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The Celluloid Cryptozoologist: Werewolves

‘Even a man who is pure of heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf, when the Wolfs-bane blooms, and the Autumn moon is bright’.

An Olde Gypsy saying.

In the world of monsters, ghouls and ghosts, for me, there is only one choice for king, or queen, of the scary abandoned Gothic castle. Sure I like vampires, ghosts and gillmen as much as the next guy, but they simply can not compare to the lycanthrope, wolfman or werewolf. The wolfman beast type thing, is my favourite monster, and so I shall now write a rather long, but hopefully interesting, article on the subject. So sit back, relax, and enjoy as I bring you the first in a series of articles, The Celluloid Cryptozoologist.

The Werewolf, can come in many types and classes, but all, (well most), are awesome. Unlike Vampires (Dracula etc.), the Werewolf, hasn’t really had a classic novel or work that defines the typical werewolf, and as such, they are open to a certain degree of interpretation. The classic film, The Wolfman, is perhaps the archetype of many celluloid werewolves to come, and is a classic of the genre. In this film many of the trappings of werewolfery are set out, but some are very much absent. So friends, shall we delve into this fascinating celluloid cryptid? I think we should go on a journey, a journey into the heart of man, to reveal the beast in us all, so grab your wolfs-bane, and silver based weapon, and follow me into the forest where the beast who walk among us reside, don’t stray from the path, and off to Grandmother’s house we go…

WOLFMEN

 

The Wolfman is a curious breed. In this list of werewolf-type creatures, a wolfman is perhaps the closest to a human. There are many distinct types of wolfmen, but similar features are found in each. A wolfman will stand upright, and from a distance could be mistaken for an average human. However, on closer inspection, if you are stupid enough, or unlucky enough to to see one up close, they are very different to the average human. In The Werewolf of London (1935), the werewolf is less hairy than other types, the face is distorted into an animalistic snarl, and the teeth, claws and eyes are certainly terrifying. Often described as The Elvis Werewolf, due to the hair style, this poor creature was turned by the bite of another werewolf, although this is not always the case with wolfmen, as being born on Christmas Eve, having eyebrows that meet in the middle and being the result of a rape, can all account for the child being a wolfman (Curse of the Werewolf).

A hairier cousin to this creature can be found in The Wolfman (1941). Poor Larry Talbot, also bitten by a wolf, has more pronounced changes, hairy all over, a short wolf snout, and hairy clawed hands and wolf feet. A tragic character, this creature instinctively seeks to destroy those it loves, and can only be killed with silver, in this case, a silver headed cane, although this method may not in fact be very efficient as 1943’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, suggests. At times a wolfman may exhibit the attributes of a wolf during his human hours, including an increased sense of smell, and hearing, as well as sexual aggressiveness and a take no shit attitude (Wolf, 1993). The Wolfman, may in fact be just a stage of evolution of the werewolf, as Jack Nicholson’s character in Wolf shows, he eventually turns in a werewolf proper i.e. a full on wolf. The Wolfman, 2010 shows a far more animalistic and vicious creature, hairier, more aggressive killing machine. It is a matter of some debate whether or not a wolfman needs the full moon to change, it seems that sometimes he does, but other times not, it must be taken on a case by case basis.

WEREWOLVES

 

The werewolf, from the Anglo-Saxon were, meaning man and wulf, meaning wolf, literally a man-wolf. However, for the purposes of this article, here, a werewolf will be a term describing a man who turns into a four legged wolf, literally, a man turning into an animal. Again, there are numerous types of werewolves, and as mentioned above, the werewolf, may be the final stage of transformation of the wolfman, however, evidence suggests that most werewolves do not go through a wolfman stage. Classic examples of this type can be seen in The Beast Must Die and The Company of Wolves. In these cases, the man whose disease origin is unknown, turns into a real wolf, and once dispatched, will revert to human form. Werewolves are more likely to only change during a full moon and are susceptible to silver, usually in the form of a bullet.

