Archive for November, 2007

“I’d go out of my mind but for you!”

Posted in 1980s, horror, Joe Dante, pumpkin ale, werewolf on November 22, 2007 by bigruta

Okay folks, ready for the last “Halloween” flick of 2007? Yeah, yeah, I know – you can’t wait. Tonight’s movie complements one I reviewed way back in 2005 during the first Halloween movie roundup.

The Howling

AVCO Embassy Pictures, 1981, 91 minutes, R

actors: Dee Wallace, Christofer Stone, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan, Belinda Balaski, Robert Picardo, Don McLeod (of the Clan McLeod), Elisabeth Brooks, Dick Miller, Kenneth Tobey, Slim Pickens, John Carradine, Kevin McCarthy, Forrest J. Akerman, Roger Corman, John Sayles

writers: John Sayles and Terence H. Winkless; based upon the novel by Gary Brandner

director: Joe Dante

producer: Daniel H. Blatt

special effects: Rick Baker and Dave Allen

Taxonomy: Horror; werewolf flick; b-movie fans world-wide

Plot: An LA news woman goes to a country retreat to find relief from stress. The locals do not help.

The flick starts right off by letting us follow Los Angeles news anchorwoman Karen White (Wallace) as she goes to meet a suspected serial killer. Eddie “The Mangler” has been terrorizing LA, but he has a thing for Karen, so he contacts her and tells her he will meet her in a movie booth in a porno shop! Karen wares a wire, but the cops lose the signal. While watching a violent skin flick, Eddie tells Karen he has something he wants to show her. When she turns around to look Karen is stunned, but eventually screams and the two beat cops who were looking for her shoot Eddie.

The station manager can’t wait to get Karen on the air, but she freezes. She meets with Dr. George Waggner(Macnee), a psychiatrist who is also frequently featured on Karen’s news program. Karen cannot remember what happened in the booth, but she keeps having disturbing dreams. Dr. Waggner suggests she visit his woodland retreat “The Colony.” he thinks the peaceful setting and therapy might be able to help her. He tells her that The Colony is only for very special patients – and he ain’t kiddin’!

Karen and her husband Bill (Stone – soon to be Dee Wallace’s real life husband) drive upelisabeth-brooks_edited.jpg to The Colony and meet the folks. They seem like nice normal people, who really like their barbecue. Meat gets pushed on veggie Bill. Uh… that does not sound quite right, but you know what I mean. Oh sure a few of the folks at The Colony seem a bit odd, like old Erle Kenton (Carradine) who tries to jump into the fire, and TC (McLeod) who is, well, uh … rustic. And then there is TC’s sister Marsha (Brooks). Marsha seems to be a bit of a bitch, but she wears tight low cut leather clothing and has a nice body, so I guess we can put up with her attitude! Marsha tells Dr. Waggner she does not want her brother reading his book, “The Gift.” Waggner says that Marsha is very “elemental.” She also gives Bill a rather obvious, “Hello Sailor!” look. Well, it is a retreat for Waggner’s patients, so a little bit of odd behavior is expected.

Meanwhile, Karen’s friends and coworkers Terry and Chris (Balaski and Dugan) go to Eddie’s seedy apartment. There they find rooms full of newspaper clippings about murders and sex crimes as well as Eddie’s artwork. Most of the artwork involves very hairy feral looking people, but there is also one landscape. Yep, Eddie was a sicko! When Terry and Chris go to the morgue to view Eddie’s body, they discover it is gone! Well that’s odd.

Back up at The Colony, Karen hears some disturbing sounds in the night and finds severalterry.jpg mutilated cattle. She attends group therapy while Bill gets invited along with some of the menfolk to try to hunt down what ever killed the cattle. They don’t bag a wolf, but Bill gets himself a rabbit. TC tells him that his sister will be happy to cook it up for him, so Bill goes to see Marsha. Marsha is more interested in Bill than the bunny and jumps right up and slips him the tongue! Bill leaves and is attacked buy a large wolf. He is bitten and Dr. Waggner gives him rabies shots as a precaution!

Back in the big city, Terry and Chris talk about werewolves with Walter Paisley (Miller),tc1.jpg the owner of an occult bookstore. He fills them in on werewolf lore and even shows them a set of silver bullets a guy ordered but never purchased. They seem interested because of Eddie’s art and the fact that his body is missing. Paisley tells them, “They [werewolves] don’t stay dead, if you don’t kill them right.” What’s right? Silver or fire.

