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13 June, 2011

Junkyardfilm.com's Moldy Oldie Movie of the Month: MOON OF THE WOLF


Year of Release—Film:  1972

Two stereotypical Southern rednecks wake up to the sounds of dogs howling from the swamp.  Hastily pulling on their boots and grabbing their scatterguns, they go stumbling into the darkness.  Suddenly, it’s daytime and they’ve discovered the savaged body of a young female, Ellie, apparently torn apart by a pack of wild dogs.  Sheriff Whitaker (David Janssen) is called out to investigate the death, followed shortly by Lawrence (Geoffrey Lewis), the victim’s dimwitted ex-boyfriend, who demands to know who the culprit was.  Hot on his heels is the grouchy town Doctor Druten (John Beradino) who insults the locals by saying “It’s not considered good medical practice to perform autopsies in the middle of swamps surrounded by howling dogs and scratching rustics.”  Back at the hospital, the doctor tells Sheriff Whitaker that she was killed by a single blow to the head from a left-handed person.

Later that afternoon, Sheriff Whitaker goes to visit Lawrence’s father, Old Man Hughes who, because he’s old and has lived all his life on Marsh Island, must know something about this...even though he’s frail, has dementia and is bedridden!  The Old Man keeps babbling on about something called a “lookaroo” but no one knows what he’s talking about.  Leaving the Old Man’s shack, Whitaker next goes to the mansion of the island founder’s offspring, Andrew Rodanthe (Bradford Dillman) and his sister, Louise (Barbara Rush).  (Janssen keeps pronouncing their last name as Rodan, which delighted me!)  Louise having just returned from living in New York City, is pleasantly surprised to find her old high school crush is now the town sheriff and begins outrageously flirting with him.  Sending Louise back into the mansion, Andrew curtly dismisses the sheriff, explaining that Louise is ill and needs rest and quiet.  Whitaker leaves and drives to the murder scene where he discovers a locket in the mud.  The two rednecks from the movie’s opening scene come strolling by so the Sheriff asks if the locket belonged to the murdered Ellie but they claim to never having seen it before.  Whitaker just shoves this potential clue into his pocket and leaves, leaving this viewer convinced the Sheriff just isn’t into this investigation!

Back in town, the Sheriff has a conversation with the Old Man’s caretaker who spills the beans that Ellie was pregnant!  Find out who the father was and you’d have your killer!  Naturally, Whitaker rushes back to the doctor’s office and demands to know why the doctor didn’t tell him of the girl’s pregnancy!  After some verbal sparring, the doctor confesses that he himself was the father.  “I didn’t kill her!  I loved her!” exclaims the doctor as Whitaker takes a long pull off the doctor’s whiskey bottle.  Now, apparently, everyone in town had a motive to kill her!  Later the same day, the town’s men-folk gather to go into the swamps and shoot the pack of wild dogs that killed Ellie.  Suddenly, Lawrence rushes out from the crowd and socks the doctor in the jaw, decking him, while shouting to everyone that the doctor knocked up the dead girl.  Arresting Lawrence, the Sheriff drives back to the Rodanthe place where he and Louise get to know each other better over glasses of lemonade.

Suddenly, it’s nighttime again and we watch as the Sheriff leaves Lawrence in the hands of his deputy, instructing the night-shift deputy to leave the cell door unlocked.  (Whitaker does run a tight ship, doesn’t he!?!)  Hearing a loud noise from the back of the station, the deputy decides not to follow the Sheriff’s instructions and locks Lawrence’s cell door before investigating the noise.  In a POV shot, we see the deputy torn apart before the POV beast tears the locked cell door off its hinges and savages Lawrence!  Dr. Druten tells Whitaker that the men have been torn apart by bare hands.

