Tag Archives: American Werewolf in London

Top Ten: Movie Characters With Fur

So, here’s the story. While we were chatting about possible blog ideas, my friend and fellow blogger Margaret Reyes Dempsey over at Conjuring My Musechallenged me to compile a list of Top Ten: Movie Characters With Fur. After we’d finished laughing our asses off I gave it another thought and decided to accept the challenge. Why not? After all, who doesn’t appreciate a bit of fur now and then? As the English weather becomes more and more frosty, I’m starting to wish I had some fur myself. Does that make me weird?

So, without any further preamble, here are my ten favourite furry film fellows. Enjoy, add your own favourites, and if anyone has any more outlandish suggestions for future Top Ten lists, then by all means send them to me through the Contact page. I’ll consider all challenges!

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10. Dr. Cornelius

Planet of the Apes

Archaeologist, historian and mild-mannered ape. Dr. Cornelious is one of the good apes on the familiar looking planet; filled with talking apes that regard humans as a lower species to be kept in zoos and treated as slaves. Dr. Cornelious, on the other hand, regards humans as a lower species to be studied, prodded and patronised in order to prove his zany theories. The fact that he delivers his zany theories with a well-spoken, English accent can only be a good thing. Everyone knows English accents make you sound smart.

Dr. Cornelious is conservative and likes to wear his fur in a standard swept-back style, seemingly popular among the ape population. Clearly, hairdressing is not one of the trends that the apes picked up from their human counterparts, unlike clothes, guns, and gasping in awe at Charlton Heston’s sweaty manliness.

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9. Cujo

Cujo

Man’s best friend no more, Cujo is feeling a little under the weather and it’s really pissing him off. There is nothing like an inconvenient case of rabies to really screw with your doggie day, and this sickly pooch is going to take it out on anyone who happens to cross his line of sight. I mean, we all get a bit grumpy when we’re ill, right? However, we don’t all maul people to death, attack locked cars, and murder the local sheriff just because we have a bit of a sniffle. But you get out of the car and tell Cujo that. Let’s see Cesar Millan put his mojo on this canine and keep his throat attached.

Cujo is (barely) living proof that having lots of thick, lush fur doesn’t necessarily make you cute. Nor does it necessarily make people want to touch you, especially if your thick, lush fur is matted up with blood, sweat and rabid drool. Ewwww. Bad doggie!

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8. Baloo

The Jungle Book

Baloo is like a furry version of The Dude from The Big Lebowski. In the Wild Kingdom, this bear is the King of Taking it Easy. Let’s face it, he didn’t cultivate that impressive waistline by playing sports and hitting the gym every day. Baloo likes good eating, good living, and shaking his furry booty to some jungle rhythms. If this wasn’t a Disney movie, you would suspect that habitual use of recreational drugs played a big part in this guy’s life. Would you want your kid hanging out with him?

Baloo apparently has no interest in personal grooming. He gets up and goes out without a glance in the mirror. His fur is scruffy, there are a couple of loose hairs atop his head, but the guy’s got class and knows how to carry it off. The ladies love the rough look, but Baloo doesn’t seem to be interested in a relationship. His fur is ruffled enough. He’s gone, man. Solid gone.

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7. American Werewolf

An American Werewolf in London

Tourists, eh? Coming over here, turning into monsters, rampaging through our Capital city. Yep, ‘The Special Relationship’ suffers something of a setback when American backpacker David is bitten by a werewolf on the English moors. It’s not long before the poor guy realises that surviving the attack wasn’t such a blessing after all. Come the full moon and David transforms into something that looks cuddlier and cuter than any self-respecting monster should. Like Baloo with attitude. And motivation. And a serious case of the munchies. On the plus side, he gets to have sex with Jenny Agutter, thereby repairing Anglo-American relations.

As werewolves go, this one ranks among the most fluffy and endearing. I mean, look at him. If you can ignore the slavering jaws of death and evil eyes, he’s actually just a big, furry bundle of cuddles. Or is that just me?

