Saturday, October 06, 2012

MAD WEREWOLF PARTY!

A FEW MONTHS AGO I LISTED ALL THE APPEARANCES COUNT DRACULA MAKES IN MY VOLUMINOUS VAULT.  Now, in honour of the Halloween Countdown, I thought I'd bring you werewolves I have known and loved -- some of my favourite furry furies that appear in movies and TV shows I'm lucky enough to own.  These are not all the werewolves in cinema but merely those favourites which lurk in my video vault.  You will also not find any TWILIGHT, any VAN HELSING or any UNDERWORLD werewolves here -- I said they were my favourites . . . not from movies which tested my gag reflex!

This list is in no particular order but who could think of beginning with anyone other than Lon Chaney Jr. as the tortured Lawrence Talbot the Wolf Man.  From his first appearance in the Universal classic THE WOLF MAN (1941) through the subsequent sequels FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, HOUSE OF DRACULA, ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN and even such minor appearances in the classic ROUTE 66 episode "Lizard's Leg & Owlet's Wing" or the grade-Z Mexican monster movie FACE OF THE SCREAMING WEREWOLF.  Lon's hard to beat as King Werewolf.  Awrroooooooooooo!

Another superb-looking lycanthrope is Oliver Reed in Hammer's CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF.  From the extremely odd opening title sequence with the crying werewolf's eyes through the back story of the peasant girl raped by the mad and bestial beggar (THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT's Richard Wordsworth), this Hammer shocker starts off well but then loses steam until the rousing finish atop a burning bell tower.  But the visual look of Hammer's werewolf by Roy Ashton is extraordinarily good.

Herman Cohen wondered why no one was going to see his prestigiously made movies when he figured out teenagers didn't want to see middle-aged actors and characters.  So he fought back with I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF and another werewolf its hard to resist.  Michael Landon's werewolf, drooling toothpaste and wearing his letterman sweater, is one of the iconic horror images of the nifty fifties.  Is there a particular reason why this great film isn't available on DVD yet?!?!?

Super-duper TV show SUPERNATURAL features the Winchester brothers fighting monsters, demons and sometimes angels.  In the second season, the episode HEART ( originally aired March 22, 2007) features a heartstring-tugger with a lovely young woman who just happens to be a werewolf.  Cue the gypsy violins for this tragic tearjerker.

The first werewolf from Universal of course wasn't Lon Chaney Jr.'s Lawrence Talbot.  In fact, he wasn't even their second!  THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON featured acerbic Henry Hull as the reluctant werewolf condemned to kill the one he loves.  However, he got that way by being bitten by ANOTHER werewolf:  Warner Oland (best known as one of cinema's Charlie Chans).  Both monstrous men fight over the Mariphasa Lupina Lumina flower to cure them.  Things don't end well.  Hull apparently balked at makeup genius Jack Pierce's originally much-more-extensive werewolf makeup but I, for one, quite like the devilish, sleek look of this one as well.

The last place you'd expect to find a werewolf is in an episode of BARNEY MILLER but the 1974 third season episode entitled "Werewolf" gives us just that.  The precinct gets a call from a guy named Kopechne who wants to be locked up before he kills somebody.  When they get him downtown, they find he claims to be a werewolf.  Detective Harris, whose spent the last few minutes rolling around the grass with Kopechne and ruining his sharp suit shouts "This city is one giant cuckoo clock!" and when the werewolf starts climbing the cage bars and howling, Barney hollers "This is a police station, not a horror movie!"  Add to all this a UFO sighting in Central Park and a swine flu epidemic and you have one of the funniest BARNEY MILLER episodes.

20th Century Fox's beautiful-looking 1942 film THE UNDYING MONSTER featured a Hammond family cursed by the devil; the male heir will turn into a werewolf.  When a series of horrific bestial attacks occur in the area, the curse appears to be coming true.  With James Ellison, Heather Angel and John Howard starring in this John Brahm-directed seldom-seen sleeper, this film is a tad empty but looks absolutely gorgeous!

Back again to television, the folks at Filmation (who brought you the Archies and countless other Saturday morning cartoons) leapt on the horror bandwagon in 1970 with THE GROOVIE GOOLIES.  Besides the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula and the Mummy, the Wolf Man was one of the stars.  Wolfie was not even "loosely-based" on the persona of legendary DJ Wolfman Jack.  And he wouldn't be the only TV character more-than-reminiscent of the rock & roll disc jockey either . . . because there was also . . .

