The Wolfman is a remake with its very own shaggy dog story — from its inception long ago, to its many changes in major personnel, to its soft reception in theaters — this fright flick somehow managed to entertain me both times I saw it. First off, I caught it at a press screening so I could prepare questions for the red carpet premiere. I liked it well enough, and was kind of surprised at the vitriolic reviews.
What I enjoyed about the film was that it didn't go the comedic, big adventure route like its old time Universal blood-brother The Mummy did (then again, I seriously doubt this flick will spawn a franchise). The Wolfman is a serious, somber, straight-ahead telling of the tale of Talbot (Benicio del Toro) and his wrestling match with the enemy within. There's a touch of family strife with an excellent performance by Sir Anthony Hopkins, a hint of romance with the lovely Emily Blunt, and a worthy adversary in the form of Hugo Weaving. (For more backstory, check out my theatrical release review of The Wolfman here. For the spoilerific Unrated DVD review, read on.)
Now I'm seeing it at home. The Blu-ray disc features both the theatrical version of The Wolfman along with a new unrated with fifteen minutes of additional footage. You can also stream the original 1941 The Wolf Man (starring Lon Chaney, Jr.) three ways - via BD-Live, pocket BLU app, and online at www.UniversalHiDef.com, not to mention choose from alternate endings and some alternate takes.
Personally, I think front-loading the movie with more character development was an excellent idea and I am so glad Universal decides to give The Wolfman a good go on DVD instead of giving it the short shrift. In the beginning, we see more of Talbot acting on stage and his initial meeting with his missing brother's fiancée. We see how Talbot gets his silver-tipped wolf-head cane (oh, how I do love Max Von Sydow!). We learn more about his family's grief-soaked history. It takes longer for Talbot to transform for the first time, but the added layers make it worth the wait. The attack scenes and subsequent gore are stronger too, making for a bloody good time indeed.
The alternate endings are all gripping — but I liked the bleakest one best. It hits the hardest final note. As for extras, there are a lot of them and obviously great care and concern went into crafting them; they're better than the standard "talking head" format ones we usually see. Hopkins has some very interesting things to say about creating backstory for his malevolent-papa portrayal (I was especially intrigued by his scenes [these didn't even make it into the director's cut] shot in the insane asylum).
All in all, The Wolfman may not be an instant classic but I predict it will age beautifully.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson
Complete List of Blu-ray BONUS FEATURES:
Includes the R-Rated Theatrical Version (103 min), and an Unrated Extended Director's Cut (119 min) on one disc
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• 3 Alternate Endings (BD Exclusive) [Note: one of the alternate endings is disguised as a "Deleted Scene"]
• Access to more thrilling exclusive content through BD-Live™, pocket BLU™ app, and UniversalHiDef.com – includes the first ever online streaming of the original 1941 classic The Wolf Man
• Return of The Wolfman: This featurette will look at how Anthony Hopkins, Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Joe Johnston and the creative team behind this new retelling have tapped into the tragic roots of legend and cinematic lore to unleash a new terror for today's audience.
• The Beast Maker: A detailed look at how make-up wizard Rick Baker transformed a classic monster into a modern nightmare.
• Transformation Secrets: Whether transforming werewolves, producing hallucinogenic nightmares or recreating the fog-covered streets of Victorian London, this featurette will look at how the visual effects team has created a haunting world of moonlit monsters and unsettling thrills.
• The Wolfman Unleashed: The team behind the stunt and action units share the physical challenges of bringing the Wolfman to life and creating a series of intense and action-oriented set pieces, climaxing with the dynamic werewolf battle at Talbot Hall.
• pocket BLU™ app: USHE's groundbreaking pocket BLU app uses iPhone, iPod® touch, Blackberry®, Android, PC and Macintosh to work seamlessly with a network-connected Blu-ray player and offers advanced features such as: Advanced Remote Control: A sleek, elegant new way to operate your Blu-rayTM player. Users can navigate through menus, playback and BD-Live functions with ease.
• Video Timeline: Users can easily bring up the video timeline, allowing them to instantly access any point in the movie.
• Mobile-To-Go: Users can unlock a selection of bonus content with their Blu-ray discs to save to their device or to stream from anywhere there's a Wi-Fi network, enabling them to enjoy exclusive content on the go, anytime, anywhere.
• Browse Titles: Users will have access to a complete list of pocket BLU app-enabled titles available and coming to Blu-ray Hi-Def. They can view free previews and see what additional content is available to unlock on their device.
• Keyboard: Enter data into a Blu-ray player with your device's easy and intuitive keyboard that will facilitate such Blu-ray features as chatting with friends and sending messages.
• social BLU™: Connect with friends on your favorite social networks to share information about your favorite movies, enjoy Blu-ray community features and more!
• U-Control: Universal's exclusive feature that lets the viewer access bonus materials without leaving the movie!
• Werewolf Legacy, Lore and Legend: This feature gives viewers a visual tour through more than seventy years of Universal's "Wolf Man" films and thousands of years of werewolf mythology.
• Take Control: Special Makeup Artist Rick Baker, Visual Effects Producer Karen Murphy-Mundell and Director of Photography Shelly Johnson (ASC) take control of the viewing experience in this unique feature, offering a personal visual commentary by engaging with select scenes of the film to reveal details of the filmmaking process.
• Bonus DIGITAL COPY of the Unrated version of the film (2nd disc - expires 6/30/2011).
The standard DVD edition includes both versions of the film, along with deleted and extended scenes (but not the two bonus alternate endings).