Karen calls Terry and tells her about Bill’s wound. Terry and Chris are watching The eddie_edited.jpgWolfman(1941) when they get the call. Terry goes up to visit Keren and Bill while Chris does a little more research for their show on Eddie The Mangler. Bill seems to be in good spirits, in fact he really snorffles up the meat – you know what I mean! The pace picks up and soon old Bill is screwing Marsha in front of a campfire! My friends and I spoke of this scene often as teens, you see, Bill and Marsha transform in mid diddle! They are eventually shown fully changed back-lit by the fire. This is done with cell animation and it is a bit awkward. Terry finds the spot where Eddie drew his landscape and winds up at his cabin! She is attacked but crawls inside the woodshed and chops off her attacker’s hand with a hatchet! The hand then changes back into human form in the first real transformation scene. She runs in a panic to Dr. Waggner’s office and calls Chris. While searching Waggner’s files Terry learns that Eddie is related to Marsha and TC. Then Eddie shows up in werewolf form and kills Terry as Chris listens!

Well boys and girls the stuff is really starting to hit the fan now! Karen finds Terry and then has her own encounter with Eddie (Picardo). Eddie tells her, “I want to give you a piece of my mind.” and pulls a bullet out of his head! Then we get the real transformation scene! Rick Baker and company worked overtime on this one! The transformation is quite grotesque and the resultant werewolf quite monstrous. Then we have a b-movie moment! As werewolf Eddie closes in on Karen, she miraculously finds a jar of acid to throw in his face! That was handy! Why oh why do doctors in b-movies have big old jars of acid just sitting around!? Karen escapes Eddie, but she is soon captured by her Colony “friends.”

Now we learn The Colony’s real purpose. Dr. Waggner started The Colony to help his stopww_edited.jpgfellow werewolves try to become less barbaric and more like normal humans. The others are fed up with this approach. They don’t want to eat cattle anymore – they want their natural prey – humans. Marsha seems to have become the Alpha of the pack. They give Karen a choice, accept “the gift” of lycanthropy or die.

Then Chris shows up with a rifle and the silver bullets from Mr. Paisley’s store …

Goodies:

Babeage: Dee Wallace and Belinda Balaski are attractive, but the hands down babe award goes to Elizabeth Brooks as the bitchy nympho Marsha Quist! Ms. Brooks shows everything during her scene by the fire. Talk about something to howl over!

Sleazeploitation: The character of Eddie Quist is just about all sleaze. He is a serial killer, an implied sexual deviant and a renegade werewolf! It is never explicitly stated, but there is a strong suggestion that Eddie sexually assaulted his victims. It is also not too much of a leap to imagine the Quist siblings … uh … together. Not that I would imagine such things! You people have filthy minds!

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Just about everyone at The Colony in either human or werewolf form!

Violence: Werewolf attacks, hand chopped off, gun-play, arson, televised murder.

Gore & FX: Lots of blood, the transformation scenes – which come hot and heavy during the climax – you know what I mean!, werewolf nookie.

Hey! that’s what’s his name!: This flick is loaded with character actors from b-movies including the Grand Master of all b-movie actors John Carradine! Dick Miller who plays Walter Paisley also played Walter Paisley in Roger Corman’s b-classic Bucket of Blood (1959). Ya got: Kevin McCarthy Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956); Kennith Tobey The Thing from Another World (1951), The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), It Came From Beneith the Sea (1955); and Slim Pickens Dr. Strangelove(1964). How can you not love a movie with Slim Pickens as a werewolf!? Additionally there are cameos by: Roger Corman – the cheapo b-movie producer extordinair – looking for change in a pay phone, John Sayles who plays the morgue attendent and Forrest J. Ackerman who is browsing in the occult bookstore while holding copies of his magazine “Famous Monsters of Filmland” with a werewolf cover no less! And of course Robert Picardo who plays Eddie is now famous for Star Trek: Voyager.

Great Lines:

Karen about The Colony: “Well I hope these people aren’t too weird!”

Erle: “I ain’t going like this. Damn teeth are shot! Hell of a note!”

Erle: “I still think it was UFOs. Them cattle mutilations!” Sherrif Sam Newfield (Pickens): “Good Erle good. You watch the skys for us now, that’ll be your job!”

TC to Bill: “You kill something you don’t eat, now that’s a sin.”

Walter Paisley on the subject of werewolves: “Silver bullets or fire, that’s the only way to get rid of the damn things. They’re worse than cock-a-roaches!”

Dr. Waggner: “Times have changed and we haven’t. Not enough!”

Eddie Quist on Waggner: “He’s so repressed!”

Chris: “You’re crazy!” Eddie: “Oh I’m much more than that bright boy. I’m much more!” I am the Emergency Medical Hologram. Please state the nature of the medical emergency.

Karen: “We have to warn people, Chris. We have to make them believe.”

Moral: Seriously – don’t fuck crazy chicks – no matter how hot they are!

Conclusion: The Howling came out the same year as An American Werewolf in London. I have to say I think AWL is better, after all it has Jenny Agutter, but The Howling comes in a very close second. One of the things that pulls this flick down is its association with the several crappy sequels that were made, which is not this film’s fault. There is of course the terrible end effect that comes close to spoiling the entire movie. That scene could have been so much better! Both flicks use humor well, never letting it break the spell of the story. Both feature great effects and good music. I usually don’t like the concept of werewolves forming communities, but it is well done here. They seem to band together for mutual protection and a desire to be more human. This points to the basic tragic nature of werewolves – they may be good people, but they cannot control themselves when they change. I like this idea better than the vampire cabals so popular nowadays. Vampires are supreme sociopaths each of which wants ultimate control, so vampire communities are complete nonsense. Anyway, if you have never seen The Howling give it a try and maybe compare it to An American Werewolf in London. See which you prefer. You are sure to have a howl of a good time – HA!