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6. King Kong

King Kong

Who’s the Daddy? Kong! 50-ft of simian testosterone, King Kong is the man’s man. Well, the gorilla’s gorilla. Striding through the jungles of Skull Island like he owns the place, beating up anything that gets in his way, Kong is the guy you always say ‘yes’ to. Best call him Mr. Kong, just to be on the safe side. Like most men, however, he loses half his brain at the sight of a good-looking woman, falls into a trap, ends up relocating and then takes a fall. You definitely won’t see this guy wearing an ‘I ♥ NY’ T-shirt. Still, look at his face. He’s all loved-up and happy. Bless.

When it comes to square footage of fur, there’s no beating Kong. Sure, he could probably use a bath and a blow-dry, but shower gel costs are a bitch when you’re 50-ft-tall. If you can stand the smell, then nuzzling into Kong’s hairy palms can be pretty cozy.

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5. Sully

Monsters Inc.

The undisputed champion of kid scares at Monsters Inc., James ‘Sulley’ Sullivan is an idol to monsters everywhere. The screams that Sully elicits from human children provide vast amounts of energy for the city of Monstropolis. But the kids are getting harder to scare, and Sully is getting a bit tired of being scary. Underneath all that growling and snarling is a sensitive, caring ball of azure goodness. He doesn’t even care that his best friend is a green sphere with one eye. Now, that’s a 21st century kinda guy.

Let’s be clear about one thing here, Sully’s fur is gorgeous! Light, silky and impressively well-groomed, it just begs to be touched. Sully is a metrosexual monster, who clearly believes that your job shouldn’t define you and personal hygiene matters. Monsters just aren’t meant to be this inviting.

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4. Chewbacca

Star Wars

Chewbacca, ‘Chewie’ to his friends and ‘rebel scum’ to his enemies, is the ultimate best buddy. Trust me, with this Wookie looking out for you, you’re a made man. He’s loyal, fearless and, as long as you can understand Wookie, you’ll be able to share all kinds of private jokes in public. Standing over 7-ft tall, you’ll never lose him in crowds. You’re going to want this guy on your basketball team. Sometimes he’s a bit of a bad loser, but that’s a minor gripe. After all, he didn’t complain when Han Solo and Luke Skywalker got medals at the end of Star Wars, but someone apparently forgot his. I would have.

Fur, fur, everywhere. To some, Chewbacca is a ‘walking carpet’, but once you’ve had an enthusiastic embrace from this shaggy old giant, you’ll wonder how you ever did without. Once you’ve got your breath back, that is. Just remember, he’s not a bear. He’s a Wookie.

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3. Puss in Boots

Shrek 2

Dashing, elegant, charming and seething with Latin passion, Puss in Boots is everything a cat should be. And if his mix of charisma and panache doesn’t win you over, then Puss will turn on the big, dopey cat eyes and you will be powerless to resist. He’s a legendary assassin for hire and if this cat is after you then you’re in trouble. Unless, of course, you give him a belly rub. Then he’s putty. Puss is a master swordsman, horseman, singer, dancer and can lick himself in places humans can only dream about. Or is that just me again?

He’s a cat, and it’s a basic law of nature that there’s no fur like cat fur. Rich, soft, soothing and a classic ginger. Puss keeps his fur in impeccable condition with regular grooming sessions. And if you don’t like seeing him with his head shoved between his legs, don’t look. This feline scoundrel will always put cleanliness before godliness.

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2. Remy

Ratatouille

A truly inspirational figure for anyone who has dreams of rising above their given station in life. Remy is a rat with big talents and even bigger aspirations. He wants to be a chef. Sure, he could spend his life rummaging for scraps of food on the streets of Paris like the other rats, but what kind of a life is that? To Remy, food isn’t about survival. It’s about expressing your creativity, and Remy has plenty of that to go around. All he needs is a human assistant with a hat big enough to hide under. Anyone who finds rats unpleasant, or scary, needs to spend some time with Remy. Think of it as therapy. He. Is. Adorable. End of story.

