Each of Universal’s classic monsters are iconic in their own ways, and for good reason. That said, Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolf Man has long been one of my favorites.
The movie surrounding him may not be the most elaborate (that goes to “Frankenstein”) nor is he the most elegant or intriguing of the monsters (that goes to Count Dracula). What he is, though, is one of the most (if not the most) sympathetic of the monsters. Upon returning home following the death of his brother, all Larry Talbot (Chaney) wants to do is reconcile with his estranged father (Claude Rains) and romance the lovely Gwen (Evelyn Ankers).
However, when a werewolf bites him, Larry is cursed to roam the countryside committing beastly acts against his will. Watching him transform into the Wolf Man is painful and horrific, knowing that this innocent, perfectly nice man will be driven to do horrible things. “The Wolf Man” is probably the most character-driven of all the classic Universal monster movies and it is Chaney’s performance that really anchors the whole film. He truly sells the anguish and sadness that comes with knowing (even however vaguely) what has happened and what he’s done.
The rest of the film has aged pretty well, most especially the set and production design, lending a wonderful sense of atmosphere and place. The make-up effects for the Wolf Man are certainly a product of its time (love the fact that even when he transforms, Larry’s shirt is still neatly tucked into his pants), but still work remarkably well, so long as you’re not the kind of person who loves to mock old special effects.
My point is that this movie is still very much a classic, and with good reason.
Werewolf Chili Frito Pie
This is the perfect movie-watching Frito Pie. It is is also great served over a baked potato. Crush some Fritos to scatter over the top of your potato.
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound 80/20 ground chuck
1 pound ground pork
1 (12-ounce) bottle beer
2 (14-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Salt, to taste
Seeded and chopped tomatoes
Sour cream, for garnish
In a large saucepan or small Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until the fat renders and the bacon is cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook until the onion softens, about 5 more minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the beef and pork and cook until no longer pink. Strain off some of the fat. Raise the heat to medium-high, deglaze with the beer, and allow to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, chili powder, red pepper flakes, cumin, cocoa, and salt. Stir to combine well. Simmer for 30 minutes, or more. Preheat the broiler when chili is ready. Ladle chili into a baking dish. Top with the shredded cheese, chopped onions and tomatoes. Broil until cheese has melted. Serve with Frito scoops and sour cream.
Recipe by Christine Gardner, Food Editor