Since 1935 Hollywood has been producing mainstream werewolf movies. It started with Werewolf of London which celebrates its 80th birthday next year. The movie was produced by Universal, six years before its more popular sibling, The Wolf Man.
Written by Robert Harris and John Colton and directed by Stuart Walker, Werewolf of London follows Dr. Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull), a wealthy, internationally respected botanist leading an expedition to Tibet. The subject of his search is a rare Mariphasa plant, said to derive its life through the moon. While searching for the plant, Dr. Glendon and his team are blocked by some kind of invisible force. Not one to be deterred, he spots the rare plant and pushes onward. Unfortunately for the tenacious botanist, once he reaches the plant he is attacked by a shadowy figure.
After Dr. Glendon returns to his home in London a party he and his wife Lisa (Valerie Hobson) are having is interrupted by a mysterious stranger. The uninvited guest calls himself Dr. Yogami (Warner Oland), who explains that the flower is a cure for being a werewolf. Introduced to the fantastical idea, Glendon doesnít believe Yogami until he witnesses the early effects of lycanthropy when his hands grow fur under the rays of his moon lamp. Fear about the condition Yogami warned him about consumes Glendon once heís covered in fur. As the werewolf he is still capable of human thought, knowing that the flower will save him. This self-awareness makes him more reasonable than Lon Chaney, Jr.ís Wolf Man but just as, if not more, frightening when he attacks and is conscious of it.
Werewolf of London has many similarities and connections with other Universal monster movies. Jack Pierceís werewolf make-up was simpler than what he produced for The Wolf Man though his initial makeup design was then used for Lon Chaney, Jr. The film shares elements with many of Universalís monster movies, including opening with an expedition like The Mummy, electrical energy, flashing, and buzzing in the lab like Frankenstein, and bits of comic relief between Mrs. Moncaster and Mrs. Whack like The Invisible Man.
The cast also shares links to other Universal actors. Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi were associated with the film at one point. Karloff was going to play a werewolf in a Universal film in 1932 and Lugosi was initially assigned the role of Dr. Yogami, but it went to Warner Oland. Valerie Hobson, who portrays Lisa in Werewolf of London replaces Mae Clarke as Dr. Frankensteinís kidnapped wife in Bride of Frankenstein.