Principal Cast : June Lockhart, Don Porter, Sara Haden, Jan Wiley, Lloyd Corrigan, Dennis Hoey, Martin Kosleck, Eily Maylon, Frederick Worlock, Olaf Hytten.
Synopsis: A young heiress finds evidence suggesting that at night she acts under the influence of a family curse and has begun committing ghastly murders in a nearby park.
In a classic case of overpromising and underdelivering, Universal’s dreary, tell-don’t-show She-Wolf Of London attempts to feminise the then-male-dominated creature-feature subgenre and completely misunderstands what makes these films iconic. Cloying exposition, inexplicably dull characters and rote, generic characters of little interest turn the potential of this cliched story into a yawn-inducing bore, missing the point of what audiences crave in this kind of movie. That is, scares and creepy moments, none of which exist in the blessedly short feature entry.
June Lochart (Meet Me In St Louis) plays young London heiress Phyllis Allenby, who is engaged to wealthy Barry Lanfield (Don Porter – Gidget Goes To Rome), before discovering that she might be inadvertently turning into a vicious werewolf and slaughtering the denizens of the city without remembering a thing. Throw in a long-standing curse, creepy family members and an ageing housemaid, and a laughably persistent leading man trying to find out why his fiancée no longer wants anything to do with him, and you have a recipe for mediocrity so profound, I’m surprised this film made any money whatsoever.
She-Wolf Of London never tries to build up any sense of menace or dread, feelings required for these monster movies to work. Instead, random people just casually mention “werewolves” in conversation like you or I might talk about mowing the lawn, and offhanded exposition about curses and never-glimpsed off-screen events sit uncomfortably in the tableau of a filmmaker unaware that talking about something doesn’t always make things scary. In fact, the film is so desperate to get to its non-existent monster scares that the screenplay laughably rattles off a series of tepid coincidences and character beats without bothering to make them at all interesting, leaving an expectant audience doomed to disappointment. June Lochart looks befuddled, her female co-stars in Sara Haden and Jan Wiley (playing Phyllis’ aunt and cousin respectively) dither about without purpose, and Eily Maylon turns a doddering housemaid into quite a pleasant diversion. The men in the film fare far worse: poor Barry Lanfield, whose character is repeatedly told not to bother visiting to the point of absurdity, comes off as insistently desperate yet practical, while the various police and officials hunting the mysterious creature all come with hilarious stiff-upper-lip pragmatism that screams Edwardian Britishness.
For a film with absolutely no tension, and almost no practical creature effects, and no desire to create a sense of atmosphere, She-Wolf Of London is a monster movie with a disappointingly toothless bite. Boring, all-too-obvious with unsubtlety, and entirely ineffective – although blessedly short, clocking in at about an hour – this film is definitely one you should skip.