The next day, rich-kid Andrew volunteers to go with Whitaker to the Old Man’s place to help with the investigation.  But once there, Andrew suffers a fit when smelling some sulfur and molasses burning in a dish on the front porch.  This concoction is supposed to ward off ... werewolves!  PLOT POINT!  Whitaker drives to pick up Louise and take her to the hospital but sees a photo of Louise wearing the locket he’d discovered at the murder scene.  Louise admits it’s hers but she hadn’t seen it in years.  Back at the hospital, Andrew explains that he suffers from a rare malaria-like disease called Black Water Fever.  In order to keep his disease from becoming town gossip, Andrew had Ellie bring him a month’s supply of his medication from the hospital and he had given Ellie the locket earlier the evening she died.  Louise suggests that since she speaks French, she go talk to the Old Man. Listening to the Old Man babble, Louise says he’s not saying “lookaroo” but is actually saying “Loup-garou” which is French for ... WEREWOLF!  Suddenly, the Old Man grabs Louise’s hand and, speaking French, tells her she will be the next victim!  And, back in his hospital bed, we see the hairy, clawed hand of Andrew!

Andrew, now in full werewolf-mode, bursts from his hospital room, scares some nurses, knocks down an orderly and jumps through a plate-glass window, making good his escape.  A posse is formed to search the swamps for Andrew and Whitaker drives Louise back to the mansion.  But, Andrew isn’t in the swamps but has gone back home where Louise is reading up on lycanthropy and lycanthrope-like diseases.  Explaining to the sheriff that werewolves can only be killed by fire or by bullets that have been blessed, Whitaker decides to search for Andrew alone and he locks all the windows and tells Louise to lock the door after him.  But, Louise listens just about as well as the night-shift deputy did and leaves through a window when she hears werewolf-Andrew bust down the front door.  Running into the barn, she sees werewolf-Andrew standing in the loft and, flinging a burning oil lamp at him, rushes from the burning barn.  BUT WAIT!  Despite being burned to a cinder, werewolf-Andrew survives and, neatly pressed clothes uncharred, chases Louise up the stairs.  Bursting into her room, he’s met with a hail of bullets from Louise’s gun and collapses in the hallway as Whitaker arrives.  And, in true, time-honored, werewolf movie fashion, Andrew dies with his normal Andrew-face as Louise sobs “He knew!  He must have replaced my bullets with blessed bullets!”

Okay...in all fairness, for a made-for-TV movie, this wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t good either.  Barbara Rush played the sister with believability and Janssen, always looking like he’s suffering from some indigestion problems, was likeable as the Sheriff.  Because of some obscure pork-barrel politics, Bradford Dillman was required by Law to appear in every 70’s made-for-TV movie.  The sets appear to have been real Louisiana swamplands.  Beradino played the doctor in such a crotchety, unlikable way I’m surprised that any female, much less a lovely girl like Ellie, would have had anything to do with him.  The werewolf make-up was laughably BAD!  And the plot-holes...How was Andrew a werewolf?  Was he bitten by one before the movie began?  Or, as his sister explains, did he inherit the affliction from his Grandfather, who was given to “spells?”  And why did the Sheriff not bother to investigate any of the multitude of clues presented to him?  And, what about the super-human strength of the werewolf?  I don’t recall Lon Chaney, Jr., having the strength to rip through solid-steel cell bars!  And, someone should have told scriptwriter Alvin Sapinsley it’s SILVER BULLETS that kill werewolves, not blessed ones!  Still, for a 1970’s TV movie, it had a nice In the Heat of the Night atmosphere and nice little murder-mystery beginning, making for a nice little family-friendly werewolf movie.

Enjoy!  Or not!


Cambot's Voice by S. J. Martiene: EXPERIMENT 3: I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF

Cambot’s Voice by S. J. Martiene


I mentioned in Experiment 1 that I was a Mom of two teenagers. Some of the best, MSTied movies feature the teenager and B-movie genres.  It just so happens that this month’s feature, MST3K #809 I Was a Teenage Werewolf fits both bills perfectly. Of course, they are SUPPOSE to be teenagers in this film, but Hollywood has an affinity for older actors playing high-schoolers; ONE of which is playing our monster. We have it all in this movie.  There is milk-throwing, raw meat-eating, a Halloween party, bad singing, a mad scientist, and yes…a werewolf. The fact that THIS particular lycanthrope is portrayed by none other than TV icon, Michael Landon makes this movie interesting for riffing on so many fronts.  There are Bonanza jokes, Little House on the Prairie jokes, and Highway to Heaven jokes.  There is even one riff dedicated to a 1976 autobiographical movie Landon wrote and directed called The Loneliest Runner.
I have to say that since re-watching this movie, the host segments are some of the best of the series.  With a runtime of only 76 minutes, the host segments are a bit more detailed and really show the comedic timimg and writing talents of the gang.  So enjoy, as we take you through the exploits of 1957’s I Was a Teenage Werewolf.


Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Landon
Yvonne Fedderson
Arlene Logan (as Yvonne Lime)
Whit Bissell
Tony Marshall
Dawn Richard
Barney Phillips
Detective Donovan
Ken Miller
Cynthia Chenault
Pearl (as Cindy Robbins)
Michael Rougas
Robert Griffin
Joseph Mell
Malcolm Atterbury
Eddie Marr
Vladimir Sokoloff
Louise Lewis
The Bots want to overthrow Mike as Captain of the ship – they soon learn none of them are capable of replacing him.  Crow and Tom nominate Gypsy, but she has to run the ship.  Crow has a set of creepy crawlers in the thing-maker…and well, Servo…is Servo.  He has prepared a “statement” on WHY he cannot be Captain.  This is one of my favorites, so read on, won’t we?

“..I cannot be Captain, for you see dear friends, I am unfit to lead other men into battle, into space, or in a line dance.  I submit that if I picked my nose for a half an hour, my head would cave in.  I’m nary to know betwixt shinola and that other stuff.  I cannot lead because I cannot find my ass with both hands and a flashlight…I will now open the floor to questions about my accomplishments.”
Since Servo’s concession speech is over, Mike regains his position as Captain.  Servo mocks him as only a conceding Bot can.  Pearl, Brain Guy, and Professor Bobo are on Earth (somewhere).  They are camped out and Pearl has told Mike she is putting the crew on battery back-up, disconnecting them from their main power source.  This upsets Mike greatly..”We’ll be without power???”  And then, what follows, is the BEST Pearl Forrester line ever:

“….You know what else?  You’ll be without diapers too, you big, huge, giant babies!! DEAL WITH IT!!”
Pearl packs up all the gear, and sends the guys a movie.  Soon, there’s a hull breach and Servo comes back with a face hugger.
During this film, there are many parodies of the Bonanza theme song.  The movie opens with our lycanthropic protagonist, Tony, in a school yard fight.  Soon we see Detective Donovan (Barney Phillips).  You may remember him from the EXCELLENT Twilight Zone episode, Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?  He does what he can to calm Tony down, but he doesn’t want to have any of it.  You will notice a high number of Richard Jewell jokes during this segment.  Google him if you don’t remember what happened at the ’96 Olympics.  Anywho, Donovan wants Tony to see a “doctor/shrink/mad scientist”.  Tony disagrees and walks off with his girl.  The next scene takes us home and his Dad.  Tony protests too much when Dad tries to talk about his stubbornness.  His Dad leaves for work, chiding him to NOT eat his lambchops raw like he did his burgers.  Tony has had enough of everyone yapping at him all day and we see the whole premise of his demise see ….MILK HURDLING!! (all the guys make kitty meow sounds here) The scene switches to Arlene’s house, where “Jabba the Husband” and the woman with “Aaron Burr’s Hairstyle” live.  They give the 50’s “talking” to the Tony the boyfriend.  Girlfriend starts harping about the doctor again. 
Now it is PARTY TIME…with vague “Kinda White” music, innocuous pranks, great lines, and the running joke with safety dummy, Resusi Anne .  “Ah...kids those days!”  (Crow)
Crow has a Proximity Detector to see how bad the alien life forms are on the ship.  They are all OVER, problem is…..he had the wrong setting activated on the detector and was measuring the humidity.  They have LOTS of humidity, by the way.

Back to the party..”Elvis J. Pollard” is singing.  “We are now entering a genital-free zone.” (Servo) The song,  is one of the worst ever, almost as bad as when Michael Landon was on the TV show Hullaballoo (Google that if it is around…YIKES).  After the song is over, the DUMB pranks start.  Mike:  “The Carnival of Souls boyfriend.”  One of the guys blows a horn in Tony’s ear….and suddenly it’s “The Sock Hop of the Damned” (Mike).  Tony slugs one of his friends and pushes down his girlfriend.  Servo laments, “I thought it was alright if I picked a little fight, Bonanza?”
That little episode at the party lands our little werewolf-to-be in the office of veteran B-movie actor, Whit Bissell (who was actually in some really good films too).  Bissell’s character, Dr. Brandon also has a sidebar conscience (his assistant played by Joseph Mell).  Dr. Brandon hypnotizes him, and he closes the session saying, “Soon…you’ll be yourself.”  “An angel, a cowboy, a pioneer dad.” (Mike)
The kids have another gathering…but Tony is bumming.  Frank (another kid) isn’t pairing up with anyone and will walk home alone. 
Cut to Frank walking home ALONE. ”Ray Fiennes IS Li’l Abner!”  (Crow)  “I was a teenage werewolf snack.” (Servo)  We know Frank is TOAST he just runs and falls and falls and runs…and well…this IS a predictable set-up in a B-movie.

