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Let's Hear It For Lon

by Leonard Maltin
February 12, 2010 4:58 AM
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I doubt if any horror-film buff doesn’t already own a copy of The Wolf Man (1941) in one of its DVD incarnations, but the release of the new Benicio Del Toro feature has inspired Universal to reissue the original one more time—with a brand-new 35-minute biography of Lon Chaney, Jr. among its bonus features. The documentary, titled Pure in Heart: The Life and Legacy of Lon Chaney, Jr. may not hold any revelations, but it’s a first-rate survey of the actor’s bittersweet life and career, with rare photos, a sampling of film clips (including some of his earliest appearances in the 1930s, and his immortal performance as Lenny in Of Mice and Men), and interviews with a number of admirers, scholars, and colleagues—

—including such prominent genre filmmakers as Joe Dante, John Landis, and Rick Baker. There’s even a poignant recollection by Janet Ann Gallow, the little girl in The Ghost of Frankenstein. (Recall that Chaney was the only man whose resumé includes starring roles as Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, The Wolf Man, and The Mummy…though the role he created, and owned was Larry Talbot, aka The Wolf Man.)

Larry Talbot meets the gypsy woman in The Wolf Man (1941): Chaney and Maria Ouspenskaya.

The other bonus features from earlier releases of The Wolf Man remain intact, including Tom Weaver’s commentary track, a tribute to makeup genius Jack Pierce, a history of werewolves onscreen, a behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of The Wolf Man, and Kevin Brownlow’s excellent documentary, Universal Horror. Is it worth buying this two-disc set all over again just for the Chaney bio? That’s for you to decide—but it’s definitely worth seeing. Kudos to producers Constantine Nasr, Jamie Boulton, and Grant Connell of New Wave Entertainment for a job well done. (Universal Home Entertainment)

Young Lon--then billed as Creighton Chaney--dances with Mary Carlisle, oblivious to Eddie Nugent, in Girl o' My Dreams (1934)

Lon stars with another second-generation talent, Noah Beery Jr., in the Universal Western serial Overland Mail (1942), with Ben Taggart.

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