A woman whose hatred knew no bounds!
Universal horror film. Check. Gothic sets. Check. Rolling thick mists that you can eat like pea soup. Check. Female werewolf? Why wait, hit the play button now!
If you go into 1946’s She Wolf of London with the above set of expectations, you’ll be sadly disappointed. Everything about this film marketed it to be a part of Universal’s series of werewolf films- sadly even to including it the somewhat recent Legacy Collection DVD edition of Universal’s werewolf films, including it with such legitimate horror films as The Wolf Man, Werewolf of London, and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. If marketed properly- as a thriller or as a mystery, She Wolf of London would be regarded a touch better than it is.
Even with that said, She Wolf of London is at best an average film, rising to even that level only by the effective (if overly familiar from other Universal films) sets, gothic atmosphere and creative cinematography. Those coming for onscreen transformations of a young June Lockhart into a she-wolf will be sadly disappointed.
The thin story goes like this. Phylis Allenby (Lockhart) is the lone surviving member of the Allenby family and is engaged to wealthy suitor Barry (Don Porter). As dead bodies begin to pile up in a nearby park, Phylis begins to wonder if she’s become afflicted by the ‘Allenby Curse’ and turning into a werewolf at night committing these heinous crimes. Each morning she’s confronted by muddy shoes, damp clothing and bloody fingernails. Surely she’s the culprit, or is she?
That’s about it, but even that fails to effectively fill up the already truncated run time of just over a hour. There is a twist in the finale (with attempted shades of Hitchock) which explains it all, though it is fairly easy to figure out within the first twenty minutes or so. Even so, at the end of the picture you realize that surprisingly little has actually happened. Some of this is surely due to the improper marketing of the picture, but this is also compounded with incredibly little in terms of character development or even dialogue.
Lockhart isn’t bad, but the character is made to be so incredibly naive that it’s hard see anyone doing much with the role. Not only doesn’t she catch on to what’s going on around her, but she has a habit of hanging a lit lantern outside an open bedroom window overnight to ward off evil spirits. Wouldn’t most people afraid of said spirits at least close the window?
Don Porter seems stiff as would be suitor Barry, though here again the character is about as engaging as cold oatmeal. The one surprise among the cast is Dennis Hoey as Inspector Pierce, a surprisingly effective Scotland Yard inspector- who we actually could have seen more of. Pierce is a far cry from Hoey’s usual Universal role as the bumbling Inspector Lestrade of the Basil Rathbone series of Sherlock Holmes films.
Toss out the werewolf angle and replace it with a series of fatal stabbings and everything still works and in fact might be improved a bit. You can even keep the creepy and foggy sets without impacting the proceedings any. In any case, watch this one expecting a mystery and you’ll find it a bit more appetizing, though there are still surely better uses for your time.
Just don’t go in expecting a horror film. Don’t.