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02 May, 2009

The Unimonster’s Crypt presents Junkyardfilms.com’s Moldy Oldie Movie of the Month!: WEREWOLF IN WASHINGTON


Year of Release—Film: 1973

“That it could happen in America. That it could happen now. That it could ever happen to me. Jack Whittier is my name. Maybe you remember my by-line. I was the youngest member of the Washington press-corps…it’s fastest rising star. One of the best and brightest as we used to say…before so much blood passed under those pretty Potomac bridges…”

So intones Jack Whittier as the opening credits crawl to The Werewolf In Washington. Jack (Dean Stockwell), a young and rising star in the President’s press corps, tires of his affair with the President’s comely daughter and puts in a request for a reassignment to Budapest. Time passes and he’s called back to Washington. Driving to the airport, he almost hits a local with his car. Acting in a typically ugly American style, he swears at the man and everyone who will stand still long enough to listen. He begins to walk for help while local villagers plead with him not to walk on a night with a full moon.

But pushy Jack pushes on and soon comes across the very reason for the local’s fears…a werewolf! Killing the werewolf with his silver-headed walking stick, he turns himself over to the police. They don’t believe him and refuse to help, ordering him to leave the area immediately. However, an old woman who is ironically the werewolf’s mother explains “he needed to be killed” and gives Jack an amulet to protect him. Once back in Washington, Jack nonchalantly flushes the amulet down the White House toilet and begins charming his way back into the President’s good graces at a cocktail party. But, before long, he notices a pentagram on a woman’s hand as the full moon rises and things begin to go horribly wrong!

After that, it’s your basic werewolf movie plot…full moons rise nightly and the killings continue. However, this is when this movie goes from a been-there-seen-that yawn-fest to a political satire of the Nixon White House years mixed with low-camp humor! Clifton James, the blustery, loud and often cigar-chewing veteran actor of many movies and TV programs, plays the Attorney General and often forgets or blows his lines. Director Milton Moses Ginsberg either didn’t have the budget for a re-take or just didn’t care because no mistakes are left on the cutting room floor. The President, played by TV actor Biff McGuire, makes a convincing Nixon spouting lines like “Let me make one thing perfectly clear” all the while discussing the War and the deaths of four students at an Ohio university.

In a later scene, Whittier is visiting the White House where he accidentally runs into the President’s daughter, Marion (Jane House). She tells him she’s engaged but she still wants to be friends. As they talk, Whittier’s lower jaw begins to thrust out, showing his bottom teeth. He runs into a near-by bathroom and locks himself in. Marion rushes to the door, pounding on it frantically, asking what’s wrong. Whittier screams, “Go to your room nowooOOOoooOOOO!” Stockwell acts unusually uncomfortable in this movie… more like a nervous untrained puppy dripping flop-sweat that a fearsome werewolf. The transformation from man to werewolf is the standard stop-motion effects we’ve all come to love and expect from a werewolf movie. However, the final effect is more like a well-coifed Benji than Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolf-Man…or even Michael Landon in I Was A Teenage Werewolf!

The next scene has Whittier clinging to the top of a car being driven by his boss, Angela (Jacqueline Brooks). She pulls into a closed gas station, where she is promptly killed by the werewolf. The Attorney General orders a young black couple who witnessed the crime arrested just because they are black…and obvious nod to the racial tensions of the day. Whittier confesses his crimes to Commander Salmon, who doesn’t believe him. Whittier than demands the Commander follow him into the bathroom and, as the Commander tries to explain away Whittier’s “guilt feeling”, Whittier removes his suit coat, tie and shirt to reveal…a tattooed red star over his heart! The Commander, fearing this is some sort of commie plot, flees.

For a horror movie, this has no first-hand bloodletting and few scares. One scene however was somewhat frightening. The female half of the young black couple (still under house arrest) is attacked in a phone booth while making a prank call pretending to be the werewolf. (Why is anyone’s guess. I’ve always assumed werewolves don’t make phone calls. Where would they keep their change!?!) She screams as Whittier/ the Werewolf struggles to get inside the over-turned phone booth. Whittier/ the Werewolf is finally scared away by a cop firing a gun at him. Other than that, the only thing frightening in this movie, other than the bad editing, is possibly the wallpaper in the White House Press Room.

The President and Whittier are bowling in the White House basement alley when there’s a nicely done bit of slapstick humor involving Whittier’s werewolf-transforming hand getting stuck in a bowling ball. As the President struggles to pull it off, Whittier again tries to convince the President he is a werewolf. However, like everyone else he’s encountered, the President ignores him. (Maybe he should hire a press secretary.)

Later, in the War Room, the President is trying to convince his aids that the US needs to pull out of the war ASAP but allows himself to be talked out of peace for fear of upsetting the militant radical right. Whittier, feeling another werewolf attack coming on, leaves the war room and, somehow, winds up in the White House basement boiler room. Confronted by Dr. Kiss, a midget who is apparently making a Frankenstein monster, Whittier, on all fours, licks the doctor’s face and in return, is licked back on the nose. (Shudders!)

As the full moon wanes, we see Whittier ordering a silver bullet as Dr. Kiss and the President discuss the future of the werewolf in the basement toilet. Dr. Kiss and his assistant escape through a bathroom stall. One gets the feeling that one day during shooting, a midget strolled on to the lot and the director thought “Cool! Just what this movie needs!” because there’s no other logical reason for his being in this movie!

Begging Commander Salmon to chain him up until he can fly back to Hungry to find the old gypsy woman, Marion confronts him, proclaiming her love while Whittier pleads to be killed with his silver-headed cane. “Will you please stop barking at me!” Marion says. However, the President calls and orders him released so Whittier can fly with him to a peace conference.
What happens next must be seen to be appreciated! Originally, I was going to continue to the conclusion of the movie but calmer heads prevailed and I was convinced not to give spoilers. But, may I say the ending of this movie was the best part! Especially the speech over the ending credit crawl! Despite its rough editing, bad directing and broad over-acting, this was one fun little movie! I’ll give it 2 out of four stars!


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