Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Wolfman

We went to see the latest incarnation of "The Wolfman" the other night. Not too shabby, though I doubt that it will win any Oscars. Still, a nice little romp through late-Victorian England, complete with Scotland Yard inspectors, Gypsies, and werewolves.

There was certainly lots of nice eye-candy to be seen (and I don't mean the pretty girl, though she was certainly fetching). Among other interesting things was a nice steam-omnibus that got at least a little bit of screen time. There were also some magnificent horses, in the form of Andalusians and Friesians, all of whom were very well trained and handled. It's always nice to see such well mannered horses in films, and not having their faces torn off by idiots actors manhandling the reins. Very nice teams pulling some nice little carriages throughout the film, and a couple of gorgeous saddle horses to.

I was also quite impressed with the costuming and hair. At one point Our Hero Lawrence Talbot (played by Benicio del Toro) was wearing an out fit that I KNOW I have seen in photo's of a famous actor from the late-19th Century wearing. I can't recall if it was Oscar Wilde, Edmund Boothe or another actor, but with a velvet jacket, trilby hat and cape he was the very image of an "actor" of the era. Another excellent bit of period fashion was the doctor in the asylum, with his hair parted down the middle...all the way back to his neck. Not many people would know of that oddity of fashion, and I laud the hair designer for it.

Now for the fun part, my "What Weird Guns Did They Have?" section. I was actually pretty impressed by their armourer's choices, for the most part. Lots of Martini-Henry rifles, as would be expected, since the Martini-Henry was the primary issue service rifle for the British Army and Royal Navy during the period from 1871-1888, with issues continuing well into the 20th Century for some units. That the Metropolitan Police might actually have access to these is quite a reasonable expectation. Interestingly there were also a number of the civilian versions to be seen in the hands of various Werewolf hunters as well.

I thought it very apt that the immediate predecessor of the Martini-Henry in the British service, the Snider-Enfield, was also seen in some numbers in the film. Rifles and carbines both, again in the hands of the civilian Werewolf hunters.

The protagonist and his father of course, being gentlemen, carry their beautiful double guns. Hard to tell whether they are double rifles or double shotguns, but from the thinness of the barrels at the muzzle, I will assume them to be double shotguns. Either way, nice big hunting guns with a sufficient calibre to down most any game one could imagine. They look to be 10- or 12-bore to me, and when loaded with a solid slug (of silver, of course!) they make quite a salutary proposition for defense against a Werewolf. I couldn't tell if they were Holland and Holland, Purdy or some other of the host of superb quality gunsmiths who at one time inhabited the British Isles and produced the highest quality firearms ever made, but the under-lever actions were of the type popular in the 1870's and '80's, definitely within the time period of the rest of the material artifacts of the film.

There were also several other interesting rifles shown here and there. One looked to be either an Alexander Henry single shot or a Farqharson-action single-shot, and another oddly enough looked almost like an American Sharps. Hard to tell with only one viewing though. Maybe I'll get it on DVD when it comes out and edit things to be a bit more coherent (and accurate)!

Heros of course must also have pistols, and they were shown in some abundance and variety. One of the first to be seen is a Patrolman's revolver, an Enfield model of 1878, issued to the British Army in caliber .476. They are an odd sort of break-open design that doesn't actually break open all the way, just enough to drop out the empty rounds and ensure that the rims of the loaded rounds still within the chambers will now drop under the star ejector when it returns and jam up the piece completely. One must pull it apart again and try to pry out the loaded rounds and replace them properly in their chambers after the star ejector has returned back down to it's place before you can then reload and finally shoot the blasted piece. So make sure you fire ALL your rounds before you try to reload it.

The next pistol to be seen is a break-open Webley .455", the good old standard which served the British Army so well from the late-1880's through WWII and beyond. The one shown looked to be a Mk II, with a 6" barrel (which was actually somewhat of a rarity. Most have the 4" barrel). It's hard to tell the difference between a Mk II and the Mk's III, IV and V though, the Mk II having a slight "bump" at the top of the grip behind the hammer to keep your hand from slipping forward under recoil. In fact, I suspect that they used several of the models, because I seem to remember seeing examples both with, and without the "pawl" or bump. At any rate, they are a fine weapon, and head and shoulders above the poor old Enfield .476".

I did catch a few glimpses of a Webley RIC .450" (see my review of "Sherlock Holmes", below), but it was not featured to near the extent that the later, larger break-open Webley's were. Actually however, they were probably more likely to have been seen in the hands of both policemen and civilians in the 1880's than the .455's, but what the heck. I'm just happy to see that they were using period revolvers of the proper nationality, rather than just sticking whatever happened to be in the prop house armoury into the hands of the actors and saying "Action!".

All in all, a fun little romp. Lots of action, a fair amount of shooting, and general mayhem, with fun to be had by all. If nothing else, seeing an homage to the original "Wolfman" film complete with an actor who actually rather LOOKS like Lon Chaney Jr. is worth the price of admission.