Editor’s Note: I am posting this from St. Lucia and will not get home until late next Wednesday so please forgive the fact that these will probably be shorter, less well researched, and posted irregularly. I also can’t promise a theme most nights since most of the horror I’m bringing with me is from my Universal Horror boxset so there won’t be as much variety.
10/24/2017 – Female Villains: She-Wolf of London (1946)
Directed by Jean Yarbrough
First off, props for this topic again have to go to the radiant DoU and the only reasons I had honestly avoided this topic thus far was fear of spoilers and what I saw as a broad topic since it can be quite hard to talk about who the villain of many films is. But, I haven’t done enough spotlighting female directors as I had promised in an earlier review this year (not so much for choice of the works of male over female directors and more for lack of films watched and limited film selection) and so I thought that at the very least I could take a time to honor the history and progress(?) of the female villain in horror film.
As with just about everything else in horror and film as a whole, women are sorely underrepresented. In addition, the two images that rise to mind when thinking of women and horror together are that of the final girl of slashers and an attractive, well-endowed woman who exists mostly to get murdered. Even when they are the villain, the movie is usually defined by the gender of the protagonist. Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula’s Daughter, She-Wolf of London, The Wasp Woman, and Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman all indicate the gender in the title. Even an exception in Cat People had to be remade as Cat Girl to indicate this. There were exceptions in The Bad Seed (which is usually more thought of in the creepy kid sense) and The Gorgon but that’s about it for pre-1970 work. The 70s saw a bit of a shift with Daughters of Darkness countered by The Vampire Lovers, Suspiria, and arguably Sugar Hill (I’m not counting The Exorcist since it is only possessing a female and the gender of the demon is never specified).
In the post-1980 age, there have been a number of prominent groups they could be separated into certain groups such as the villain as seductress (The Hunger, Species, Jennifer’s Body, Trick ‘r Treat, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Witching & Bitching, and Nurse), the creepy, pale ghost women of Asian cinema (Shutter, (The) Ring, and Ju-on with the villains of the latter two series even getting to fight each other in Sadako vs. Kayako), the maternal figure (Braindead, Mama, Goodnight Mommy), the super intense crazies (Carrie, Misery, Audition, Inside, The Loved Ones and Emelie), and the slasher villains of American Psycho II: All American Girl, SPOILERS Friday the 13th (and relatedly Scream 2), the Sleepaway Camp films, and Happy Birthday to Me. END OF SPOILERS
But I was surprised at how many villains out there break free from that (to varying degrees). We’ve had multiple female werewolves in Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (that’s bad) and the Ginger Snaps films (that’s good), we have female Kaiju in Zilla but we don’t talk about that, one of the M.U.TO. from the 2014 version of Godzilla, and one of the Rodans from Rodan (I’d say Mothra, but she’s generally for the forces of good when you aren’t kidnapping her tiny girls), even more vampires in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and Only Lovers Left Alive, witches in countless films such as The Craft, a Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenhooker, a western style ghost in The Woman in Black, cannibals in House of 1000 Corpses and We Are What We Are, an alien in Aliens, a murderous doll in Bride of Chucky, wannabe surgeons in Excision and American Mary, and whatever the heck was the villain from Mystics in Bali. There’s also the multiple female villains of Hellraiser (both cenobite and human), Crimson Peak, Orphan, and in the realm of spoilers, SPOILERS The Others, High Tension, and Saw II. END OF SPOILERS It’s nowhere near an even distribution, but it really is easier to picture the man as the villain since speaking as a man, men really suck. I just hope the trend of more diverse villainous roles continues to expand though and we don’t fall into old patterns
At 61 minutes, She-Wolf of London only just passes my personal qualification for being a film (60 minutes) but I’ll take it. The film is not related to the earlier fellow Universal title Werewolf of London but instead tells the story of a trio of women live together in a house, a mother and step daughter living in the house which belongs to a relative heiress. The step daughter desires a man who is “below her station” while her cousin is about to marry a rich lawyer.
A female werewolf has been spotted in the park and there has been a series of vicious, animal-like murders. Signs start piling up against the heiress that point to her as the villain. The dog barks repeatedly at her and she is left constantly nervous and unwell, under the belief that her family is under a curse of the wolf. She is convinced she is the Wolf-Woman as she wakes up with blood in her hands and mud on her shoes. Her aunt tries to convince her she isn’t but she withdraws from the world.
SPOILERSThe twist is not hard to see coming as it’s clear her aunt though would do anything though for her daughter and it seems awfully suspicious that her daughter starts getting closer to the rich fiancé of the woman (though it is clear she has no interest in pairing up with him and that is purely motherly meddling) left cowering in fright in bed. Turns out she has been drugging her and committing these murders to drive her mad. It doesn’t really explain the gruesomeness of the murders, why a cop saw a Wolf Woman before he was mortally wounded, or really why her plan needed to be so convoluted but what are you gonna do. There’s nothing supernatural and the story is really just one of a lust to maintain a current status. END OF SPOILERS
I feel like I’m saying this a lot, but I wouldn’t call it a good film but it is a quick one. It moves from plot point to plot point without dragging or really showing anything not directly tied to getting all the pieces in place. There isn’t much to say about it and the acting feels a bit substandard, but I know I’ve said this enough, these classic Universal titles are just comfort food that I could spend all day watching if I had the time.
Next up: I’m just trying to figure out how to squeeze a movie in to tomorrow and how to stay awake long enough to post this. We can cross this bridge when we come to it.