Servo hunts down face hugger and kills him. Did I mention he was heavily armed? He is going after the “beast” that has the ship surrounded.  Crow and Mike are taking bets on how long it takes Servo to cry.  And he does cry..singing…”Don’t Cry Out Loud”, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, and “(They’re Coming to) America”.


The movie returns and we find ourselves at the police station, with Detective Donovan.  Another policeman walks in.  This guy….NAMED GUY Williams did not get a first billing, but he became known later playing TV’s Zorro and Dr. John Robinson of Lost in Space.  Also, there is an introduction to Pepe,the janitor, at the police station who wanted to look at the pictures.  Pepe knows right away, the death is caused by a werewolf.  “You’re crazier than Dr. Smith!” (Servo)

Tony goes back for another session at Dr. Brandon’s.  Tony is scared.  “I found a leather jacket in my stool this morning!” (Servo)  Brandon keeps battling with his assistant.  Tony remains tense.
High school, high school and we have to see a girl in yucky gym leotards.  Tony talks to the principal and he gets kudos from her.  He leaves and starts watching the gymnast. “It’s alright if I kill a couple of kids, Bonanza!” (Crow)  He leaves the office and bells ring “Oops, he’s Johnny Depping.” (Mike) He attacks her in front of many people then, the poor girl dies.  “This is good, she caught him in the act and she can rub his nose in it.” (Servo)  When the cops arrive, all the kids finger Tony, but they can’t believe it.  Even Dr. Brandon denies Tony could BE a werewolf.  Everyone gets a going over, the Dad, the girlfriend, and Tony is still howling up and down the woods.  “Just give him a Liv-a-snap.” (Servo) 


The beast is laying GIANT alien eggs. The guys start making omelettes and …well, Crow starts designing the menu.  “She’s not around, which means she could be anywhere!”  (Servo) Suddenly Crow becomes a restaurant critic.

A search commences for Tony.  I’ll just list a series of riffs during this segment because there is no real action to describe except for guys peering through things.  “Try banging on his food dish, men.” (Mike)  “The Bernard Hermann score really heightens the tension”.  (Servo)  “Looks like Paddington on a bender”  (Mike)  “This werewolf is a herbivore.  Luckily, this guy’s name is Herb.”  (Crow)  “Indiana Jones and his sidekick, Merle.”  (Crow)  “Never let Jose Feliciano lead your search party.” (Mike)  “Sir, I think I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand.” (Mike)  “1943- an Ewok makes it behind German lines” (Servo)
Finally Tony changes back to Tony.  He calls Arlene but cannot speak to her.  The police want to know who called her; she couldn’t tell.  “…I’ll check in with Huggy Bear.” (Servo) Tony then returns to Dr. Brandon, who decides to put him under one more time.  “Dogs can sense bad acting.” (Servo)  Tony changes back into a wolf; this isn’t good for Whit Bissell.  The cops FINALLY come in and look at the debris field.  “Wow, a werewolf that size can really poop!”  (Servo)  They shoot to kill, guessing somewhere along the line the silver bullet necessity has been covered.  Tony is dead.  Whit Bissell is dead.  All that is left is for the police to cry over spilled werewolf.
The guys exit the theater and they soon see the alien has taken over the ship.  They have to reverse the ship polarities to remove it.  This didn’t work, so they have to do the one thing they were saving that would repulse the alien so much, it would have to leave.  Mike became Adam Duritz of Counting Crows.  It worked.  Once they regained control of the ship, we see Pearl telling ghost stories around the campfire to Bobo and Brain Guy.  She has them crying like little girls.
This movie is a howling good time.  Seriously, it has EVERYTHING.  I have seen it unriffed and riffed many, many times and every time I laugh my butt off.  If you get the chance to see it, don’t miss it. 
These following websites are invaluable for information.  Check them out, won’t we?

