The Howling (1980)
Director: Joe Dante
Patrick Macnee/Dr. Wagner
After a bizarre, traumatic encounter with a serial killer, anchorwoman Karen (Wallace Stone) consults granola Doc Wagner (Macnee) who convinces her to drive up to his resort "the colony" where he says she will be able to heal and more importantly, remember every aspect of the ordeal. She heads up there accompanied by her mustached husband Bill (Stone) and what she imminently discovers will change her life forever. It’s werewolf time!
Based on the book by Gary Brandner with a script by Terence Winkless and John Sayles, "The Howling" was drowned out upon its initial theatrical release by the more popular "American Werewolf in London" which came out the same year (both films came out about two months apart). Today, "The Howling" has become a cult classic and deservedly so.
Lots of my fellow genre hounds have told me how damn funny they think this movie is, and personally, even after multiple viewings...I still didn’t find much to laugh about except for the occasional, tongue-in-cheek winks (big bad wolf cartoon on TV, the end credit burger) and the always appreciated Dick Miller cameo. Sure, the flick references ALL KINDS of werewolf oeuvres, be it cinematic or literary throughout its running time, but only the more ardent werewolf pop culture "connaisseurs" will get a swift kick to the funny bone out of that. Although I'm a huge horror fan, most of these nods went over my knob. I actually had to go on the Net and do some research to find out what "references" everybody was yapping about. Now knowing and having watched the movie again, it still didn't make much of a difference in terms of my viewing experience. It was still a bleak wolf man flick to me!
The movie starts out very strong, shrouded in infectious mystery. It then proceeds to lead us down a twisted path through the eyes of its lead character Karen (Wallace Stone), while the pacing is deliberately slow and the action takes a while to get started. Sure, more pizzazz would've been nice in some parts, but on the whole, I was taken in by the endearing characters (all about Karen), the crazy situation and the fascinating themes at hand (animal versus civil - the fine line between man and animal). I was therefore never taken off the meat hook. The dark cinematography and the gritty feel of it all also contributed in keeping me stuck in this film's web like a wingless fly waiting to be devoured alive. Wow! This movie's total horror wooed me hardcore! Lastly, there was the werewolf shenanigans. Although they did come late in the picture...when they hit, they hit harder than a disgruntled date getting her ass grabbed out of the freaking blue. Effect-wizard Rob Bottin (of "The Thing" fame) delivered the goods with quality once more and I'm part of the many that think that the werewolf transformations found here still don't get the props they deserve. They easily rivaled "American Werewolf in London" as the best displays of man-to-lupine onscreen transformations.
On the neutering side of this dog-eat-dog, the characters here had a knack for doing the stupidest things this side of the "Horror Dumb Ass Moves Hall of Fame". I don't know about you crazy poodles, but if some dude is painfully changing into a werewolf before my beguiled eyes, I just won't stand there and wait until his lengthy transformation is complete before realizing that I might be in deep shit. I'd be out of dodge! Why don't you sit down, get yourself a cup of "Joe" and a bag of chips while you're at it! Sheesh! And that was only one faux-pas of many that were found in this petting zoo. Needless to say that the idiotic choices some of the characters made here (hey a-hole, you go get a gun...how about you use it LIKE NOW!) slightly tarnished what was overall an intelligent and edgy man-wolf shindig.
But overall, "The Howling" was a successful film on most fronts and the bad to the bone ending that capped it all off never failed to kick my derriere back to the pound. Let's howl at the moon…..and I don't mean the one in the sky. Yeah bitch!
We get a cut-off hand, acid in someone's face and gunshot wounds. It gets even bloodier towards the end (this guy removes a bullet lodged in his head) and the werewolf transformations were pretty money.
Dee Wallace Stone (Karen) can carry a movie. She proved it with "Cujo" and proved it again here. She comes across as smart, sensitive, strong and vulnerable, all at the same time. The woman can act and her range is very wide. Patrick Macnee (Wagner) gave a steady and believable performance. Christopher Stone (Bill) was a boring actor, not all-out awful, just not interesting. The mustache did most of the acting. Robert Picardo (Eddie) gave a memorable performance. Eddie was creepy, scary, yet charming in a dangerous way. Great bit of casting. Elizabeth Brooks rocked as the vampish Marsha. She put the "S" in sexy and spooky. Bang on!
T & A
We get some werewolf nymph's fun bags and hairy bush (has more hair down there than I have on my head) and the ladies get Christopher Stone's white-as-a-corpse behind.
Dante gives us a gloomy film. Bathed in darkness, this baby had a flashy opening scene that set us up for one creepy ride. The quick, flashy dream sequences helped me get into the mindframe of the Karen character, therefore getting involved in the movie on a higher level. I also loved the film’s subtleties and the fact that it made us use our imagination.
We get an effective, chilling score with occasional organ music thrown in for good measure.
IMAGE: We get a widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio) and a full screen version of their movie on the same disc. I found the image to be grainy and soft. Not the best of transfers.
SOUND: We get a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and a Dolby Digital mono option. The Surround sound was clear although weak on the "Surround" ambient. Decent.
Commentary: We get an insightful and nostalgic commentary from director Joe Dante, stars Dee Wallace, Christopher Stone, and Robert Picardo. Any fan of the film will get a lot out of this track.
"Unleashing The Beast (~ 52 Minutes): This "making-of" featurette is cut into 5 parts that you can watch together or individually. The feature addresses the casting, the werewolf mythos, the special effects and the slew of abysmal sequels which it spawned. It also sports new interviews with the likes of Joe Dante, John Sayles, Dee Wallace Stone and more! A solid and substance-filled feature that covers everything that was, and is, "The Howling". TOP NOTCH!
"Inside The Howling (~ 8 minutes): Originally created in 1981 to promote the flick, this short making-of featurette came through by giving us a behind the scenes look at the "Rob Bottin Made" special effects. Joe Dante, Patrick McGee and Bottin also come in to talk shop. Decent.
Deleted scenes (~ 9 minutes): Thank God these scenes were snipped out the film...they brought nothing to it. All were cut out for time and pacing. An interesting feature from a fan point of view.
Outtakes (~ 5 Minutes): Here we get an, at times, very funny reel of outtakes. It's always "fun times" to see actors muck up. Good stuff!
We also get two Still Galleries (posters and production pics) and two widescreen Theatrical Trailers (one being the Teaser). English, French, and Spanish Subtitles are available.
Overall, this is a stellar DVD with kool packaging, a booklet and potent extras. The image isn't all that, but the overall quality of the disk made up for that. Fans of "The Howling"...take out your check books.
"The Howling" is a somber, layered and reference-filled flick with a whoop-ass finale. It’s not an action movie, so those of you expecting rabid werewolf's going Coo-Coo for Co-Co Blood will be disappointed. But if you're looking for a well communicated story filled with chills, brains, a likeable female lead and Grade-A werewolf transformations...you’ve come to the right dog park. Not only a solid werewolf film…a solid film period!
The distorted speech played over the television static during the opening is actually bits of dialogue found later in the film.
This film includes cameos from Kevin McCarthy, Kenneth Tobey, director Roger Corman, John Sayles and Famous Monsters editor Forrest J. Ackerman.
Gary Brandner, who wrote the novel, also wrote another book that was adapted into a film (a poor one) called "Cameron’s Closet".
Dee Wallace married Christopher Stone who played her husband in this film.
Avoid all "The Howling" sequels (only the second one is actually semi-connected to the first one) at all costs…THEY ARE SUCK THE MAN MEAT!