The Howling Sight Gag / Werewolf B-Movie Checklist:

  • cans of Wolf Chili

  • Allan Ginsberg’s “Howl”

  • victims just stand there and gawk as the werewolves transform

  • Wolf whiskey

  • big old jar of acid!

  • Bill reads “You Can’t Go Home Again” by Thomas Wolfe

  • Chris watches Big Bad Wolf cartoon

  • picture of Lon Chaney Jr. in Waggner’s office

  • Eddie’s sequence of evolution drawing – Neanderthal, man, werewolf

  • Marsha licks Bill’s wound!

  • close-up of hamburger frying during credits

  • can you spot all the characters named after werewolf movie directors?

One to Ponder: Why would a modern-day werewolf want to live in the woods? Plenty of homeless people to munch on in the big city.

What ya drinkin’, Jack?

Saranac Pumpkin Ale

Matt Brewing Company, Utica, NY

Y’all know about pumpkin ale by now right? Ale made with pumpkin and the traditional pumpkin spices served during Autumn. Saranac Pumpkin Ale is brewed with cinnamon, allspice, cloves, vanilla and ginger.

ABV: 5.40% IBU: 30 to 40

Color: a deep amber brown, darker than many pumpkin ales

Aroma: Lots of spice, the ginger comes through, clean not heavy

Head: Semi-persistent small bubbled dense cream colored head

Taste: Smooth start moves to a warm and spicy middle with no particular spice predominating then to a tart / bitter finish where the cloves really kick in and a short bitter aftertaste where you may get a ginger kick. The mouth-feel is quite rich, almost like a porter.

Recommendation: Saranac Pumpkin Ale is one of the richer darker pumpkin ales I have tasted. It is smooth and even with a nice spice snap when you swallow. I have to admit, I did not really taste any pumpkin. Overall a well crafted pumpkin ale with a character all its own. If you dig the pumpkin juice, this is one to try.

Okay, well there you have it! The 2007 “Halloween” movie reviews. Yeah, I know they were late, but hey I got them all in before Thanksgiving! Even gave you my traditional Halloween pumpkin ale review. What more could you ask for?

Oh and yes, I know “Sister Moon” is supposed to be about vampires, but it seems to fit werewolves better methinks.

Hope you all had a great Halloween and here’s to a happy Thanksgiving!

-BigRuta

Remember: Comments, questions, suggestions, requests and contributions welcome!

“You watch every night, you don’t care what I do…”

Posted in 1960s, Hammer, horror, werewolf on November 18, 2007 by bigruta

Hello again all you cwazy peoples! This time we have a flick based on the novel The Werewolf of Paris (1933) by Samuel Guy Endore. This was an influential tome for werewolf movie writers then as well as today. As you can tell from the title, the action took place in France in the 19th century. Tonight’s flick takes place in Spain in the 18th century. Why? Well apparently there were some Spanish style sets that were just begging to be used!

The Curse of the Werewolf

Hammer Film Productions, 1961, 91 minutes, NR

actors: Oliver Reed, Clifford Evans, Catherine Feller, Anthony Dawson, Ewen Solon, Richard Wordsworth, Yvonne Romain, Hira Talfrey, David Conville

writer: Anthony Hinds

director: Terence Fisher

producer: Anthony Hinds; executive producer: Michael Carreras

Taxonomy: Horror; werewolf flick; Hammerheads

Plot: There is something odd about Leon Corledo – can you guess?

This film consists of three parts, which I will refer to as The Prologue, The Introduction and The Climax. The Prologue: A filthy beggar (Wordsworth) arrives in a small town in Spain. Please understand, when I refer to him as filthy it is not a slight against the poor. The guy is covered in grime! Anyway, he hits up the local towns folk for coin or food and they tell him that they have none to spare. You see The Marques Siniestro (Dawson) is getting married today and has bled the town dry to pay for a feast – for nobles only. They tell him he should try his luck at the castle.

The beggar goes to the castle where Marques Siniestro and his blueblood toadys humiliate him. He is given to the Marques’ bride as a pet! And promptly thrown into the dungeon and forgotten. The only people he interacts with are the jailer and his young mute daughter.

Years pass, the Marques’ wife dies and he goes insane. The jailer has died and his grown cotw_birth_edited1.jpgdaughter (Romain) now performs his duties and acts as a chambermaid. One day the Marques attacks her as she is cleaning his room, so she bites him. He has her thrown into the dungeon. The beggar, now also completely insane and more animal than man – ahem – “attacks” her. When she is released the next day, she is sent to the Marques’ room – where she stabs him to death with a wall sconce and flees the castle. She is eventually found by Don Alfredo Corledo (Evans) and nursed back to health by his servant Teresa (Talfrey). Well guess what? The mute girl is pregers. She dies during childbirth on Christmas day. Teresa takes this as a very bad sign. Which seems justified when the water in the baptismal font boils!

