Werewolf of London (1935)
As Universal’s first werewolf movie – though now overshadowed by The Wolf Man (1941) – Werewolf of London is an interesting forerunner for the later series of movies, and it has its own undeniable charm. The poster – one of several used at the time – has all the usual characteristics of a movie poster from the period: the montage of images from the movie, the garish title, principal cast names in larger print than the supporting cast, but it’s the addition of the printed warning that separates this from its peers.
Viewed nowadays, the reference to “hysterical women” would be viewed with distaste and probably, a certain amount of vehemence. But back in 1935, these types of warnings, while not commonplace, were certainly not unknown, and this is a perfect example of the dramatic hyperbole employed. Advising its potential audience of “the most terrifying scene ever filmed” sets the tone immediately, and while modern audiences might laugh at such a claim, contemporary viewers would have been less credulous. Urging female viewers to close their eyes at a certain point in the movie is a master-stroke too, as it’s more than likely that curiosity will overcome any fear and they’ll watch anyway (there’s nothing like a bit of reverse psychology to bring in the audience).
The reference to “fainting spells or shocks of any kind” is almost like a challenge: we dare you to watch this scene. It’s funny to read from the perspective of 2014, but we live in different times, and we have to remember that in 1935 the sight of Henry Hull with excessive facial hair and a jutting underbite would have been frightening to a lot of people.
As for the rest of the poster, the actors have been given an effective colour makeover, and the green tinge given to the werewolf is weirdly compelling, while the inclusion of a bat flying close to Big Ben seems to hint at another famous monster being involved, even though it’s not the case. But it’s that warning to women that always draws the eye (and boggles the mind).
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to let me know.