Creighton’s Creature: THE WOLF-MAN and Lon Jr.

Following the departure of the Laemmles from Universal Studios in the mid-1930’s, Standard Capital, which was headed by J. Cheever Cowdin and was the studio’s new owners, made a conscious decision to avoid Horror films, hoping to become known for a more “upscale” product.  They failed, as would a so-far unbroken line of their successors, to give the studio’s iconic Monsters the respect they were due, and fans of the Monsters credit for knowing what they wanted.

By 1939 however, the studio was dealing with both a lack of mainstream success and a hurting bottom line.  The continued popularity of both DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN in Los Angeles-area theaters convinced the studio that maybe Horror Films weren’t such bad ideas after all, and before the year was out, SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, starring Karloff, Lugosi, Rathbone, and Atwill marked the return of Horror to Universal.  That, and the debut in 1940 of the studio’s other great cash cow, the comedy duo of Abbott & Costello, insured that the Monsters would find gainful employment for some time to come.

But they needed fresh material to work with, not just sequels to existing properties.  They needed a new Monster.  And a script by Curt Siodmak gave them a great one:  Larry Talbot, aka—the Wolf-Man.
The first article to carry the Unimonster’s byline said this about Siodmak’s creation, “One of Universal’s most popular movies, THE WOLF-MAN came on the scene just as the second half of Horror’s Golden Age was beginning to take off.  The war in Europe, increasing economic prosperity, and changing tastes were going to put the monsters out of business, according to the critics.  Instead, they were entering the period of their greatest popularity, due primarily to Universal’s first truly sympathetic monster [Larry Talbot].  [C]ursed by the bite of a werewolf to an eternal, nightmarish existence, more beast than man … it provided a fresh perspective on the monsters; one from the monster’s point of view” [The Universal Monsters:  How Universal Studios Created the Horror Film, 6 February, 2010].  The werewolf make-up would be designed and executed by Jack P. Pierce, Universal Studios master craftsman of Monster-Making, based upon designs he created for 1935’s THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON.  And to play Talbot, the studio cast the son of the first icon of the Horror Film—Lon Chaney, Jr.

Born Creighton Chaney in 1906, the younger man was estranged from his father and raised by his mother, whom Lon had abandoned.  Creighton had no intention of following in his father’s Horror footsteps; indeed, his breakthrough came in the role of Lenny in Lewis Milestone’s 1939 version of John Steinbeck’s OF MICE AND MEN, for which he won critical acclaim.  However, pressure from studio executives meant an end to his dreams of a straight dramatic career, and to his public identity as separate from his father.  He had occasionally been billed as “Lon Chaney, Jr.” since 1935, and in 1940, Creighton appeared in ONE MILLION, B.C. under that name.  Creighton Chaney, at least as far as the movie-going public was concerned, ceased to exist.

Though in retrospect this outright manipulation of an actor’s career may seem callous and overbearing, in the context of the times it was accepted practice for studios to make decisions such as this.  The Hollywood “Studio System” completely dominated the film industry—it was the closest thing this country’s ever had to a tyrannical despotism—and if you desired to work in Hollywood, then you paid obeisance to the system.  The studio had a legitimate need, and no one felt any qualms about using Creighton to fill that need.
For along with Universal’s requirement for fresh material with which to work, they also needed a new star, a Horror icon to replace both Karloff and Lugosi, who had faded to supporting roles.  Who better to fill the void than the son of the “Man of a Thousand Faces?”

Lon Jr.’s Horror debut came on 28 March 1941, in MAN-MADE MONSTER, a B-grade programmer, directed by George Waggner.  Co-starring Lionel Atwill, Anne Nagel, and Samuel B. Hinds, the plot concerned a sideshow performer (Chaney, Jr.) with an unusual immunity to electrical shocks.  He agrees to be studied by a pair of scientists:  One benevolent, played by Hinds, and one evil, played to perfection by Atwill.  Unbeknownst to everyone, Atwill begins treating “Dynamo” Dan with increasingly powerful electrical impulses, transforming him into a mindless automaton with a deadly touch.  The movie was well-received, if a little ahead of it’s time.  A mere decade-and-a-half later, it would have fit perfectly on a Drive-In Double-bill with THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN or MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS.  In fact, it probably did, as it was reissued in 1953 under the title THE ATOMIC MONSTER.