Special cases of this type of werewolfery include An American Werewolf In London and Red Riding Hood. In these cases, the werewolf far exceeds an ordinary wolf in both size and aggressiveness. In the first case, people bitten by a the wolf will become werewolves, but those killed become undead, and haunt the human hours of the werewolf, causing guilt at what he has done. In the second case, the curse of the werewolf can be passed down through family members, but a bite is still required to cause a final transformation. A psychic link to family members may also be present, showing that at least some werewolves are not just savage beasts, but are able to make decisions and show a definite human intelligence, making them extremely dangerous. Transformations can be extremely painful, as the human body twists and shift into the form of a wolf, and sufferers will often wake up in strange places, often in a mess of blood an entrails, and sometimes even in the company of real wolves. Unlike with wolfmen, werewolves do not wear clothes, so waking up naked somewhere quite public is a real possibility. Vampires have been known to be able to change into wolves, and as such the werewolf and the vampire are closely linked. (Dracula, 1931).

LYCANTHROPES

 

Lycanthropy is a real disease, symptoms include, an aversion to sunlight, animalistic behaviour and an increase in hair growth, however, for the purposes of this article, Lycanthropes will be used to describe those werewolves who turn from man in a bipedal, wolf-headed creature. Once again, there are a few types of these creatures, and their physiology is not always common. Variations in size are recorded, however, Lycanthropes are usually described as very large, aggressive and extremely dangerous. There have been cases reported that suggest that these creatures are the most dangerous of all werewolves. In Dog Soldiers two teams of highly trained British soldiers, one of them a Spec Ops team, are literally ripped to shreds by a pack of Lycanthropes. This is one of their most fascinating traits, pack behaviour. Unlike other werewolves, who prefer a solitary existence, some types of Lycanthropes prefer to hunt in packs, and can in fact live in family/pack units. (Dog Soldiers, The Howling), it is unclear whether or not Lycanthropy is inherited or not, but it is certain that it can be transmitted through bite.

Other types of Lycanthropes have the ability to talk (Cursed) and many have a specific hatred of other members of the underworld of monsters, namely Vampires (Underworld). It has been suggested that Lycanthropes were bred as guardians for vampires, vampire guard dogs if you will. Also it is suggested that a Lycanthrope is the only creature that can destroy a master vampire (Van Helsing). Lycanthropes are common around the world, well as common as any creature of the night, but are most commonly found in Europe and North America. Native American legends talk of the Manitou or Wendigo creatures that bare a strong resemblance to the Lycanthrope (The X-Files : Shapes). Lycanthropes do not need the full moon to bring about the change, and some types, do not even require darkness for it to happen, being able to change at will. Silver is a common cause of death, but by no means a certain way of destruction, it seems fire in the form of an explosion will do the trick (Dog Soldiers).

WOLF-MAN TYPE THINGS

Our final species of werewolf, and hard to pin down. Some types of these beasts exhibit many of the traits of wolfmen, lycanthropes and werewolves, and some, not at all. Some barely seem to change from their human form, whilst others are wild and savage beasts killing all who come into contact with them. In She-wolf of London, one of our few female case studies, the subject does not change into a wolf of any description, instead, the change is a psychological one, as she convinces herself she becomes a wolf at night in order to commit murders. Other examples, and indeed, another female example can be found in A Company of Wolves. One case in this study concerns a young female creature who is neither werewolf, wolfman or lycanthrope, but a kind of wild girl with slight wolf attributes. A Professor Lupin, who used to teach at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, is reported to be a werewolf, however, pictorial evidence seems to suggest that the creature that he turns into, whilst sharing certain characteristics with lycanthropes, is not a true member of this species (he looks rubbish).

As mentioned above, the vampire and the werewolf are quite closely linked in some cultures. Powerful vampires are said to be able to change into wolf like creatures in order to exploit their more animal natures. A certain Count Dracula, renowned as King of all Vampires, has at times exhibited the ability to turn into both wolves, and wolf like creatures (Bram Stocker’s Dracula). There most fearsome of all wolf-like creatures however, may in fact be the werewolf/vampire hybrid. A werewolf born, then later bitten by a vampire, creating a creature of terrifying power, sharing all the strengths of both species, but few of the weaknesses, the hybrid (Underworld) is to be avoided at all costs by all but the most confident hunter.

So there we have it, all that man may know about the loups–garou, that’s a French werewolf to you, yeah look impressed. Until next we meet, stay on the path, don’t talk to strange men who’s eyebrows meet in the middle, and most of all, beware the moon, and if all that fails, make sure Liam Neeson is in close proximity.