The Introduction: It is years later. Don Corledo has taken the mute girl’s baby boy as his son and named him Leon. Well it seems that the local shepherds are losing sheep. The sheep are having their throats ripped out by some kind of nasty critter – a wolf? The village watchman Pepe swears he shot the wolf one night. The same night Don Corledo has to dig a musket-ball out of little ten year old Leon’s leg! Leon says he dreams of being a wolf. He also tells of the time Pepe took him hunting and he got upset when Pepe shot a squirrel – so he tried to kiss it and make it better. He liked the sweet taste of the blood! Don Corledo also notices that Leon has rather hairy palms. Well don’t all young boys?

Don Corledo consults the local Catholic priest who tells him that Leon has an evil spirit in cotw_lilw_edited.jpghim that fights against his human soul. He is a werewolf. The evil spirit becomes stronger through evil: cruelty, hate, aggression, violence. The human soul becomes stronger through love and kindness. Don Corledo vows to shield Leon from the evil spirit by showering him with love. The attacks on the local sheep stop – after Pepe shoots a shepherd’s dog with a silver musket-ball he made from melting his wife’s crucifix which was blessed by the archbishop. Pepe digs the ball out and keeps it on a cord around his neck. Well it’s solid silver ya know!

The Climax: More years pass, and the adult Leon (Reed) leaves home to make his way in the world. He gets a job bottling wine for Don Fernando (Solon). “Saludos my friends!” He becomes friends with his lone coworker Jose. Leon also meets Cristina Fernando (Feller) and thinks she looks mavalus! Unfortunately Cristina is betrothed to Rico Gomez (Conville) who is a rich jerk. Well, it don’t take long for Leon and Cristina to become secret lovers!

Jose talks Leon into going out one Saturday night for some entertainment. That’s how cotw_gw_edited.jpgthey end up at a gambling club and whore house! Yep, lots ‘o vice going on! Leon feels uncomfortable – then the full moon comes out. The next day Leon is back at the Corledo villa and a ho and Jose are dead!

Don Corledo, Teresa and the priest tell a terrified Leon that he is a werewolf. The priest says he may be able to get Leon into a monastery where he will be cared for and protected, but until then he will have to be chained. Leon flees to the Fernando estate and is preparing to run away when Cristina shows up – and the full moon comes out. No doubt about it, the lunar cycle is just altogether different in werewolf flicks! Leon feels the cotw_wolf_edited.jpgtransformation coming upon him and begs Cristina to leave, but she holds him and comforts him until he falls asleep. Cristina stays with Leon all night – and he does not change! The love of a good woman, don’t ya know! They plan to run away together and marry. Oh how romantic! Then Leon is arrested for the murder of Jose. The ho don’t count I guess.

Then … well, remember Pepe’s silver musket-ball? Remember how The Wolfman (1941) ended? Remember how to add two plus two?

Goodies:

Babeage: Catherine Feller is quite cute, but she is the innocent girl to go with Reed’s innocent guy. The babes are Yvonne Romain and the assorted hos. Hammer always included at least one well endowed lady for the boys in the audience.

Sleazeploitation: Go back and read The Prologue – mmmkay?

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Leon in werewolf form, the beggar and Marques Siniestro – great name that!

Violence: Mostly off-screen. Except right at the end.

Gore & FX: Nice bright red Hammer blood! The transformation is done via a combination of fades, quick cuts and scenes where the werewolf moves between areas of light and darkness. Well done and I would imagine not too expensive. Reed’s grey werewolf looks darn cool. Very much the man-beast wolf that walks as a man, but different from Chaney’s and unique in coloring.

Great Lines:

Priest: “A werewolf is a body with a soul and a spirit constantly at war. The spirit is that of a wolf.” But, what if I have the spirit of a kangaroo inside me? Or the spirit of a salamander in my pocket?

Pepe upon finding that he has shot the shepherd’s dog: “So it was you all along.” Yeah, and you melted a holy relic to kill a frickin dog! Jerk!

Rico Gomez: “It’s very unfair. This is the third evening running you’ve had a headache and we’ve had to come home early.” Cristina: “I can’t help having headaches, Rico.” Rico: “No but it’s beastly inconvenient all the same. I was winning!” Gee, that’s too bad Rico, but I need me some monster lovin!

Jose telling Leon about the whore house: “There’s this place I know just outside town. It’s a quiet place, very respectable.”

Leon to Cristina when he wakes up in her arms: “Tell me – I must know .. did I change?” Did you ever bigboy!

Teresa: “Pepe’s silver bullet! So it has come to that at last.”

