The next werewolf title up for viewing, courtesy of DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies is the Jack Nicholson film, Wolf, which co-stars Michelle Pfeiffer, James Spader, and Christopher Plummer.
With make-up effects and creature work by the legendary Rick Baker, and a score by Ennio Morricone the film seems to have missed its audience on its first release, and I remember being disappointed with it as well when I first saw it oh so long ago.
Now, having delved into a decades later rewatch, I discovered that despite a bit of an iffy climax, Wolf is a fairly solid film. And in terms of lycanthropy, it has more in common with the original Wolfman film, and some of its subsequent sequels than it does with some of the later werewolf films that Hollywood has spun out.
Nicholson is Will Randall a senior editor who is on the verge of losing his job and his wife to his smarmy protege, Stewart Swinton (Spader). Of course by taking the wife out of the story like that, that frees Will to pursue a romantic relationship with Pfeiffer’s Laura Alden, the daughter of Will’s boss (Plummer).
The film opens with Will getting attacked by a wolf, though we linger on the creature long enough to realize that it’s a little more than it should be, and soon, Will’s life begins to change, as do his senses and body.
But what will happen at night? The wolf seems to be gaining dominance over Will, and while he never quite rises to the level of sympathetic hero as Lon Chaney’s Laurence Talbot, there are more similarities than not. The most prominent of which is that both men are inherently good, and now suffer at the hands of this gift, this curse.
The film works, except for the climax and confrontation with Spader’s Swinton. At that point it just feels crass, and not as elegant as most of the rest of the film felt. There was almost an old-school Hollywood feel to it despite some of its 90’s sensibilities.
Nicholson is very enjoyable in the role of Will transitioning from a somewhat trod upon character to a recognizable version of himself, that the viewer quite enjoys seeing come to life. There are nice touches in the reveals of his heightened senses, and all of it proves to be well-crafted and well put together… except for that climax.
One wonders if the studio wanted more confrontation, and less pontificatation. What ever the reason, the film pays the price for it, and definitely plays a little silly towards the end.
The rest of it, I enjoyed. And I can’t wait to see what version of the wolf I meet next as I continue to explore DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies.