Larry can see into town with the telescope and spies the lovely Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers) in her room above her fathers antique shop. He makes his way down there and tries to be smooth in asking her on a date. She is too cool for school though and plays inviting while still spurning his advances. While this conversation takes place he buys a wolf headed walking stick. The Wolfs head and five pointed star gives her the opportunity to add to the lore in the film, telling him it the sign of the Werewolf and quoting the saying we get to hear several times in the film.
"Even a man who is pure of heart and says his prayers at night, May become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms and the autumn moon is bright."
He buys the walking stick and although she says unconvincing no to his offer to meet for a walk and visit to the gypsy camp to have her fortune read. He leave happy and returns at eight like he said he would. She is actually looking for him when eight arrives. She plays coy and before they start their walk she brings out her friend Jenny (Fay Helm) who will come along on the date. Gwen is excellent in these scene keeping the Larry Talbot character off balance even as he starts to feel confident around her. The interplay is quite cute. Shame poor Larry will later have to learn she is engaged to be married to Frank Andrews (Patric Knowles). Why did she allow this date anyway?
On the walk to the gypsy camp we get to see the wolf bane is indeed in bloom as Jenny picks some. At the camp she goes first and Bela (Bela Lugosi) in a minor role starts to tell her fortune but sees the circled 5 point star on her palm. "What do you see?" she pleads to his distress, but he sends her away, he is deeply distressed as he stands over the wolf bane she has dropped on the ground.
Now we are in the thick of the story as the fleeing Jenny is pursued through the fog by the werewolf. The wolf howls, she moves faster, then Larry and Gwen hear the screams of Jenny and race back towards her. Larry comes upon the wolf after it has ripped of Jenny's throat. He fights with is and is bitten before managing to beat it to death with his cane. The old gypsy woman Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) and Gwen take the wounded Larry back to the castle.
Problem is when the authorities arrive on the crime scene they do not find the wolf carcass but instead find Bela beaten to death next to Jenny who indeed had her throat ripped out. They want to talk to Larry about this of course and go to the castle. There Larry explains what happened and they share the results questioning whether he could have been confused in the dark. Larry insists he saw what he saw and attempts to show them his wound on his chest though there is no wound, just a 5 pointed star scar. It is so sad the way Larry struggles with what is happening. He knows things can not be what everyone is saying but can't prove otherwise. There is a striking scene at the tomb of the deceased Bela where Larry in hiding listens to Maleva recite a poem for her dead son and then when she leave he breaks down in tears.
The authorities are watching him, he learns about the werewolf curse from Maleva and she gives him a pendant to protect him. He though fears for Gwen and gives the charm to her. The first night of transformation is coming it is interesting how little we the audience get to see. Spoiled with modern special effect, the simple cut shot to hairier and hairier legs is so quaint. He is impressive after his transformation with the full facial makeup of yak hair applied in layers.
The film really though is not about the makeup but about the man struggling with the horror of the beast inside. As Larry struggles and the authorities close in he tries to get people to understand it is not all in his head. He attempts to leave but before he can convince Gwen to come with him he sees the sign on her hand. It is inevitable that Larry will die as the werewolf and when it is done it is a truly sad tale of a man caught in an impossible situation. When he gives his own father his walking cane the final night we know what is to happen. It in this case doesn't take anything away from this wonderful classic monster tale. Lon Chaney Jr. is excellent and captures the struggle beautifully. I whole recommend this film for all.