The Wolf Man is not the first werewolf film ever made but it is the one from which all other werewolf movies draw their inspiration. Two silent films explored the same topic Wolf Blood (1925) and Werewolf of London (1935). The former is reviewed elsewhere on my blog. The latter was Universal's first attempt at a werewolf film with make up by Jack Pierce who also did Frankenstein. He also designed Lon Chaney Jr's iconic make up for The Wolf Man. [FYI. There is also a 1924 silent film entitled "The Wolf Man" but it is a melodrama and not a horror film.]
The basic plot of The Wolf Man is about an American who returns to his home country of Whales following the death of his brother. While staying in his ancestral home he is bitten by a werewolf and becomes one himself. The acting in this film is great all around. Lon Chaney Jr. plays the conflicted Larry Talbot/Wolf Man and is effective in both roles. Claude Rains, who is best known for his role as The Invisible Man (1933), plays Talbot's father. Veteran Acttor Ralph Bellamy is solid as Colonel Montford and Evelyn Ankers is delightful as Chaney's love interest, Gwen. Bela Lugosi even makes a cameo appearance as Bela the Gypsy but is less than impressive.
I enjoyed this film through and through and consider it to be a classic. While it is not as strong as Frankenstein (1931), director George Waggner establishes an eerie mood with lots of atmospheric fog and a nice stage set. The soundtrack is also very good and helps to heighten the suspense of the werewolf scenes.
The Wolf Man was remade in 2010 with Benicio Del Toro in the lead role. It is one of the best horror remakes I've seen and stands on its own as an excellent film. It was also lovingly homaged in Wes Craven's Cursed (2005). I don't think you can view this film anywhere legally online. However, you can rent the Universal Legacy Series version of it through Netflix. This is definitely one you want to view on a decent sized screen. It's a must see for fans of vintage horror.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.
You can also view this movie in parts on YouTube although I recommend seeing a better copy of the film on DVD. Here is Part One: