Wednesday 8 December 2021

She Wolf Of London

Werewolf By Gaslight

She Wolf Of London
aka The Curse Of The Allenbys
USA 1946 Directed by Jean Yarbrough
Universal Blu Ray Zone B

Warning: Huge spoilers from the outset.

Okay, so this film has highlighted to me a bizarre and interesting thing about the way the Internet works, or doesn’t work, for no good reason that I can figure out. Here’s the thing... when I climbed onto my Macbook for the cast list on the IMDB and typed in She Wolf Of London, I had absolutely no problem finding this film, all well and good. However, prior to this, when I typed it into the IMDB app on my iPhone, well, it’s a different story. You type that title in and you will not have a chance of finding this film (at time of writing in the UK). I found it by knowing one of the actors and retracing it to the year but, on my iPhone IMDB app, the film is only locatable if you type in the title The Curse Of The Allenbys.

So, the internet version of IMDB tells me that this is what the film is known as in the UK. Well, I could certainly understand if the original title was replaced because... big spoiler here... there’s actually no werewolf in this movie. So the title implying a wonderful female lycanthrope is just hogwash and will, I’m sure, be as much as a disappointment to most audiences as it was to me when I first saw it decades ago. That being said, I have to tell you, I’ve been living in the UK for 53 years now and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of The Curse Of The Allenbys as a title. All my previous DVD versions of the film included in various sets, from the US or the UK, have always carried the title She Wolf Of London. So I don’t know what’s going on with the regional versions of the IMDB app but, someone really should address this issue and sort it out.

Now then, I mentioned I was disappointed with the film on my prior viewings and, I’d have to say that the same holds true now. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few points of interest and some nice things happening and I’ll get to all those in a minute but, really this is a not too clever, watchable but unimpressive film. And, like I said, there is no actual monster in this one and it certainly isn’t a horror story. This film would best be described as a ‘gaslighting’ thriller so... yeah... why it’s always marketed as part of the Universal Classic Horror movies and bundled in with their various werewolf films is anybody’s guess. I’m thinking there were less werewolf movies so they needed to add a film to trick the customers into thinking they are getting value for money at the price point. That’s my best guess at that one, anyway.

The film stars June Lockhart, future star of the TV show Lost In Space, as young Phyllis Allenby, sole heir to her parents sizeable country estate in London, living with her Aunt (who is really the housekeeper her father nearly married but she doesn’t necessarily know that), played by Sara Haden and her Aunt’s daughter played by Jan Wiley. Allenby is about to marry her sweetheart Barry, played by Don Porter but she suddenly calls things off when locals are either mutilated or murdered by an unknown ‘beast woman’. She fears it’s herself doing it because of the famous (and non-existent except as a silly legend) Allenby Curse, which says members of the family will... well it’s all a bit obscure but, basically, she thinks she must be turning into a werewolf and feeding off the locals in her sleep.

Meanwhile we have a local police detective played wonderfully by Lloyd Corrigan on the case, answering to his boss played by the one and only Dennis Hoey. Of course, fans of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes film series will know Hoey as the much put upon Inspector Lestrade who was a regular in the series and, honestly, his role here really isn’t any different from that.

And there are some good things about the film including some nicely done compositions. For example, bearing in mind it’s shot in the standard 1.33:1 aspect ratio of the time, the director manages to still split the screen into thirds in one shot, using vertical lines made up from the environment to show all the main action of this particular moment in the middle sliver of a space. Nicely done. Later on, towards the end of the film when the ‘Aunt’ brings Phyllis her drugged milk in order to murder her, the director uses very oblique Dutch angles from shot to shot at odds with each other to accent the Aunt’s sinister intentions. So yeah, some very nice stuff but... it’s just not a great story.

Even the first time I saw it I was suspecting the Aunt of gaslighting Phyliss and committing the local murders herself (leaving the blood on the hands and clothes of the drugged Allenby at night, after she does so) within the first ten minutes and that was before I even suspected there was going to be no werewolf in the film. In fact, that’s the only thing which stops most audiences from seeing through the trick straight away, I suspect. The fact that the film is (whether the IMDB believes this or not) called She Wolf Of London, implying the presence of a supernatural creature... re-enforced by the fact that Phyliss is seen reading a book called Lycanthropy - The Werewolf Legacy at one point.

And not much more to say. Sara Haden’s performance is outstanding, especially when she lets her ‘crazy’ show before her accidental demise at the end of the movie and... so is Corrigan, as the bumbling detective. June Lockhart is okay, I guess but, she’s playing such a weak and shilly shally whiner of a character that I have absolutely no sympathy at all for this person, so obviously born with a silver spoon in her mouth that, by the end, I really wish the aunt had ‘done her in’, in the parlance of the film, because she’s just so irritating.

So, yeah, that’s me done with She Wolf Of London and it’s kind of doubtful that I’ll ever bother revisiting it again now this review is written. Not really worthy of being included in the classic Universal Horror canon, especially since it’s really only a modern marketing designation, I suspect. Nice performances, nicely made... a bit of a duff movie, in all honesty.

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