Canada's kiddie TV series THE HILARIOUS HOUSE OF FRIGHTENSTEIN featured comedian Billy Van playing multiple roles including a rock & roll DJ Wolf Man!  Arrrroooooo indeed!  This was another favourite show I remember from my kiddiedom.  Each episode Wolf Man would spin a current hit single and dance in front of a psychedelic video background.  Ahhhh yes, the early 70's were groovalicious!

In 1981, John Landis' AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON was a humongous hit and looked at the werewolf movie in an entirely new way.  Not to mention Rick Baker monster maker's groundbreaking special effects.   But of course, my favourite part of the film is the Griffin Dunne character slowly rotting away before our eyes.  However, David Naughton's werewolf is not to be sneezed at.

Then there's the same year's "competing" werewolf movie:  Joe Dante's THE HOWLING.  While I've always preferred the Landis film, this one is also quite impressive for the spectacular werewolf transformations.  And who can forget Dee Wallace turning into that twitchy-nosed snow-werewolf?!?!

Another candidate for the king of lycanthropy is Paul Naschy whose ever-popular Waldemar Daninsky character spans countless Spanish werewolf movies including FURY OF THE WOLFMAN and ASSIGNMENT:  TERROR with Michael Rennie.  Daninsky's tragic persona gave Lawrence Talbot a run for his pathos money.

The second season of the new DOCTOR WHO series found the Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose (Billie Piper) teaming up with Queen Victoria (Pauline Collins) to battle an impressive-for-television CGI werewolf in the episode "TOOTH AND CLAW".  It was this episode which saw the formation by Her Majesty of the Torchwood initiative which would later play a large part in the series and spin-off into its own programme starring John Barrowman.

Count Dracula in everything but name, Bela Lugosi plays Count Morla in the Columbia answer to Universal's monster-fests "RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE" which also featured a werewolf henchman named Andreas played by Matt Willis.  The actor was no doubt chosen because of his slight facial resemblance to Lon Chaney Jr. and his werewolf makeup is adorable; sort of like a puppy dog -- which is what he is to Lugosi's vampire count. 

A little-known film made by schlockmeister "Jungle Sam" Katzman in 1956 called simply "THE WEREWOLF" starring an unknown actor named Steven Ritch who gives a really fine, tragic performance as a man cursed with lycanthropy.  The werewolf makeup is particularly nice and owes a little, I think, to Matt Willis' werewolf in RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE. . .only more savage-looking.  What do you think?

Charles Band's Full Moon videos were eagerly awaited by me at my local Blockbuster back in the early-early 90's because they were just so much cheesy direct-to-video fun.  And one of the most bonkers ideas yet was when Full Moon decided to make a movie starring Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolf Man and the Mummy -- but played by "little people".  This movie was called "THE CREEPS" and the monsters' short stature derived from a faulty mad scientist device which conjured them from the novels.  The werewolf was particularly drooly in this one!

In 1969 during the first season of SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? an episode entitled "A GAGGLE OF GALLOPING GHOSTS" also featured the "big three" of Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man -- the werewolf particularly has gone down as an iconic Scooby-Doo monster.  Warned by a gypsy fortune teller (voiced by the great June Foray) not to go to Franken Castle, those meddling kids go there anyway.  Unfortunately, the end of the show reveals that the monsters are imposters.  I know, spoiler alert!

In the early 80s, John Landis wanted to show us that Michael Jackson wasn't like other guys.  And he did so with the epic music video for the title track to Michael Jackson's monster-selling album "THRILLER".  The pre-King of Pop turns into a marvelous werewolf (or is that were-kitten) at the beginning of the video with a letterman jacket obviously in tribute to I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF.  And this is all before Vincent Price raps!

The silver-masked icon of Mexican wrestler movies El Santo encountered the Wolf Man on several occasions:  here is one of them as it occurred in the caves of SANTO VS. DRACULA Y EL HOMBRE LOBO! El Santo and his buddy Blue Demon also fought "El Hombre Lobo" in the classic Mexican wrestler monsterfest "SANTO Y BLUE DEMON VS. LOS MONSTRUOS".  Love the belt!