Moral: Parents of young boys must be ever vigilant of hairy palms!

Conclusion: Many werewolf flicks are rather fairytale like. Ya know, the original Grimm versions with lots of blood and retribution! Sexual symbolism is also common. “The change”, lust, blood, monthly cycles, etc. Curse of the Werewolf has these elements but it also has some traditional folkloric attributes that other werewolf flicks ignore. Leon becomes cursed because he is the result of violence and cruelty against two innocents – the jailer’s daughter and the beggar. He is born on Christmas day – an old Christian sign of ill portent. His transformation occurs during the time of the full moon, but he can control it by leading a virtuous life of love and kindness. The love of a good woman can “cure” him. All in all a very Christian, very Catholic, take on werewolves. Surprisingly the priest is a good character! Usually we see religious figures leading the crazed mob or wanting to burn the protagonist at the stake. Here he is a spiritual adviser trying to save Leon. Oh yeah, and the bit about little Leon tasting the squirrel’s blood? Well, historically many rabies victims were persecuted as werewolves. Nice touch. A good film that I recommend, but don’t expect a thrill a minute gore fest. Curse of the Werewolf is more about how people treat each other than about blood. Give it a try.

Hammer Horror Flick Checklist:

  • Gothic style sets

  • set in a bygone era

  • cobwebs – lots of cobwebs

  • creepy old castle

  • creepy old aristocrats

  • buxom babes in low cut dresses

  • red red blood

  • everybody speaks with English accents – no matter where the location

  • torn clothing (on Leon)

One to Ponder: Do my eyes deceive me? I did not notice Leon taking his shoes off before he transformed! Uncouth Spaniard!

Well, that’s another one down for 2007. Catch ya next time!

-BigRuta

Remember: Comments, questions, requests and contributions (reviews not money) welcome!

“I’m all by myself in your silver light…”

Posted in 1950s, radiation, Sci-Fi, werewolf on November 9, 2007 by bigruta

All righty then all you slappy dinguses! The second werewolf flick for the 2007 (post) Halloween review jamboree is from the 1950s! Oh yeah! You know what that means! Everybody: “Radiation can do anything!”

The Werewolf

Clover Productions, Columbia Pictures Corp., 79 minutes, NR

actors: Steven Ritch, Don Megowan, Harry Lauter, Joyce Holden, George Lynn, S. John Launer

writers: Robert E. Kent, James B. Gordon

director: Fred F. Sears

producer: Sam Katzman

Taxonomy:Sci-Fi; werewolf flick; superstitious trappers

Plot:An amnesiac stumbles into Mountain Crest, California. The Hook: He won’t like what he soon remembers.

The flick opens at night in the little town of Mountain Crest, California. We see a guy in a suit drag himself down the street and go into ‘Chad’s Place’, the local watering hole. Seems the good folk of Mountain Crest like their liquor! They suck it down like it was the answer to their prayers. When asked why he is in town the stranger looks confused and says, “I guess I’m just passing through.” He then leaves. Another patron of Chad’s, a big dude named Joe, tries to mug the new guy – oh hell, his name is Duncan Marsh (of the Clan Marsh!). We don’t know that yet but I don’t want to keep having to write “the stranger.” Anyway, Joe tries to rob Duncan (Ritch) and soon has way more than he can handle! An old lady sees what happens (we only see feet – what is it with werewolf flicks and feet?) and screams.  A very hairy Duncan runs away and soon has to protect himself from an armed Deputy. The Sheriff (Megowan) is called in and all concerned think the large animal tracks indicate that Joe, was attacked by a crazed beast. Based on the fact that Deputy Clovey (Lauter) told him that whatever attacked him walked on two legs, the Sheriff thinks a human is responsible for Joe’s death.

Sheriff Hains takes Clovey to Doc Gilchrist’s place to get patched up. Here we meet tww_clovey.jpgAmy Standish (Holden) Doc’s nurse and Sheriff Hains squeeze. The doc thinks Hains is crazy talking about a man being the cause of Clovey’s wounds. Amy brings up the psychotic condition of lycanthropy. Hmmm…

The next morning we see that Duncan has slept in a culvert. I should mention that it is winter and Duncan is barefoot. He says, “I know I was dreaming!” when he sees that his footprints change into those of a large wolf. He then goes and finds his shoes and socks, which had been neatly placed near a fallen tree. What the hell!? Are these movies trying to convince us that werewolves would actually stop mid-transformation to remove their footwear? Also all of Duncan’s clothes are in good order – even his tie! Oh I can hear my Dad now, “You young people today are such slobs! Why in my day, even the werewolves were snappy dressers!”

Soon Duncan shows up at Doc’s place. He tells Doc and Amy that he can’t remember tww_duncan.jpgwho – or what – he is and he does not know why he is in Mountain Crest. He says he has vague memories of a car crash and two doctors… but it is all foggy. He says he thinks he killed a man last night. Amy and Doc show him sympathy and Duncan seems to trust them, but then they blow it when they try to sedate him. He cries, “Those other doctors did something to me!” and runs away. Amy promptly calls the Sheriff.

