Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on August 1, 1973
Directed by Nathan Juran
Written by Bob Homel
Cast: Kerwin Mathews, Elaine Devry, Scott Sealey, George Gaynes, Robert J. Wilkie, Susan Foster, Jack Lucas, Bob Homel, Loretta Temple, Dave Cass, Harold Goodwin, Tim Haldeman, Eric Gordon, Paul Baxley
Earlier this week, while trying to decide which horror movie I wanted to watch on Halloween night, I asked myself a question: What was the first horror movie I ever saw at a theater? Looking back, I realized my early childhood was dominated by Disney films, so I skipped forward to the 1970s, where my cinema choices became a little more bold: there was Jaws in 1975 and Battle for the Planet of the Apes at the drive-in in 1973, but to me neither of those qualified as true horror films. I then recalled a double feature I saw in the summer of ’73 and had my answer: before watching the snake transformation chiller Sssssss, my first movie that long-ago afternoon was The Boy Who Cried Werewolf.
The story involves a young boy on a camping trip with his recently-divorced father, who are attacked by a werewolf during an evening hike in the woods. The father is bitten during the scuffle, and of course is now saddled with the curse; the kid finally puts two and two together and realizes it’s his dad who’s the snarling, bipedal wolf-beast responsible for a rash of local killings. And like the ancient fable the film takes its title from, nobody believes the boy—not the sheriff, not his mother, and not the young couple camping nearby—when he tells them his father is a werewolf. What’s funny is, his father grappled with that first werewolf face-to-face for several minutes, and even he doesn’t believe him!
I must admit, considering the subject matter, that this was a lot less chilling—and less fun—than I would’ve expected. Director Nathan Juran, who did a decent job years earlier with 20 Million Miles to Earth, here seemed disinterested with the whole project, and didn’t do much with Bob Homel’s first and only screenplay. And the mistakes! Boom mike shadows, crew shadows, completely-unconvincing day-for-night shots, lapses in logic…did Juran consider the material beneath him, after years of television work, and not worth his time and energy? Was he shackled by a thrifty budget and a tight shooting schedule? Either way, this should’ve had more going for it than a lot of marital strife, hippies, and repeated chases through darkened woods.
On the other hand, this film had three solid moments that I have to give serious kudos to. The first was the attack by the werewolf on an RV trailer, with that young couple I’d mentioned earlier trapped inside; a truly harrowing experience that resulted in one of the two being beheaded, for chrissake. The second involved the father—in werewolf form and holding his son prisoner—surrounded by armed police and angry townsfolk; realizing his death is imminent, he bites his son on the arm! I couldn’t believe this Dao-like moment of kinship…he was passing his curse onto his son! And third…what exactly was in that head-shaped satchel the father was burying in the cabin’s storage shed, and the son was hoping to dig up?
Perhaps this is why The Boy Who Cried Werewolf was never released to home video: it takes more than three cool scenes, a campy title, and the novelty of having a werewolf dressed in camping duds (and sporting a makeup job resembling the family dog from The Brady Bunch) to make it worth anyone’s while. I’m sure I enjoyed this back when I was ten, but since that time I’ve seen many werewolf movies that I thought were more entertaining, and unfortunately none that I would consider worse. So on that note, I ask that you please take heed: those who didn’t believe…are dead! (3/10)