For a lowly street rat, Remy’s fur is surprisingly appealing. It’s a nice shade of blue, unusual for any rodent, and has that shaggy look popular with boy bands and Brad Pitt.

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1. Gizmo

Gremlins

This little Mogwai makes the ideal Christmas present, provided you follow the rules; don’t get him wet, keep him away from bright lights and never feed him after midnight. My advice is ignore the rules, otherwise you will be making a pretty dull movie. Gizmo is smart, funny and by far the cutest thing ever to walk the Earth on cute, stumpy little legs, with cute, big ears, a cute, squeaky voice and huge, CUTE, dewy eyes. Look up ‘cute’ in the dictionary and there will probably be a picture of Gizmo. Look up ‘comma’ and there will probably be a picture of me.

Gizmo models some attractive, two-tone fur. Get him wet and you’ll see that the newly born Mogwai that pop out of his back are nothing but a ball of the stuff. Aww, he’s so cute. He’s so damn cute you can fall into a diabetic coma just looking at him.

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The Halloween Big Four Monster Mash

It’s that time of year again, when innocent pumpkins are slaughtered and mutilated in their thousands and children dress up as murderers, ghouls and monsters in order to blackmail sweet confections from total strangers. Tell me this isn’t better than Christmas!

Horror movies have provided the inspiration for costumes for many a year. Watch the streets on the 31st and you’ll find a variety of contemporary icons of the macabre in miniature form. However, it’s a fair bet that the majority of Halloween costumes will represent four of horror’s most enduring and classic monsters; Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy and the Werewolf. So, in honour of Halloween, here’s a potted history of The Big Four, from their origins to the best that celluloid has given us in their name.

Origin

The vampire has its origins in a plethora of myths throughout Eastern Europe. These myths evolved from a variety of sources, such as premature burials, pre-psychology lunacy and diseases like porphyria and rabies. John Polidori’s The Vampyre, in 1819, first devised the character of the seductive, gentlemanly vampire, elevated beyond the dirty and decaying creatures of folklore. However, it was Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, and the subsequent movie adaptations, which really pushed the vampire into mainstream consciousness. Taking the name from that of Vlad Dracul (Vlad the Dragon), and his son Vlad III (The Impaler), who would used the name Dracula, Stoker created one of the most iconic characters in literary history.

Movie highlights

F.W. Murnau’s 1922 Nosferatu was the first movie adaptation of Stoker’s novel. Well, sort of. With no copyright permission, Murnau simply changed the names of all the characters and rewrote the ending. Count Dracula now became Count Orlock, and was portrayed by the terrifying Max Schreck. However, no-one was fooled and Stoker’s widow succeeded in suing Murnau, who was ordered to destroy all prints of the film. Fortunately some survived, and Nosferatu still stands as one of the finest adaptations of Stoker’s novel to date.

Perhaps the most iconic Dracula performance was that of Bela Lugosi in Universal Studio’s 1931 Dracula. As with most adaptations of the novel, the story and details were altered significantly. Having played the character on stage, it is ironic that Lugosi only got the part after Todd Browning’s original choice, Lon Chaney, died. Lugosi spoke very little English at the time and had to learn his lines phonetically, but his accented delivery became the standard for corny Dracula impersonations forever. After he died, poverty stricken and largely forgotten, Lugosi was buried in his cape.

When Hammer Studio’s joined the fray, with Christopher Lee as the titular vampire, they made even more changes to the narrative. Jonathan Harker is now a vampire-hunter rather than a solicitor and is turned into a vampire before being killed by Van Helsing. Still, Lee is charismatic and engaging as the seductive Count, a role which would ultimately become something of a millstone to the actor. Lee would not return for Hammer’s next Dracula movie, but did make a further six movies as the character with the studio.