Next we meet a couple of scientists. We know they are scientists because they have a tww_me.jpglab full of animals and wear lab-coats and dark goggles. These two sweet fellers are Dr. Morgan Chambers (Lynn) and Dr. Emory Forrest (Launer). They are conducting experiments exposing animals to – wait for it! – atomic radiation! Ya knew we would get there sooner or later didn’t ya? Yes, these guys are “those other doctors.” Emory tells Morgan of the story of a death in Mountain Crest and we are then treated to Morgan explaining their research – as if Emory had no idea! It seems they believe, that is Morgan believes, Emory seems like a bit of a doofus, that fallout from H-bomb testing will mutate everyone on Earth into stupid vicious beasts. So, they are trying to develop a way to immunize themselves against this eventuality. Yep! Radiation immunization! God I love 50s sci-fi flicks! They also learn that Duncan is missing when his wife shows up and asks them if they could know where he might have gone. Fearful that Duncan could get them in trouble – nonconsensual radiation therapy and all – they zip off to Mountain Crest to pop a cap in his ass. Though they do not use those words.

Well the race to find Duncan is on! Sheriff Hains enlists Doc, Amy, Mrs. Marsh and Duncan’s little boy to help him bring Duncan in. They know he is hurt – leg got caught in a trap; wonder where they got that idea? Hmmm… – and use a bullhorn to get him to give himself up. That night Morgan nad Emory break into the town jail, drug the deputy and prepare to kill Duncan. Surprise! Duncan has changed in his sleep! Morgan and Emory get chewed up. Dang! Now we will never get that radiation vaccine! Stupid werewolves don’t understand the benefits of modern medical science!

Sheriff Hains gathers a large posse and goes out hunting for Duncan. No that Duncan tww_meat.jpghas killed two more people the Sheriff does not intend to show any mercy. At one point during the chase, the Sheriff orders the men to throw torches toward Duncan so they can get a good shot. Hey yeah! Several flaming chunks ‘o wood won’t cause any harm in the California woodlands! Holy crap! Well this leads to the climactic scene where Duncan is trapped on a bridge and the posse gun him down. “Now he can go home.” says Sheriff Hains. The End.

Goodies:

Babeage: None. Joyce Holden is an okay actress, but not a babe. the actress who plays Duncan’s wife looks like, well, a 50s housewife.

Sleazeploitation: Like I noted above, the folks in Mountain Crest love their booze and there is a blond barfly, but nothing really happens that could be classified as sleaze.

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes:Duncan in his ‘werewolf’ form. Mogan & Emory.

Violence: Uh … well … nope. Kind of odd for a werewolf flick.

Gore & FX: The transformation is done with fades just like in The Wolfman (1941). Not too bad really. I guess the setting could be an ‘effect’; the flick was shot in and around Big Bear Lake, California. Unfortunately black and white does not do the scenery justice.

Great Lines:

Doc: “Man what you’re trying to say is just a lot of poppycock! Storybook stuff! The kind of things kids get nightmares about!” No doubt about it – Doc Gilchrist is Dana Scully’s father!

Sheriff Hains: “Doctors try to save people. The law doesn’t always have a choice.”

Dr. Morgan Chambers: “They’ll make the hydrogen bomb more powerful, then more powerful again! Enough to change every person on the face of the earth into a crawling inhuman thing from fallout radiation!” And that was just his testimony before Congress about stem-cell research!

Dr. Morgan Chambers: “The perfect science, Emory. The science that ends all science.” Uh … What!?

Dr. Emory Forrest: “You’re not going to kill him!? [Duncan]” Dr. Morgan Chambers: “You think he still wants to live after what he has become? It will be an act of charity!” I think you mean an act of mercy, doc. Or were you planning on putting his kid through college?

Here are a couple of exchanges that show just what softies Sheriff Hains and Deputy Clovey are: Amy, “What a horrible horrible thing to happen to a human being!” Hains, “Yeah.” Hains, “How do you explain a thing like this to a wife and kid?” Cloves, “Maybe you don’t try.” Stop it you two before I tear up!

Moral: Never wear your good shoes in the snow.

Conclusion:

The Werewolf is actually a fairly good little flick. Only one problem – it’s not about a werewolf! Sure Duncan looks like a werewolf when he changes, but none of the werewolf folklore comes along for the ride. Full moon? Don’t matter. Sunlight? Don’t matter. Infects those he injures? Nope. Silver needed to kill him? Lead bullets do just fine. A shame really because the flick nails the tragic element rather well. We really feel sorry for Duncan and his family. If this flick were made in the 80s the culprit would be exotic drugs. The 90s – genetic engineering. But this was the 50s and it had to be radiation. I guess they wanted to add a well known monster into the mix. Ah well, still a tight little cheapo b-movie. Nothing wrong with that!