Later that same year would come the film that would strengthen Lon Jr.’s status as a Horror star, and it, like MAN-MADE MONSTER, was to be directed by Waggner.  THE WOLF-MAN, released five days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, would become one of Universal’s most beloved Monster movies, and one of it’s most successful.

Scripted by Siodmak, and starring Claude Rains, Ralph Bellamy, Bela Lugosi, Evelyn Ankers, and Maria Ouspenskaya, THE WOLF-MAN gave Universal its first truly original monster, and the star that would carry Universal’s Monster franchise through to it’s end.  From 1941 to 1945, Lon Jr. appeared in all of Universal’s first-class Horror Films, and a large number of their second-class Horrors, such as the series of Inner Sanctum pictures that began in 1943.  He would play every one of Universal’s “Fab Four” of Monsterdom—Frankenstein’s Monster, in GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN; Dracula, in SON OF DRACULA; the Mummy Kharis, beginning with THE MUMMY’S TOMB; and of course Larry Talbot, the Wolf-Man.

After the success of THE WOLF-MAN, Universal wanted a sequel, and a chance remark by Siodmak, intended as a joke, became 1943’s FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF-MAN.  The studio had found the formula for Horror success in the ‘40’s—Multiple Monsters, formulaic plots, a beautiful girl or two to menace, some knock-down, drag-out Monster fighting, and a happy ending.  A simple prescription, true—but it kept theaters packed.

Lon Jr. would play Talbot three more times:  1944’s HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, 1945’s HOUSE OF DRACULA, and the 1948 pairing of the Monsters with Universal’s other moneymaking property of the ‘40’s, Abbott & Costello, in ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN.  That film would mark the beginning of the end of the Classic Monsters of Universal, relegated to the status of comedic props.  It would also mark the end of Lon Jr.’s association with the studio that had made him an icon, and which he, in turn, carried on his furry shoulders throughout the war years.

The end of the war meant the return of millions of GI’s to the Home Front, as well as revelation of the true suffering visited upon the tens of millions of victims of totalitarianism and fascism throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim.  True horrors, revealed and remembered, left little room in the minds of moviegoers for the Monsters of fantasy and fiction.  Universal Studios, ten years removed from the days when Carl Laemmle, Sr. ran the show as a ‘family’ business, where the head of the make-up department could be hired on a handshake, fired Lon Jr. in 1948.  Nor did they stop there.  Jack Pierce, the same make-up artist who had created the image of every one of the studio’s iconic Monsters, from Dracula, to Frankenstein’s Monster, to the Mummy, to the Wolf-Man, the head of the make-up department who had been hired on the basis of a handshake, without a contract, was just as unceremoniously canned.

Recently however, the titular descendants of the men who so callously sacked Lon Jr., Jack, and others found a renewed attraction in the Monsters of Universal; an interest that had never waned among their devoted fans.  Beginning with 1999’s THE MUMMY, directed by Stephen Sommers, Universal has resurrected most of the studio’s great Monsters of the ‘30’s and ‘40’s.  So far, there’s been little interest in revisiting the Invisible Man, first realized by James Whale and Claude Rains in the 1933 classic.  And plans for a remake of the studio’s greatest Horror Film of the 1950’s, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, have been up in the air for years now.

But this month will see the return of Larry Talbot to theaters nationwide, as Universal unveils THE WOLFMAN, directed by Joe Johnston and starring Benicio Del Toro as Talbot, Anthony Hopkins as his father, Sir John Talbot, and Emily Blunt as Gwen Conliffe.  A big budget reimagining of the original story, the trailers promise a movie that looks beautifully filmed and exquisitely designed, with the requisite amount of dazzlingly spectacular special effects.  It remains to be seen whether or not it has managed to capture the spirit, the essence of what made the original film one of Universal’s most loved Monster movies.  One thing it has most certainly done is render invalid one of Lon Jr.’s proudest claims.  As he once told an interviewer, he had played all the Monsters—from Dracula to the Mummy.  But he—Creighton Tull Chaney—was the only actor to ever play the Wolf-Man.  No longer is that true.

