Disappointment: ”The She-Wolf of London”

Spoiler warning! This overview of the 1946 Movie The She-Wolf of London gives away a number of plot point of the movie in an effort to keep werewolf fans away from the movie. So you might want to skip this review and see the actual movie yourself some day. But, keep in mind, you WILL be disappointed in the movie!

I had such high hopes for The She-Wolf of London when I learned of its existence. A werewolf movie starring June Lockhart? (It was released in 1946, twelve years before June became Ruth Martin, the mother of Timmy on TV’s Lassie.) During the heyday of Universal Studios horror movies? (Okay, it was late in that heyday, but still, it sounded promising.) But our sweet June terrorizing the city? How could I resist that?

First, the good news: The movie only runs an hour-and-one-minute long. So you won’t lose too much of your life in watching it. And it’s really more of a mystery than a horror movie.

The movie starts with June as Phyllis Allenby a wealthy, pretty, but unbelievably wimpy heiress deliberately losing a horse race to her fiancé, Barry Lanfield (Don Porter, who two decades later would be Gidget’s dad) so they could be married the following week instead of waiting several months. They happily plan their wedding.

However, there are a number of gruesome and troublesome murders in the park, including a 10-year-old boy, and, later, a police detective. Newspapers have been playing up the possibility that the murders are the doing of a werewolf, though the London police give no credence to those rumors.

However, poor Phyllis not only believes the werewolf theory is possible, she thinks that she is the werewolf! Barry tries to convince her she’s not, as do the caretakers of the mansion where Phyllis lives, Martha Winthrop (Sara Haden) and her daughter, Carol. Or do they? Martha gives Phyllis many calming potions to relax her. Carol, on the other hand, is busy trying to see her starving artist boyfriend, a relationship her mother does not approve of!

June gives some good scenes in this movie, especially when she’s looking in the mirror and then at her hands, wondering if they sprout fur and claws. (There is no indication of many of the myths of lycanthropy, no mention of full moons and such. Phyllis, however, is shown once reading a book called Lycanthropy — The Legend.)

But June as just Phyllis is a delicate flower, made of gossamer and dandelion seeds. In other words, she is the typical distressed damsel of so many bad Gothic novels, that you’re dying to see her go from woman to wolf and give the movie some actual horror!

Stop! About to give away everything! Do NOT read further if you don’t want the movie spoiled for you.

But Phyllis does NOT change into a werewolf! We suspect she is not the title creature of the movie when, (except or one scene early in the movie) in the mornings, after the havoc the wolf-woman is supposed to have been wreaking the night before, wimpy little Phyllis wakes up in her nightdress, which is perfectly dry, and hasn’t the least of tears and rips in it.

It turns out that Phyllis is NOT a werewolf, that she has been the victim of the cruelest of hoaxes, with someone else trying to get Phyllis committed to an asylum, or make it look as if Phyllis has taken her own life (out of guilt for the murders she thinks she has committed) so that the party really responsible can inherit the mansion that Phyllis lives in.

The movie ends with Barry comforting Phyllis, telling her that the werewolf will never kill anyone ever again.

And TF fans everywhere are left sitting in front of the TV, pausing their DVDs to look at June by herself, wishing the wolfsbane would indeed bloom and give us the she-wolf we wanted to see!

If nothing else, it would’ve made Lassie a lot more interesting.

I should also say that there was a short-lived TV series also called The She-Wolf of London. Except for the title, it had nothing to do with the movie. This starred Kate Hodge, as an American woman in London, who, by the first episode’s end, had indeed been cursed to turn into a werewolf during every full moon. It was really a precursor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with the werewolf and her boyfriend tracking down different supernatural threats every week.

Sadly, at this time the parents’ groups (one of the TRULY great menaces of our times) were telling everyone that, if TV shows such as Freddy’s Nightmares and Friday the 13th — The Series were no longer syndicated, all of our children’s problems would be solved. So The She-Wolf of London TV series wasn’t allowed to continue. The producers tried. Thinking viewers were turned off by a series set in London, they moved the show’s setting to Los Angeles and changed the title to Love and Curses. It didn’t work. However, you can get the entire series in a DVD boxed set for a relatively low price. It’s worth it.

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