Unsung Geek Heroes

By Hmsbeefnuts

Now we all know who Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and James Cameron are. Likewise, we have all heard of Christian Bale, Harrison Ford and Jason Statham. Over the years, these people have provided us geeks with hundreds of hours of quality geek entertainment, and as a result, they are rightly rewarded with being known by the general populace, and of course, huge pay cheques. However, the films they are in are usually special effect extravaganzas, or based on characters that have a long standing in the geek community.

 In many cases, the thing you most like about a film etc, has been the work of a team of people who have worked for months and years on making the film/game look as good as it does, or working on the character, or even acting in the film, but being under heavy make up or CGI. Here I will discuss my personal unsung heroes, and even as I do so, I realise that thousands of people are being left out, so next time you enjoy a film etc., stay for the credits, and look at how many people were involved in making that film, game, or TV show.

Shigeru Miyamoto

 

If I told you that one man practically saved video games at a time when people thought they would be a passing fad, and helped turn them in to a world wide phenomenon that makes more money per year than Hollywood, you would be confused that most people don’t know his name. The fact that this man invented Mario, a character more well known globally than Mickey Mouse, but not only Mario, but The Legend of Zelda, and had a hand in Metroid, Poke’mon, Star Fox, Pikmin, Pilot Wings, F-Zero, Donkey Kong and a hundred more, is testament both to his creative talent, and the shame that the world should bare for not erecting a colossal statue to the man. Miyamoto is the dictionary definition of legend. He has given more children more hours of fun than any man on this planet, and lets be honest, more than a few adults too.

 

The Super Mario games alone would be enough to secure this man legendary status, but when added to his other accomplishments, especially The Legend of Zelda, have produced what many people agree are the greatest video games ever created. My personal favourite of his games include, The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past, Super Mario Brothers, Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Super Mario World, and Star Fox 64, (Lylat Wars in the UK). The figure head of Nintendo, every time Miyamato appears at a press conference or trade show fun and hijinks are sure to follow. Please people, remember the name, he may not have had anything physical to do with Call of Duty or Halo, but in his own way, it is because of the trail blazing role he played as the creator of the modern video game, that video games were such a large part of all our childhoods. I challenge you not to smile whilst playing Mario or Zelda, or when beating a friend at Mario Kart Battle Mode.

Jack Pierce

 

Universal Horror make up master, and creator of the iconic looks of many of our beloved movie monsters. Ask a child to describe Frankenstein, Dracula or the wolfman, and inevitably they will describe a creature incredibly similar to Jack Pierces’ work. This guy is such a legend that other people on this list think he is legend, yeah he’s that good. Working in the early days of film, Pierce had to use all his gifts to create these wonderful effects. The Wolfman for example must have taken hours each day to apply to actor Lon Chaney Jnr. Each yack hair glued individually and painstakingly to the actors face, it’s no wonder that the two argued frequently.

 

The Frankenstein monster make up is now the established look of the monster, in reality an eerie green, in black and white, the fearsome creature, with it’s scars, square head and electric nodes on his neck (not bolts as is commonly assumed) the creature is a marvellous combination of actor and make up. Now I understand that the technicalities of the make up technician probably do not interest the average man, or woman on the street, but in my mind, Pierces’ make up kit should be placed in a museum and treated with as high esteem as any Renaissance era scrawling.

Richard Taylor

 

I don’t know if you have watched the special features on the Lord of the Rings Extended Edition DVD’s or Blu-rays, but you should. If you have, you can’t have failed to notice the squeaky voiced bespectacled geek genius that is Richard Taylor. Creative powerhouse of the greatest effects company working today, WETA Workshop, this Kiwi man marvel has, with Peter Jackson, and hundreds of their underlings, created the impossible. LOTR was a book that most people assumed would be un-filmable, and whilst it is due to Jacksons tight direction and vision that the film was completed, it was thanks to Taylor and the fine people at WETA that the film looked so damn good, authentic and lived in, every prop, miniature, creature and weapon were created from scratch with loving care and attention to detail. It all looks so good because it all makes sense, items have a common inception and a story behind them, really watch the documentaries on the DVD’s, it’s like a few years in film school, but far more entertaining.

 

Taylor has also been heavily involved in King Kong, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Avatar, films that I think you will agree were stunning, at least visually, and in my opinion, stunning all round. Taylor is a major reason that WETA is now seen as the premier effects company in the world, and when you look at their innovations in the world of mo-cap, or their stunning work with their so called bigatures and their pioneering mass army programme MASSIVE, Taylor has helped shape the modern cinematic experience, and from humble beginnings, working in a shed on Jacksons early films Braindead, Meet The Feebles and Bad Taste. The guy deserves a haka.