50s Sci-Fi Checklist:

  • radiation can do anything!

  • big ass cars – Mountain Crest has 22 police cars!?

  • tons of booze and cigs

  • tones of the hep-cat era

  • big ass jukebox

  • atomic not nuclear

  • real men still wore hats

One to Ponder: Were the clothes really werewolf proof in the 40s and 50s?

Well, that’s two post Halloween werewolf flicks for 2007. Catch ya next time – and remember: comments, questions, suggestions and contributions welcome.

-BigRuta

“Sister moon will be my guide…”

Posted in 1940s, horror, Lon Chaney Jr., Universal, werewolf on November 1, 2007 by bigruta

Hello again friends and neighbors! Big Ruta is back and ready to lay some Halloween movie lovin on ya! Oh baby! Ya might notice that my blog has moved. Blogger was just giving me too much trouble. Each post was getting more and more frustrating and so at the suggestion of h&m, I have moved over here to wordpress. I like it so far. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

I love werewolves. Of all the frightful critters to come crawling out of our collective folkloric subconscious, “the wolf that walks as a man” is perhaps my personal fave. Ya got all the classic themes: transformation, corruption, savagery, lust, blood, guts, guilt, redemption, love, hate, death, disease, magik all wrapped up in a wonderfully tragic package. What’s not to love?

There have been plenty of werewolf flicks, but most just don’t do the subject justice.

This Halloween, I’m going to share a few that I like with y’all.

The Wolfman

1941, Universal, 70 minutes, NR

actors: Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Ralph Bellamy, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskaya, Evelyn Ankers

writer: Curt Siodmak

director, producer: George Waggner

Taxonomy: Horror; werewolf flick; dog lovers

Plot: Good hearted lug Larry Talbot gets bitten by love – and something else.

Lawrence Talbot (Chaney) returns to his family estate in rural England after the tragic death of his elder brother in a hunting accident. He is soon helping his father, Sir John Talbot (Rains) fix the telescope in their castle-top observatory. He then uses the scope to spy on a cute blond while she is dressing!wm_scope_edited2.jpg Yep! Larry is just a big old lovable lug – and perv. He visits the antique shop where the blond works and buys a walking stick. The walking stick has a silver handle in the shape of a wolf’s head with a pentagram etching. Let the exposition begin! Gwen Conliffe (Ankers), Larry’s voyeuristic target, explains that the pentagram is the symbol of the werewolf and that a werewolf can see a pentagram in the palm of his next victim’s hand. Gwen is the first of several characters in the flick to recite the classic doublet,

“Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the Autumn moon is bright.”

Notice it does not specify a full moon. Anyway, Larry pesters Gwen into going out with him that night.

After a chat with Sir John – and a repetition of the poem – Larry shows up at the antique shop happy to see that Gwen is waiting for him. But Gwen has a surprise in store Larry; she has invited her friend Jenny to come along! Take that Slick! The three walk out into the misty moors and pick some wolfsbane. Which gives Jenny the opportunity to recite the poem. We have now heard it three times within 10 minutes. Subtlety be damned! We need to keep reminding the audience that this here is a werewolf flick! Our happy threesome end up in a gypsy camp where they meet an Maleva (Ouspenskaya) and her son Bela (Lugosi). Yes that’s right, Bela Lugosi plays a guy named Bela. Easy to remember, I guess. Larry and the ladies ask if they can have their fortunes read. Jenny goes first and Larry and Gwen slip off into the moor to flirt in a goofy 40s kind of way.

It seems Bela does not like wolfsbane, hmmm… bela_edited.jpgThen we see a star on his forehead – not a pentagram, mind you, a star. He tells Jenny, “Your left hand shows your past, your right hand shows your future.” Then he sees a pentagram in her right palm! He tells her to go – quickly and she runs away. Gwen and Larry hear Jenny scream, Larry goes to investigate and sees a large dog (yeah, it’s supposed to be a wolf, but it is a dog) chewing on her. This shot is well done, very fast, but it gets the point across. Larry beats the dog – er – wolf to death with his walking stick, but not before being bitten! Gwen and Maleva take Larry home. Then Bela is found dead on the moors near Jenny with Larry’s walking stick next to his body!

Colonel Montford (Bellamy) starts to investigate and it seems more and more likely that Larry killed Bela. Larry swears he killed a wolf, and overhears Maleva tell Bela that his suffering is over. There is some discussion of the psychology of lycanthropy, but no one takes it seriously – except Larry.

The gypsies hold a celebration in honor of Bela. Many of the townsfolk go out to the gypsy camp for the festivities. We see a young gypsy woman hike up her skirt to show her legs while dancing – shocking! Larry finds a bit of time to flirt a bit more with Gwen – when she is not with her fiancee!charm_edited.jpg Eventually Maleva tells Larry flat out that Bela was a werewolf and that Larry having been bitten, but not killed buy Bela is now a werewolf himself. She gives Larry a charm with a pentagram on it, she says it may protect him. She also mentions that only silver can kill a werewolf. Maleva then tells the other gypsies that there is a werewolf in camp and they pack up and leave right quick!

