There’s a new “Wolf Man” movie coming out this month; and not a minute too soon if you ask me. I’m happy to admit right up front that I have biases — thrilling, satisfying, nostalgic biases — about this subject. I can tell you for a fact there are many others who share these sentiments. Many’s the manly baby boomer (oxymoron?) who loves this story. Here’s a monster we can get our teeth into (pun?). Here’s a freak of nature we can fear, admire, pity and identify with. Here’s a creature with a special place in our hearts for lots of reasons — too many to catalog. Let’s just raise a few here.
To start with, it wasn’t his fault. Lawrence Talbot heroically dashes to the defense of a damsel being assaulted on a moonlit night. He throws himself into a life and death scrap, kills the monster, saves the lady and winds up being infected by the “wolf man germ.” Now the disease will cause him to morph into a wolf during the full moon. As part of the “wolf man syndrome,” he’ll be driven to dash through the night stalking livestock and nocturnal pedestrians. But he can’t help it. It’s not a moral shortcoming. It’s the unjust result of an unfortunate act of chivalry.
The manly man is all too familiar with the scenario, albeit on a much less dramatic scale. He can see the damsel’s car needs washing. Valentine’s Day is approaching. He sees an opportunity to kill two birds with a well-placed stone. He can express his deep feelings and spiff up her car at the same time by giving her, as a Valentine’s present, a gift certificate for an auto detail. To his surprise and dismay, this act of chivalry backfires. He is forced to flee before a relentless pursuer oblivious to the fact that he’s innocent. Deep down he’s not a mindless hairy savage. He’s the hapless victim of the dreaded wolf man syndrome.
Then, there’s his appearance. Larry starts off as a well-groomed, neatly dressed, well-mannered gentleman. But once he’s infected by the wolf man germ, he starts growing hair all over; on his hands, his face, his ears, his back, his nose — hair everywhere. But what’s he supposed to do about it? He can’t control it and it happens so fast there’s really no feasible way to keep up with it. He’s not a slob, he’s a wolf man, for crying out loud (aphorism?)
Once again, the manly man appreciates Talbot’s predicament. As he matures, the wolf man germ attacks the hair follicles all over the manly man’s body. Hair begins to spring up in embarrassing mats in unlikely and inconvenient places. And it’s wiry — scary wiry. Fortunately, most of us are not stricken with the “ultra-fast-gro” variety of the wolf man germ, so we have some opportunity to battle back the growth of this unwanted crop. But some of us have to resort to embarrassing tools — like nose trimmers. I hasten to add here that no matter how aggressively the wolf man germ attacks our hair follicles, the manly man never resorts to body waxing — even if he has to stalk through the night where none may see.
Then, there’s the clothing deal. In his youth, the body of the manly man is easy to outfit with off-the-rack duds. But look what happened to Talbot. The minute the wolf man germ took hold, his body expanded to the point a good fitting pair of slacks was impossible. His shirt was no longer able to completely cover his hairy body. This is one area where the wives of manly men are sympathetic to the effects of the wolf man germ. They spare us the indignity of having to buy ever expanding waist sizes. Mercifully, they take over the clothes buying humiliation. They really don’t want us going around looking like wolves — bless their hearts.
By coincidence, in ancient Rome Feb. 15 was the festival of the Lupercalia. This was a celebration of the she-wolf. Oh yes, the she-wolf. Now that’s a subject for another column.
Oh, by the way, Feb. 10 is the 104th anniversary of the birth of Lon Chaney Jr., who played Larry Talbot in the 1941 wolf man movie. That, by far, is the standard by which the others are measured. Even though we know how it has to end, we’re still on your side, Lon.
I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
Wed, February 10, 2010
by Michael Hinkle