• Karl Hajos
  • Werewolf of London: Symphonic Suite (1935)

  • NBC Universal (World)

Suite produced by Richard Bush; Arranged by Joseph Marcello; Edited by Nick Johnson

  • 2+pic.2+ca.2+bcl.2+cbn/4.3.2+btbn.1/timp.3perc/pf.hp/str
  • 10 min 45 s

Programme Note

In the early thirties Universal Pictures produced films with now-iconic monsters such as Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy. In 1935 they added to that pantheon with The Werewolf of London, the first major film to deal with lycanthropy, the transmutation of man into wolf. Film critic Kenneth Hanke once described the film as playing like "a horror story as written by Galsworthy, (if such a thing can be imagined)…the relationships and blood ties of the characters are certainly complex enough to qualify."

Karl Hajos was assigned to score the film, although as a common economy practice of the time music from Universal's music library from previous productions was also used. Hajos was born in Budapest, Hungary, January 28, 1889, (died in Hollywood, Feb 1, 1950). Hajos studied at the Academy of Music in Budapest, studying piano with Emil Sauer, and claimed to have studied composition with Richard Strauss. From 1929-34 he worked at Paramount Pictures, and after working on four films at Universal in 1935 subsequently worked at Republic, Monogram, and PRC, the latter of which he also served as a music director.

Hajos' score for Werewolf employs whole-tone scales and harmonization, a common technique used to impart a restless, uneasy, or supernatural feeling.

The symphonic suite opens with the Main Title, which introduces a seven-note motif arranged in a sweeping manner and which is associated with the werewolf. Henry Hull plays Wilfred Glendon, a botanist, who was bitten by a mysterious creature in Tibet while searching for the Mariphasa, a rare flower that blooms only in moonlight. The main title ebbs and gives way to The Dangerous Flower, an ascending short passage as the film transitions to Glendon's botanical laboratory and his attempt to artificially induce the flower to bloom. Glendon is subsequently informed by an enigmatic Dr. Yogami (Warner Oland) about werewolfery, and that the flower specimens that Wilfred has collected are its only known temporary antidote.

Glendon dismisses this as "childish superstition." He is a rigid, rational scientist, who has become increasingly absorbed in his work and grown emotionally alienated from his much-younger wife. A doleful cello solo passage begins the next section of the suite (The Lost Soul), which marks Glendon's increasing sense of tragedy. The suite then turns to a sinister and menacing version of the werewolf theme (The Prowling Monster) as the transformed Glendon commits his first murder.

As Glendon grapples with making sense of what has befallen him, he reads of lycanthropy from an old text. The Old Tale is a mournful variation of the main theme which gradually crescendos before gently ebbing.

A very pretty theme in variations accompanies Glendon's wife (Valerie Hobson), and her childhood sweetheart (Lester Matthews), as they unwittingly visit her old homestead, where Glendon has locked himself up in a futile attempt to keep away from her. As he transforms into the werewolf the music turns increasingly sinister and agitated, until he breaks from his cell and attacks his wife (The Fight).

In the film's climax, when the werewolf is fatally shot, a dirge-like version of the theme is heard as Glendon, before succumbing, begs forgiveness from his wife for his failure to her. As he transforms back to his human form the music swells to a grand maestoso (The Finale).

Hajos' music for Werewolf of London was reused by Universal in many subsequent productions such as the Flash Gordon serials, 'B' mysteries, and even Westerns.

Werewolf of London was directed by Stuart Walker, released by Universal Pictures May 13, 1935. It was based on a story by Robert Harris, with the script by John Colton. Jack Pierce was responsible for makeup, with cinematography by Charles J. Stumar, and special effects by John P Fulton.

©2020, Richard H. Bush