Recently UMU brought you, “Beauties and a Beast: Women of the Wolf Man“, and though Evelyn Ankers and Emily Blunt are wonderful they are not the only Women of the Wolf! There’s another story. A different story. This is the story of Universal Monster’s She-Wolf of London!
In 1946 Universal Studios took the plunge and re imagined the Wolf Man myth with She Wolf of London. The film starred the lovely and talented June Lockhart (who would later go on to stardom in Lassie and Lost in Space) as Phyllis Allenby a beautiful London socialite. Phyllis has an idyllic life, wealthy, beautiful, soon to be married, but when she hears news of horrible attacks being committed in the park by her home she begins to think she may be the one committing them. The Allenby family has always had the curse of the wolf upon them and she reasons that either she is responsible for wolf-like attacks or she might just be going insane.
The film is regarded as a mystery and not a horror and most reviewers of the time found it a bit silly. As for today Rotten Tomatoes has it a 17% and IMDB gives it a 4.7 out of 10. But while watching it for this article I noticed a wonderful little plot hole that makes me think this movie may had originally been conceived as more than that.
By the end of the film we find that Phyllis’ “Aunt Martha”, played by Sara Haden, has been conspiring to drive Phyllis insane to satisfy a convoluted plot and ensure Martha be able to continue living the lifestyle she was accustomed to. It seems Aunt Martha has been drugging Phyllis, attacking people as the She Wolf, and leading Phyllis to believe she is actually the guilty party. At the end of the film when she lays out what she has done the plot hole appears. She never admits to, or even mentions the first attack of the film. She explains having committed two of the three but completely skips the one that begins the movie, the one that originally makes Phyllis believe some thing may be going on. If this was intentional then it was brilliant. Only as the credits roll, if you were really alert do you start to say hey wait a minute. It would have been a great way to leave the door open for a sequel.
The sequel never came though and there’s little info out there about She-Wolf of London beyond a few blog posts and Wikipedia entries. It would make sense though, barely a year had passed since Lon Chaney Jr had portrayed the Wolf Man in 1945’s House of Dracula and perhaps the studio was looking to add a new character to its aging monster squad. Unfortunately She-Wolf of London was not a critical success, nor was it a big hit with audiences. Whether or not the studio had plans to take it further with sequels or crossovers are unknown, so who knows if it had a future.
The only indication that the concept had any merit in the studios eyes wouldn’t come for 44 years. In 1990 Universal Television or at the time MCA Television Entertainment (the same MCA that had acquired Universal Pictures in 1962) revived the concept of the female werewolf in a series called coincidentally enough She-Wolf of London.
The television series has almost nothing in common with the film. She-Wolf of London (or Love and Curses as it was alternatively titled) was the story of Randi Wallace (played by Kate Hodge). Attacked by a werewolf while on the moors of England she and her romantic interest Professor Ian Matheson (Neil Dickson) investigate her curse and any other supernatural oddities they happen upon. A supernatural/horror romance the show ran 2 seasons and for my money was a highlight of the genre. Kate Hodge did a great job of selling the character, a young grad student bitten by a werewolf and bent on finding a cure. The transitions didn’t happen every episode, being reliant on a full moon, but when they did it was very well done, especially for television. And I seem to remember the series garnering a significant pre-internet fan base, perhaps if it hadn’t been shifted from England to California it may have lasted longer than two seasons.
Now that Universal Pictures is bringing their monsters back to film, in a way most are comparing to DC and Marvel’s movie universes, is it so far-fetched to think they may want to take a stab at television? I say go for it! And casting could go so many ways. They could try a Hayley Atwell type, intelligent, tough, self-assured or go with a type similar to Krysten Ritter from Jessica Jones, less self-assured but equally intelligent, tough, and beautiful.
I think there’s definitely room for the Universal Monsters Universe to haunt our television screens, they just need to take the risk. What do you think? Is there a character from Universal’s world that would work in a contemporary television show? Let us know in the comments.