Stan Lee

You might think that Stan Lee gets enough recognition for his work on Marvel comics, after all he has a cameo in basically every marvel film there has ever been, and I can understand this, but we have to remember people, we are geeks. We delight in the now standard Stan Lee cameo, whether being saved from an automotive death by a young Matt Murdoch, being confused for Hugh Heffner by Tony Stark, drinking a bottle of soft drink infused with Bruce Banners’ blood or trying to move Moljnir with a pick up truck, Stan Lee it would seem gets enough geek recognition. But I wonder, does the average person who just goes to see these films know who the hell the crazy old man is in these films? Well they should, for this man has had a hand in more modern myths than almost any other, the man deserves an Oscar for most important cameo in superhero films for a man who actually created the character, except that he would be the only nominee, and would win every year.

 

Stan the Man has had a hand in Spider-man, The X Men, Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, The Avengers, Daredevil and many many more characters, the guy is Marvel. OK so in recent years, his creative output has been, well, not so good Stripperella anyone? But the guy deserves a break, and should get one. So the next time your in a Cinema, or at home with friends watching a Marvel movie, and Stan Lee shows up, cheer, and whisper (at the cinema) or shout (if at home) the name of the great man, and spread the word, Excelsior!!

Andy Serkis

The worlds most underrated actor in my opinion, Andy Serkis has given birth to some of modern cinemas most remarkable characters. Caesar the chimpanzee from the latest instalment of the Planet of the Apes franchise will no doubt be over looked come awards season, but the performance, mo-capped by Serkis and WETA, is outstanding. The subtlety of Serkis’ work helps create a living breathing character that holds his own with the human characters. Serkis himself has described the mo-cap process as basically digital make up, the actor is still very much acting, and emoting, but instead of make up, a CG character mirrors the actors motions and emotions. His work as Kong in King Kong was again a work of genius. Playing the character as very much a gorilla, not some monster, Kong exhibited a wide range of emotions and character traits, and it is a cold heart indeed who does not shed a tear when the big ape hits the pavement, after that horrendous fall.

 

It is however, Serkis’ work as Gollum, the evil Hobbit ring bearer in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, that will always be his master work. Quite simply CG characters could be described as living in B.G. (Before Gollum) and A.G. (Anno Gollumai). B.G. Characters, hello Jar Jar Binks, are quite simply, the Homo Erectus cousins to Gollums Homo Sapien. The performance on Serkis is infused in every asset of Gollum, not just the voice. Gollum was one of the most complicated characters put on screen in the last few years, and thanks to Serkis, was 100% believable. Deserving of numerous Oscar credits, Serkis’ work in the advancement of acting is unparalleled.

Rick Baker

 

Our second make up man on the list, and another veteran of the mighty werewolf. Baker is a master of his craft. His practical special effects and make ups are really unrivalled in the cinematic world. He has worked on Hellboy, The Howling, An American Werewolf in London and even Cursed!! But every genius has the odd misstep. His work on the werewolf transformation in An American Werewolf in London alone is worthy of his inclusion in any list of geek heroes. The scene is an amazing example of what practical effects can achieve, worth watching on its own even if you have no desire to watch the movie, you should though its really good. His work on other werewolf movies is equally as good, and this guy has worked on a fair few in his time.

 

The variety in his work shows the man’s range and depth. The werewolves of The Howling, are very different to the American werewolf, which in turn is very different to my favourite make up/effect of his, in the remake of The Wolfman. This film got a lot of hate, but I loved it, and most of all, I loved the design of The Wolfman. Big, hairy, be-fanged and be-clawed, a killing machine and a superb movie monster. I know he got stiffed during the filming as he had designed a practical transformation that by all accounts was going to outmatch the one in American Werewolf, and it is a shame that the film makers decided to go with CGI effects in the end, but never the less, his work in the movie is still outstanding. A master of a sadly slowly disappearing art, the practical effect is being steam rolled by the CGI effect, and people of Hollywood, I implore you, there is room for both!

So there we have it, a small selection of people who need more recognition for the amazing work they do, or have done, in the geek realm. Of course, I would also like the thank all the stunt men, fight choreographers, design teams, sfx teams, writers, best boys, camera operators, concept designers, weapon specialists, miniature departments, practical effects teams….

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