Lon Jr. would continue to play monsters, maniacs, and murderers for another 25 years, until his death in 1973.  He would play many memorable characters in his later years, most notably Bruno the caretaker, from Jack Hill’s SPIDER BABY or, THE MADDEST STORY EVER TOLD.  But he was destined to be forever defined by his greatest role—that of a Welshman cursed to become a snarling, murderous beast, driven to bloodlust by the brightness of an autumn moon.

DVD Review: AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON—Two-Disc “Full Moon” Edition

Title:  AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON—Two-Disc “Full Moon” Edition

Year of Release—Film:  1981

Year of Release—DVD:  2009

DVD Label:  Universal Studios Home Entertainment

One of the most popular Horror Films of the early ‘80’s, and one of the greatest Werewolf films ever made, John Landis’ AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON redefined that genre of horror as thoroughly as Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD did Zombie movies.  With Academy Award-winning Make-up effects by Rick Baker, a terrific script from Landis, and a trio of incredible performances from David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, and Jenny Agutter, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF… stands head and furry shoulders above it’s lycanthropic competition of 1981, Joe Dante’s THE HOWLING and Michael Wadleigh’s WOLFEN.

Now Universal Studios Home Entertainment is releasing a brand-new two-disc “Full Moon” edition of this horror classic, hitting the stores this Tuesday, 15 September.  In addition to a spectacular assortment of special features is a new, feature-length documentary, written and directed by Paul Davis, entitled Beware the Moon.
Two American youths, David Kessler (Naughton), and Jack Goodman (Dunne) are backpacking through England, and stop at a pub in the village of East Proctor, a pub with the ominous name “The Slaughtered Lamb.”  Though the villagers are distant and cool towards the pair, the boys get along ok, until Jack asks the locals why they have a pentagram—a five-pointed star that legend holds is the mark of the werewolf—inscribed on the wall.

The innocent inquiry gets the pair banished from the pub, and they resume their hike with warnings to “… beware the moon …” and “… keep off the moors …” both of which are quickly ignored.  They soon find themselves lost, and being stalked by… something.  The pair is attacked; Jack dies, and just before David loses consciousness, the townsfolk of East Proctor, who followed the boys from the pub, shoot and kill their attacker.

Weeks later, David awakes in a London hospital to discover that his best friend is dead; officially, the two were attacked by an escaped lunatic.  However, that doesn’t fit with David’s recollection of events.  He saw the—thing—that attacked them, and it wasn’t human.  Something that his friend Jack—his dead friend Jack—soon confirms, when he pays David a visit in his hospital room.  They were attacked by a werewolf, and Jack is now condemned to exist as one of the undead until the werewolf’s bloodline is extinguished.  A bloodline that now continues in David.

With this movie Landis, who had made his reputation as a director of comedies such as ANIMAL HOUSE, THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE, and THE BLUES BROTHERS, demonstrated that he was equally adept at Horror Films.  He skillfully blended both genres into a seamless whole, where the horror of David’s realization that he is a werewolf, and has viciously killed six people, can happen as he sits chatting with the corpses of his best friend and his victims in a pornographic theater.  The bizarre dichotomy of the situation is perfectly balanced, and the viewer is never made to wonder whether they are watching a funny horror, or a scary comedy.  It is what it is, and that is a terrific movie.

New to this release is Beware the Moon, a feature-length documentary by Paul Davis.  Exhaustively examining the history and lore of the film, Davis visits many of the locations used in the production, as well as interviewing virtually every major figure involved in bringing the movie to the screen.  Though most of the film’s background is well known to it’s fans, it has never before been presented in such depth and detail.  If this is an example of Davis’ work, then I have a list of a good dozen films I’d love for him to examine in the same manner.

This is without a doubt one of my favorite films, and one of the three greatest Werewolf movies ever produced (along with 1941’s THE WOLF-MAN and 2002’s DOG SOLDIERS).  Of course, the previous DVD release of this film resides in the Crypt’s library, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thrilled to have this release.  For those who love this movie, the Beware the Moon feature alone is worth the purchase price; for those who have yet to experience this classic, I cannot think of a better way to do so.