In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola’s effort, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, was an attempt to create a more faithful adaptation of the original novel. Certainly, it adhered to Stoker’s book more than the movies before it, even if it did take the liberty of making Dracula the Vlad III, rather than simply a character inspired by him. Gary Oldman’s charming Count grows younger throughout the movie, as he does in the book. Few actors could retain their dignity while wearing a wig that looks like a huge ass, but Gary manages it. Luckily, he has Keanu Reeves’ dreadful English accent to attract the derision.

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Origin

Created by Mary Shelley in her novel Frankenstein, published in 1818, the story of Victor Frankenstein and his attempts to create life from death is the original cautionary tale of the dangers of man playing God. Driven by a thirst for knowledge, Frankenstein takes the bodies of the dead and creates a monster beyond his control; one which will ultimately spell his doom, and the doom of those he loves. Widely considered to be one the first entries in the Science Fiction genre, Shelley was only 18 when she wrote it, supposedly after a nightmare. That was some bad dream she had, it has to be said. Frankenstein is bleak, violent and tragic. Yay.

Movie highlights

Edison Studios, the production company owned by Thomas Edison,  produced a 13-minute-long Frankenstein that was the first ever adaptation of the book for the screen. Made in 1910 by J. Searle Dawley, it featured a particularly bizarre looking monster, played by Charles Ogle, and has great curiosity value if nothing else. Check out the early special effects during the creation sequence, as Dr Frankenstein seemingly creates his creature from a skeleton. Not for the last time, Shelley’s tragic story was given a happy ending.

Universal Studios went the same way for their classic interpretation of the tale in 1931. Boris Karloff is perhaps the most iconic monster, originating the square head and neck bolts. Why a man made from bits of other men should have a flat, square head is beyond me, but it looks pretty cool. Director James Whale followed his Frankenstein with Bride of Frankenstein, a superior sequel in that the monster was made far more sympathetic than he appeared in the first movie; an interpretation much closer to the novel. Elsa Lancaster’s hair is probably the most memorable ‘do in cinema history.

Hammer Studios added their own spin on the tale with The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957, with Christopher Lee as the monster. While wisely ditching the square head, the movie does deviate even further from the source material. Victor Frankenstein is now a murderer as well as a creator. Played by the imcomparable Peter Cushing, the character became increasingly more evil with each subsequent sequel, even to the point of becoming a rapist in Frankenstein Must be Destroyed, which is still regarded as the best of Hammer’s many efforts in the series.

Perhaps the most faithful screen adaptation is Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in 1994. While still altering certain narrative details of the original novel, all the important elements are kept true to the source. Robert De Niro’s reanimated patchwork creature is not only a rampaging monster, but a thinking, reasoning man; both victim and threat. The novel’s ending was kept, with all its snowbound tragedy and pathos, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein also looks gorgeous. Definitely my favourite interpretation of Shelley’s novel, and sadly underrated.

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Origin

Egyptian mummification can be traced back as far as 3300 BC, but the idea of the reanimated mummy is a little more recent. Edgar Allen Poe’s 1845 short story Some Words with a Mummy is possibly the first instance of such a character in fiction. Arthur Conan Doyle devised the notion of the reawakened mummy as a tool of vengence in his story Lot No. 249, in 1892, and Bram Stoker’s 1903 novel The Jewel of Seven Stars concerned an archaeologist’s attempts to revive the mummy of an Egyptian queen. But it was the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922, and the subsequent deaths of many of those who found it, that brought the idea of Egyptian curses into the mainstream.

Movie highlights

The first mummy movie, entitled Cléopâtre or Cleopatra’s Tomb, was made in 1899 by the great pioneer of the moving image Georges Méliès. It is 2 minutes long. However, up until the thirties the bulk of mummy movies were comedies. It was Universal who brought on the horror with the 1932 The Mummy, starring Boris Karloff as the revived priest Imhotep, blending into contemporary Egypt after 10 years and searching for his lost love, Princess Ankh-es-en-amon. Or someone who looks like her, anyway. You know how it goes.

