Blu-ray Review: The Wolfman (Unrated)

After the jump scare opening, the theatrical release of The Wolfman begins with an Emily Blunt voice over reading a letter her character has written to Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro), urging him to return home after the disappearance of his brother. The Blu-ray unrated edition opens with the same jump scare, but instead of letter writing, Blunt shows up and delivers her message in person, yet the rest of the film refers to the letter she never ends up writing, which just goes to show how silly these “unrated” home video releases truly are. Most oftentimes they add very little to the film other than making it longer — in this case 16 minutes longer — and give the studio a selling point. The fact this is referred to as the “Unrated Director’s Cut” has me wondering if Joe Johnston even cares his name is being used in such a manner, to the point the film loses plot cohesion from the opening moment.

Of course, this director’s cut does offer a chance to see Max von Sydow in an uncredited role early in the film as a mysterious man on Lawrence’s train home to Blackmoor. Sydow’s character actually ends up being the one that gives Lawrence his wolf’s head walking cane. So, I guess in bits and pieces this unrated cut has something to offer, if not only a disjointed storyline. Other changes include extended dialogue and a bit of extra blood in the extended fight sequences, none of which adds anything of consequence to the film.

Unrated or rated this film still takes itself too seriously. The theatrical cut is 33 minutes longer than the 1941 original and in that sense only adds 33 minutes of unnecessary exposition, or even worse, unnecessary action and gore taking away from the human element of the story. I know, action is what the kids want, but action can also take away from a film if the plot hasn’t been properly developed and the characters are laid to waste. Such is the case here as spectacular effects make for excellent visuals in a creepy and haunting atmosphere devoid of emotion.

In the special features, creature effects designer Rick Baker talks about how the original film didn’t do much in the way of showing the brutality of the wolf man. So, on top of creating a wholly unbelievable love interest in this remake, they went ahead and extended the action segments to further distance the audience from the real story. Nice.

As for the rest of the features, the most interesting are certainly the two alternate endings, both of which provides the film with a new possibility for a sequel with a different character either surviving or serving as the next wolf man… or woman. Along with that comes a selection of deleted/extended scenes and four separate behind-the-scenes features looking at the effects, action pieces and then the traditional making of stuff.

Coupled with this is the Blu-ray exclusive U Control feature that provides in-movie pop up features that are the best in terms of behind-the-scenes features this Blu-ray offers. Included in the feature are makeup artist Rick Baker, visual effects producer Karen Murphy-Mundell and director of photography Shelly Johnson as the film stops long enough for them to guide you through certain aspects of several specific scenes. It proves to be far more in-depth than the features ever get and confirms the most interesting things about this picture are the effects and make-up, and, admittedly, they were excellent. There is also a “Werewolf Legacy, Lore and Legend” trivia track that can be turned on and off… I kept it off.

The one suggestion I would make, should you choose to actually pick this title up, is to make sure to take advantage of the fact you can stream the original 1941 The Wolf Man. It’s ten times better than this remake and a film I would certainly recommend you buy before ever spending your money on this wasted effort.

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