Larry goes home and starts to feel itchy. He pulls up his pant legs and takes off his shoes and socks and we get the transformation scene! We see Larry’s legs and feet slowly transform into those of a wolfman via fades. Yep, just his legs and feet. I remember having seen scenes of Lon Chaney Jr’s face transforming, but those must have been from one of the sequels because we never see that in this flick. To give the make-up folks some credit, they show his feet transform so that he walks on his toes – just like a wolf.

Well the wolfman is out now! Larry prowls the moors looking for prey – his clothes still fit quite well, no tears even with his shirt buttoned all the way up to the neck! The wolfman seems to be more fit than Larry! He comes across a gravedigger. Not sure who he is burying or why he is doing so way out in the moors, but he just stands there and screams when he sees the wolfman and gets chomped. Colonel Montford notes large wolf tracks that lead right up to the Talbot estate. Larry finds the same tracks on his bedroom floor and a star on his chest. Hmmm… Could it be true!?

Montford rounds up some men and they wait at a shooting platform after setting out leg-hold traps. Sure enough, the wolfman steps right in one – ouchies!wm_back_edited.jpg He pulls it open, limps away and passes out. Maleva shows up and says a little charm and the wolfman changes back into Larry. Well, if she could do that, then… oh nevermind!

Larry tells Gwen he has to go away but when he gets home Sir John straps him into a chair! Larry begs Sir John to take his walking stick. Well, Larry changes and escapes – gee didn’t see that coming! – gets shot, but hey it was just a regular old lead bullet, so no biggie! He attacks Gwen, who went out on the moors looking for him – jeez! The funny thing is, Gwen holds the wolfman off pretty well! Sir John kills the “wolf” with the silver-headed walking stick – and we see the wolfman change back into Larry. Everybody cries. The End.

Goodies:

Babeage:Evelyn Ankers is an attractive damsel in distress, but not what I would call babe material – at least not in this flick.

Sleazeploitation: Well, Larry is a peeper…

Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes:The wolfman (duh!) and Bela.

Violence:A couple of gun shots, leg in trap and two walking stick bludgeonings.

Gore & FX:No gore. The make-up effects are good but the transformation scene is a let down – unless you’re a foot fetishist. Perhaps the worst effect in the flick is the werewolf sound effects. Howling sure, but other than that the wolfman sounds like a tired old hound.

Hey, that’s what’s his name!: Claude Rains was in a ton of movies. He had his own Universal series of flicks as The Invisible Man(1933). He was Captain Renault, better known as “Frenchy,” in Casablanca (1942). As for Ralph Bellamy, well check out his IMDB page.

Great Lines:

When Larry shows up for his date with Gwen he says, “And you see, I wore my cane too!”

Larry: “Wolf! Gypsy woman? Murder!? What is this?” It’s the plot Lon, try to pay attention.

Dr. Lloyd says of Jenny, “Her jugular was severed with the bite of powerful teeth.” Wow! That werewolf must be damn strong! If his teeth alone can sever someone’s jugular, just imagine how powerful his jaws must be!

Sir John, “You policemen are always in such a hurry! As if dead men don’t have all eternity!” So jus chill out wit a cool beverage, mon!

Two men ask Larry what he is doing out on the moors. He tells them, “Why, the same thing that you are of course – hunting.”

When he sees Larry’s star shaped scar, Sir John says, “That scar could be made by most any animal.” Yeah, any animal that got “A”s in geometry!

Moral: Keep your pets on a leash.

Conclusion:

The Wolfmanis the standard from which all werewolf flicks derive. It lays all the gothic groundrules: mark of the beast, lycanthropy as an occult disease, moonlight good, silver bad, wolfsbane, werewolf cursed to attack those he loves. It also runs into the classic logical flaw of having the cursed character change into a werewolf several times over a few consecutive nights – lunar calendar be damned. Of course, as I pointed out above, the full moon is never specifically mentioned, just the bright Autumn moon. So lycanthropy only happens in the Fall? Just like football! Hmmm…

This is me at age nine baby!:Yeah, yeah, yeah – enough with the sappy romance! Wait! Dracula is a gypsy now? Runnin and howlin through the moors at midnight! Woohoo! The guy just stood there and let himself be killed! Oh man! His dad killed him!

Universal Monster Movie Checklist:

  • names you know

  • cool sets

  • love interest – even if it disrupts the flow

  • big old castle

  • fog – lots of fog

  • goofy comic relief – with an accent

  • cobwebs – lots of cobwebs

  • where’s the blood?

  • happy ending

One to Ponder:Did the wolfman always take his shoes off before he transformed?

Okay, well there ya go! My first Halloween movie review of 2007. Hope ya liked it.

What? Halloween was yesterday?

Aw crap!

– BigRuta

Remember: comments, suggestions, requests and contributions always welcome!