Christopher Lee took on the role in Hammer’s The Mummy, released in 1959. Tall and imposing, Lee makes a particularly creepy mummy. Unlike Karloff’s, Lee’s mummy is a silent, relentless killing machine and much scarier as a result. Hammer continued a run of mummy movies, using Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars as the basis for Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971). Of all Hammer’s efforts, it’s The Mummy’s Shroud that sticks in my mind from childhood as the scariest. I haven’t seen it since so apologies if you watch it and it sucks.

Dawn of the Mummy, a low budget movie made in 1981 by Frank Agrama, is not a great movie but it does feature one of the creepiest mummies put on celluloid. Played by an uncredited actor who is skinny as hell and about 8-foot tall, the mummy of Sephriman is the best thing about this movie. Again, however, it’s been a long time since I saw it. Interestingly, what Dawn of the Mummy did that no mummy movie had done before was to latch onto the George Romero inspired undead fever and put zombies into the mix. Sooner or later someone was going to do it.

Possibly the most imaginative use of a mummy, and my personal favourite of the genre, is Don Coscarelli’s 2002 Bubba Ho-Tep. The residents of a retirement home are being terrorised by a mummy, and only the aged Elvis Presley and a wheelchair-bound black man who claims to be JFK can save the day. Featuring an inspired turn from Bruce Campbell as the geriatric King, Bubba Ho-Tep took the mummy movie full circle, back to comedy again. Together with Stephen Sommers more adventure orientated mummy trilogy, it may be some time before this character regains its horror status.

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Origin

The werewolf has its origins in various myths scattered throughout the world, going as far back as the Ancient Greeks and possibly beyond. Many of the tales share a connection to vampire folklore and origins. Pagan rituals involving the moon and the wearing of wolf skins, carriers of rabies, legends which built up around the savage, fur-wearing Vikings, and stories of children raised in the wild have all contributed to the belief in lycanthropes. Greek mythology tells the story of cruel Arcadian King Lycaon, who was punished by Zeus by being transformed into a wolf. The werewolf has appeared in folklore and fiction longer than any of the other classic monsters.

Movie highlights

Universal’s Werewolf of London (1935) was the first movie to feature the werewolf in its best known form, as a man who involuntarily transforms into a wolf during the full moon.  This was followed in 1941 with the superior The Wolf Man, with Lon Chaney Jr. as the titular character. Chaney plays Larry Talbot, who returns to his family home in Wales after the death of his brother. He is bitten by a wolf while defending a woman from it. Soon he finds himself having to sit in the make-up chair for four hours a day. Chaney reprised his iconic role four more times, but never to such success.

Hammer Studios only ever made one werewolf movie, The Curse of the Werewolf in 1961, with Oliver Reed. Based on the 1933 novel The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore, the film moves the story to 18th Century Spain. Reed plays Leon, born on Christmas Day and cursed to become a werewolf at every full moon unless his spirit remains pure. Or something. Frankly, who cares? We just want the werewolf and when we finally get it, after a very long build-up, it’s a classic. Few people are as convincing when running around growling as the late Oliver Reed.

The werewolf genre suffered something of a slump for a long while, until Joe Dante hit with The Howling in 1981. Special effects guru Rick Baker created startling new transformation effects for the movie which he then went on to perfect in John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London in the same year. Quite simply the best werewolf movie ever made, this story of an American student infected by a werewolf while backpacking in England was also the first to have a lycanthrope that looked more like a wolf than a man.

In 2002 Neil Marshall reinvigorated the once again flagging genre with his debut Dog Soldiers. Pitting six British soldiers on a training mission in the Scottish Highlands against a pack of indigenous werewolves, Marshall’s movie made magic with a limited budget and a talented cast. Dog Soldiers took its cues from An American Werewolf in London by using humour to sharpen the horror. The werewolves themselves, returning to the bipedal variety, were well executed and the location was especially spooky. Dog Soldiers proved that there’s life in the old genre yet.

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