I watched an awful movie this weekend, The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman, and it featured a wolfman style werewolf. Most of the werewolf movies I saw as a kid featured wolfmen, too. This has changed, though.
What’s the earliest instance of a werewolf movie/book/tv show featuring a werewolf that turns into a big wolf instead of a furry biped?
The first I ever saw was Wolf Lake (2001), and it confused me at first because I wasn’t sure if they were supposed to be werewolves or just shape shifters. And since then there’s been:
The Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong (also 2001)
True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse (first appearance of werewolves, 2002)
The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs (2006)
Need/Captive by Carrie Jones (2008, 2010)
The Gates (2010)
…and probably more I’ve forgotten or haven’t heard of
But what came before then? Surely there are werewolves that transform into actual wolves that predate 2001.
I always thought the sort of half man half wolf was scarier than just turning into a wolf. Sure, the idea of turning into an animal is scary, but it’s not THAT scary. Wolves are pretty badass. And wolves can be dangerous but the idea of seeing an attacking wolf in a movie doesn’t chill me. But something that’s not quite wolf, not quite human…maybe it’s more uncanny valley for me? Watching the change scene in American Werewolf as a little kid really skeeved me. And the werewolf in Ginger Snaps really creeped me out. Turning into a wolf would be kind of neat–turning into a weird wolf creature…blech. Genuinely frightening for me.
It’s worth mentioning that the “stunt wolves” they used in The Wolf Man weren’t very convincing in their scenes with Chaney and his doubles, so they used the security man’s German shepherd. IIRC, Chaney liked the dog so much that he ended up adopting him.
I always thought he looked more like a giant pekingese.
From the late-night horror movies of my youth, I remember a film that would’ve been made in the late '60s or early '70’s, perhaps British, that was set like country-house murder mystery… except that the murderer was a werewolf. As I remember it, the killer when exposed turned into a wolf rather than a half-wolf-humanoid. I’ll check IMDB and see if I can i.d. this film.
ETA: This looks like it:
It was advances in makeup and special effects that allowed the wolves in werewolf movies to look like wolves. They did use wolves or dogs for some scenes, but the difficulty of making a human look like a wolf meant that they just added the hair and had the actor walk upright. I remember a lot of comments at the time about the effects on An American Werewolf in Paris because the man was growing a snout.
I believe Wolf with Jack Nicholson counts. He is never shown as a full-on wolf, because he’s slowly changing throughout the movie. But the werewolf that bit him was a full wolf. So eventually that’s what he, and later Michelle Pfeiffer’s character, will become.
In folklore, yes. However, several men in medieval/early modern Europe (Jean Grenier, Peter Stubbe, Giles Garnier, et. al.) dressed up as wolves and ran around killing people, ostensibly because they were given magical powers to transform into wolves. I’d wager they looked more like Lon Chaney, Jr. than White Fang.
You forgot the all-important word allegedly in that description.
Those were essentially holdovers from the witchcraft trials, so any claims need to be examined critically. They admitted all sorts of stuff, and then later writers tried to make it sound logical and not have them actually change shape, but they didn’t really think to examine the claims more skeptically and see how much of the rest of it was true either.
There were serial killers about that the populace really only understood in relation to earlier werewolf stories. There were also innocent victims of hysteria who got blamed for all sorts of insane things. And of course there were cases somewhere between those two extremes.