Another favourite is the first Amicus "portmanteau" or "omnibus" film:  1965's "DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS" in which there is a werewolf story imaginatively entitled "Werewolf".  Architect Neil McCallum travels to his ancestral home in Scotland now owned by Ursula Howells to work on alterations to the old family pile.  Hacking through a wall in the cellar, the coffin of Count Cosmo Valdemar is found (Hiya Paul Naschy!!!) who had previously owned the house before McCallum's ancestor killed him and the Count vowed revenge.  And now the Count is emerging each night as a werewolf to put the bite on his victims.  My favourite of all the Amicus "portmanteau" films (even though I think "FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE" is an even better one) owing to the fact that my cousin Loran introduced the film to me as a kid and we spent many a late night watching it in front of the flickering TV munching Oreos and popcorn and grooving to Biff Bailey's ancient voodoo tune! 

The TV hit soap opera "DARK SHADOWS" featured more than one vampire to bedevil vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid).  Quentin Collins (David Selby) was a werewolf for a time and there was also another wolfie named Christopher.  Hey, that looks like Christopher now.  Bad . . . Bad werewolf!  Stay on the paper!!! Barnabas seems to be saying.

The concept of WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS is too good to pass up.  This is one which just HAD to be conceived as a movie poster first and then a movie second.  Either way you slice it, werewolves riding around on motorcycles amidst devil cults is just about the purest example of 1970s horror as you can get!

One of the most recent (and best) examples of werewolves on television has to be the episode from season two of Marvel's THE SUPER HERO SQUAD entitled "THIS MAN-THING! THIS MONSTER!" written by none other than John Rozum:  the father of this very Countdown to Halloween!!!  Here we have Iron Man transported to a supernatural dimension where he encounters Marvel Comics' monster characters Man-Thing, Dracula and . . . wait for it . . . Werewolf-By-Night!  Superb!  One of my favourite episodes of this fun super-hero cartoon!

Back in the early-early 1990s, when I wasn't waiting for the newest Full Moon video to appear at my local video rental store, I was watching LOVE AND CURSES on Channel 17 at 11pm.  Originally titled "SHE-WOLF OF LONDON", this syndicated series featured the "Moonlighting"-style adventures of parapsychologist Dr. Ian Matheson teamed up with a female werewolf Randi Wallace and was a lot of pure, brainless fun.

The film that answered the question: does the Wolf Man have nads?  THE MONSTER SQUAD was pure 80's fun as a group of kids team-up to fight the classic Universal monsters including the aforementioned Wolf Man.  Fondly remembered by all of us of a certain age.

Agatha Christie meets the Wolf Man!  That's one way you could describe Amicus' early 70's "nice try" "THE BEAST MUST DIE" which is the only movie I know of which paused for a "werewolf break" in which the viewer is invited to guess which of the cast is a dirty ole werewolf.  Actually the werewolf is just a poor old docile doggy with a carpet tied to its back.  Peter Cushing, Calvin Lockhart, Anton Diffring and Michael Gambon found themselves adrift in this one.

It doesn't get more "poverty row" than this!  PRC's wartime quickie THE MAD MONSTER directed by reliable sausage-maker Sam Newfield stars George Zucco as the mad scientist who unleashes a werewolf in overalls.  Glenn Strange (Frankenstein's Monster in HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, HOUSE OF DRACULA and ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN) has a fondness for Oshkosh and does his best "Lon Chaney Jr. as Lenny" impression.

And I couldn't think of a better way to end this celebration of lycanthropy than to present one of the cutest werewolves of all:  the claymation Wolf Man from the Rankin & Bass MAD MONSTER PARTY? which starred the voice of Boris Karloff himself as Dr. Frankenstein and Phyllis Diller as the Bride of Frankenstein.  Seriously, that Wolf Man is just adorable!  And that's where we end this "Mad Werewolf Party", gang.  I hope you enjoyed seeing all of your furry friends again.  If you still haven't gotten enough of a werewolf fix, don't forget to hurry on over to our sister blog BATHED IN THE LIGHT FROM ANDROMEDA for yesterday's werewolf songs as part of Day 5 of the Countdown to Halloween.
  

5 comments:

James wellyousaythat said...

"Werewolf?"
"There,there Wolf,there Castle"
"Why are you talking like that?"
"I thought you wanted to"

Cerpts said...

Excellent!!!! Mel Brooks we love ya!

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