Release Date(s)2022 (September 2022)
Studio(s)Universal Studios (Factory Entertainment)
- Overall Grade: A
Hardware Format: Prop Replica Cane with Handle
6.88L x 1.75W x 38.5H inches (17.48 x 4.45 x 97.79cm)
Made of metal and wood
Design based on vintage reference photos from the 1941 film The Wolf Man
Limited edition of 400 pieces
Includes wall-hanging display
Sheer Awesomeness: A
“Even a man who is pure at heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the moon is shining bright.”
Released in 1941, Universal’s The Wolf Man contains, for me, the one and only screen-used movie prop I ever wanted to own—the Wolf Man Cane aka Larry Talbot’s Cane. Being a monster kid, I knew from reading It Came From Bob’s Basement that Bob Burns owned one of—if not THE—original Wolf Man Cane props. Bob has one of the greatest collections of movie props ever assembled and the very first thing he ever collected for that massive collection, was the very same wolf cane prop that was on my bucket list. As told by Bob in the above-mentioned book (reprinted a few years ago and available through Amazon here, the prop was created by Ellis Burman, Sr., a make-up artist, and prop master at Universal who also happened to be father to one of Bob’s childhood friends Ellis Junior. Ellis had the prop sitting in a windowsill in his shop and Bob was drawn to it like a magnet whenever he and his friend visited Ellis’ shop; until one day Ellis just up and gave it to young Bob, starting Bob down a road of effects work and prop collecting.
So, after making friends with Bob Burns* and getting the coveted first invite into the legendary Basement for a guided tour and a climax of conversations, stories and snacks with him and his beautiful, late wife Kathy, the first thing I did was ask if I could see, nay, HOLD that cane head. Would he trust me with it? Would Bill and/or Adam Jahnke have to guard the sliding glass door to the driveway, blocking my run for the car? Would I fall over dead having finally attained one of my life’s goals to hold the prop in my hands? His answer: “No.” Oh why, dearest lord of props, would thou forsaketh me? Well, it was simple—the prop was in the hands of an artist working with the fine folks at Factory Entertainment. He was doing a scan, measuring it, and doing whatever it is they do to make a physical prop replica. All of this was for the first version of the Factory Entertainment cane, and that artist’s name is Tyler Ham and you can read about his work on that prop during this sad time in my life here.
Of course, I have had many subsequent visits with Bob and eventually I got to hold the original prop (and, of course, had to have it pried out of my hands). Oh, and here’s the proof—a goofy picture of me holding the prop in front of an original painting of Wolfie painted by none other than Rick emeneffin Baker.
Upon its original release, I bought that original Factory Entertainment cane prop the minute it came up for sale and hung it on my sitting room wall and I look at it each and every day. ‘tis a thing of beauty that I thought was the next best thing to having the real thing. I thought wrong.
As it turns out, this revamped version truly is the next best thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the original. It’s based on the original Bob Burns owned prop, which turns out to most likely be a “stunt” version of the original. It was cast in a rubberized material and was probably the version of the cane used to bludgeon werewolves off-camera. This new version was a hard reset, intended to represent the cane as purchased by good ol’ Larry Talbot, pulled from a collection of canes he found in Conliffe’s Antiques. It’s been a long while since the original sold out, so why not take advantage of newly released 4K images of the film? Doing just that, the folks at Factory were able to sculpt a version of the cane from scratch, trying their best to capture the exactness of the camera-used cane, while honoring the original prop and their first crack at it ten years ago.
I’m not here to do an A to B comparison, like I said—I love the original prop. But the biggest difference between the two is, the first version is truly a prop. It’s meant to be on a wall or in a case, unused, untouched, and worshipped from afar. It’s slavish to the Bob Burns stunt prop, which means it’s rounded and thick. Not very ergonomic. And it’s light—lighter than you expect it to be at least; and that’s all because of the materials. The metal in the handle is chrome-plated (what I would guess is) aluminum, sitting atop a light wooden shaft connected by a chrome-plated plastic sleeve. It feels solid, but never in a million years would I attempt to walk it around as a cane—even as a costume accessory. It’s a display only piece and doing its job, it’s a beautiful and remarkable piece of art.
Because, like most things movie prop based, interest in this prop came about later in history, there are a few questions that remain unanswered about the history of the prop. For example, why does it look like it does? Sure, a wolf’s head cane makes sense for the story in the film, but traditionally, a British walking stick would have a stag or a boar as the handle—a wolf’s head is not very common. Which may explain the bulky look of the original prop. Is it so possible that it’s probable that Ellis Burman sculpted OVER a traditional boar’s head cane? It would explain the piggy snout, a built up back piece where sits a pentagram and a leaping wolf and the very unwolf-like ears. Makes sense, and Factory’s press materials make the claim—but we’ll never really know for sure. The original prop and the Bob Burns owned piece are both bulky and showcase this idea. Factory’s second attempt tries to remedy that.
When I say the original is rounded and thick, this new 2.0 version is sleeker and more angular. It fits better in a man’s hands (and I’m not being sexist, this is a big poppa cane—a lady would need good “man hands” to wield this guy). The all-metal handle is denser, feels of chromed solid cast brass and the cuff connecting it to the solid acacia wood shaft is part of the handle now, making for one stable metal piece. It’s more solid, heavier and “feels” more like a lifestyle cane, although I once again wouldn’t use it as such.
Loving the original cane as I do, I wasn’t expecting to love this version as much or even more. I will never give the first prop up. Between the two it also has the better wall-hanging display. I dislike the new display so much, I’m not even discussing it aside to describe it—it’s smaller, has nice brackets that actually hold the cane and the “Even a Man who’s pure at heart” quote written on it, except it’s not the correct quote and apparently this was a studio mandate so I’m not going to fault Factory for this. The correct quote is somehow on the box (which is a very beautiful box that will most likely collect dust in every collector’s attic). Put the display out of your mind and put it on your wall and it’ll be fine. Or if you’re Adam Savage, remake it. It’s a beautiful prop, feels like a cane that you could actually use, but take my word for it, this is still a prop and the more I played with this version during my review period, the more “sensitive” it became, gaining a bit of play between the handle and the shaft, enough so that I got a bit afraid and put it back on the wall, right to its home as a show piece-only piece of art. In that regard, it’s beautiful and honors the legacy of this great monster movie.
If you’re a fan and have the funds, you should be one of the 400 folks who can own this limited-edition prop replica (you can buy it here directly from Factory Entertainment or here on Amazon, which supports The Bits). It really is a nice showpiece. Factory does incredible work. So, if you’re a home media fan who also appreciates a well-crafted prop replica to decorate your home theater in ways that make it stand out, go on over to their website, www.factoryent.com and take a look at their stuff. They have something for just about everyone—DC stuff, Monty Python, Men in Black, Star Trek, and other Universal Monsters props, just to name a few. They also produce some of the best keychain and bottle opener prop replicas in the game. Their Jurassic Park Fossil Raptor Claw opener is fire.
Keep spinning those discs!
- Todd Doogan
* Footnote: Now, I’m not saying that I made friends with Bob just because he owns that prop—but I’m not saying I didn’t—either way I am lucky, honored and privileged to call Bob my friend and that friendship grew to include him sharing his love for The Creature from the Black Lagoon with me—but that’s a tale for another article.