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Reds: A Revolutionary Timeline! Discussion

Mr.E

Active member
#41
(Content warning: The following piece mentions rape, incest, and murder. None of these are described in detail, but they are present in the text)​
The Werewolf of Paris (1938)
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Screenplay by Guy Endore, based on his novel of the same name
An unnamed American graduate student in Paris (Marguerite Churchill) is traveling at night, talking to an associate, Eliane (Nan Grey). The conversation quickly turns to lycanthropy and whether it is possible, as well as its connection to sexual desire. The two stumble upon a bunch of paper in the trash, and within it, the graduate student picks up a manuscript dated 1873. Skimming through, the words “Lupanar” (brothel) and “Loup” (wolf) stand out to her. The manuscript was written by Aymar Galliez, and was written specifically as evidence in the defense of one Sergeant Bernard Calliet, during his court-martial in 1871.​
Gaillez (Lon Chaney) begins by discussing the Pitamounts, a lycanthrope clan that had existed for centuries, but had gradually been destroyed by their rivals, the Pitavals. The last of them, Father Pitamount (Warner Orland), comes across a young woman from the village named Josephine (Evelyn Ankers), during a thunderstorm in March, 1846, when she takes refuge in his church. Pitamount takes advantage, and rapes the young woman (not explicitly shown).​
Josephine eventually gives birth on Christmas Eve to young Bernard Calliet. Calliet is raised by Josephine, her uncle Gaillez (who briefly goes to fight in the failed 1848 revolution), and a servant Francois (Fay Helm). While seemingly normal, he has a number of peculiar traits, refusing cooked meats, and having a penchant for raw animal meat. Eventually Gaillez is forced to lock him up for long stretches. However, as he grows up, this bloodlust grows even larger.​
Eventually, the grown up Calliet (Creighton Chaney[1]) begins to have bizarre dreams about turning into a wolf-like creature, and going out at night and killing livestock, as well as digging up and eating corpses. In real life, meanwhile, dead livestock and partially eaten corpses begin to pile up, causing rumors of a vicious wolf in the region.​
Calliet’s bloodlust is coupled with a strong sexual drive, which he satisfies by visiting a local brothel. He also has an incestuous affair with his mother. Gaillez slowly realizes, through reading the local history and observing young Calliet’s behavior, that he is, in fact, a werewolf.​
Calliet learns of the circumstances of his birth, and confronts Father Pitamount. Both transforming into their wolf forms, they attack each other, but Calliet kills him. Thinking it was another dream, he visits a prostitute (Gloria Holden), who he also attempts to kill as a werewolf (but she escapes).​
Gaillez is able to convince the townspeople of his evils, and Calliet is forced to flee before they can kill him.​
Calliet winds up in Paris, where he is able to indulge his hunger by attack denizens in the night. To have a steady income, he joins the National Guard in time for the Franco-Prussian War. While in a canteen for soldiers, he meets and falls in love with a young woman named Sofia de Blumenberg (Josephine Hutchinson), who is revealed to be a masochist, who allows Calliet to feed on her blood after she cuts herself to satiate his hunger.​
Calliet joins the Communards during the Paris Commune. However, stories of his actions get back to Guillez, who comes to Paris (armed with a silver bullet) in time to witness the brutal repression of the commune by Royalist forces. As he surveys the brutal atrocities against the Royalist, while looking for clues for Calliet’s location, he muses about whether Calliet or the French loyalists were the real monsters. He eventually sees Calliet and Sofia, and thinks that he no longer has urges because of her .​
However, as the royalist close in on the Communards during the “Bloody Week”, Calliet decides to go and find someone to kill. He brushes against a Royalist, and off-screen, transforms and attacks him in front of Guillez’s eyes (the onscreen transformations were dismissed as dream sequences previously, marking the twist that Calliet was a real werewolf and not imagining it). Guillez shots Calliet, and while he only grazes the werewolf, he transforms back into his human form.​
Calliet is captured and put on trial for his attack. Guillez defends him, admitting his own superstition and fear prevented him from understanding and helping Calliet to suppress his urges. He also muses that his evil was lesser than “some evils done in the name of country” (implicating the French government and their brutal repression of the Commune and the mass execution of the Communards). Despite this, Calliet is imprisoned, eventually placed in an asylum, where Guillez visits him one last time. Guillez updates him on some of villagers (including his mother), and apologizes to him again for not helping him, which Calliet accepts.​
The post-script of Guillez’s defense describes the final fate of Bernard Calliet: while drugged, he hallucinates Sofia, on the prison walls, and (alluding to a suicide pact the two had earlier in the film) jumps off the wall. The real Sofia had killed herself due to the stress of losing Calliet​
Upon finishing the manuscript, the graduate student visits a local cemetary, and finds “Sgt. Bernard Calliet (1846-1872)” thanks to a ledger. She digs it up, and opens the casket to find the bones of a dog inside.​
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Trivia:​
  • Controversial in its day due to some of the themes it touched on. Seen as a direct repudiation of the Breen Code, especially in the character of Father Pitamount.
  • Filmed primarily in Louisiana, with New Orleans (still with Civil War damage) passing off as Paris
  • Guy Endore adapted his own 1933 novel for film, having been an accomplished screenwriter for several years. Edward Dmytryk had been a prolific B-movie director.
  • Creighton Chaney’s make-up process originated with Lankershim make-up artist Jack Pierce, who had conceived it for an unmade (unrelated) werewolf film called “The Werewolf of London”. However, Chaney resisted Pierce as he attempted to apply the make-up, forcing Creighton’s own father Lon Chaney (who obviously had experience) to step in, and help with the process. [2]
  • Mixed reception upon release, with some taking issue with the gruesome violence and shocking content, while others (notably the Daily Worker) praised its production values and depiction of the atrocities committed during the Paris Commune. Later widely seen as a classic
  • Part of the Lankershim monsters, and considered a classic among them (alongside Frankenstein and Dracula). Sgt. Bernard Calliet is listed as one of cinema’s greatest villains in several publications
  • Got a spiritual sequel of sorts in 1947’s The Werewolf of Berlin, with John Carradine as the last of a German werewolf clan, who lives through 45 years of German history (1900 up to the end of the Great Revolutionary War in Europe in 1945).
  • Winter Wolf is a Soviet co-produced remake in 1954, taking the same basic plot but centering it on the Decemberist uprising in 1825. Stars Mikhail Kuznetsov as the titular “Winter Wolf”
[1] Known widely OTL as Lon Chaney Jr., a name he resented because it was forced on him by the studio.​
[2] It’s basically the make-up for the OTL Wolf Man