering embrace cuts it off short. A harbinger of things to come, now that we’re following Larry Over There.


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