Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 29, 2018)
Eleven years after Werewolf of London hit screens, filmmakers created 1946’s She-Wolf of London. Despite the similarities of the titles, the two movies had virtually nothing to do with each other, a fact that became even more obvious when I watched She-Wolf.
Set at the turn of the 20th century, She-Wolf focuses on lovely young Phyllis Allenby (June Lockhart). She’s set to marry successful lawyer Barry Lanfield (Don Porter) but she starts to worry that she suffers from “the curse of the Allenbys”. Apparently fuzziness runs in the family, and when a boy gets killed near her home, she fears the worst.
We also meet her “aunt” Martha Winthrop (Sara Haden), actually a former housekeeper for the Allenbys who acts as Phyllis’ guardian. They live in the Allenby estate along with Martha’s daughter Carol (Jan Wiley) and their housekeeper Hannah (Eily Malyon).
Essentially She-Wolf deals with the “is she or isn’t she a lycanthrope” issue. Unlike Werewolf of London and 1941’s Wolf Man, we never see Phyllis transform into a beast.
As such, the film becomes more of a mystery than a horror flick. We don’t know if Phyllis caused the crimes, and even if she did, we aren’t aware if she really is a werewolf or if she’s just nuts.
Those aspects and a few others make She-Wolf moderately entertaining, though in a way, the lack of werewolf shots feels like a cop-out. She-Wolf was a cheap film that was filmed in less than two weeks, a ridiculously brief period even by 1940s standards. The absence of effects and makeup shots means that they could move more quickly and inexpensively.
Still, I like that aspect of the flick if just because it brings something different. Granted, She-Wolf offers a very predictable plot, as it doesn’t take long to see where it will ultimately go.
Nonetheless, by 1946 most horror films had become rather bland and redundant, so I feel pleased to see an effort to be a little unusual.
I also think it’s fun to witness a female lead, as those were - and are - few and far between in the genre. Of the many movies in the “Classic Monsters” line, only three - She-Wolf, Bride of Frankenstein, and 1936’s Dracula’s Daughter - feature women in horrific roles. Even then, the Bride doesn’t really qualify as a star in her own film since she only appears in small parts of it.
This makes the female-centered world of She-Wolf more appealing, though I admit it disappoints that Lockhart doesn’t get to play a full-out beast. It would have been interesting to see a different perspective on this kind of monster, especially from such a gentle and quiet personality.
Actually, Lockhart becomes one of the best aspects of She-Wolf, as she provides a strong performance as Phyllis. She makes the character believable as she questions her sanity and her fate. Lockhart maintains a nicely melancholy tone that suits the role.
Overall, She-Wolf of London feels like an unspectacular affair, but I find it to be moderately enjoyable. It lacks the overt scares of many other horror flicks and it seems rather predictable as a whole, but it still provides something different that I like.