Full Moon Feature: Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory (1961)
The Italian horror cycle, begun in 1957 with I Vampiri, a.k.a. Lust of the Vampire (directed by Riccardo Freda with an uncredited assist from cinematographer Mario Bava), was in full swing by the time 1961’s Lycanthropus came along. Retitled Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory when it was dubbed into English and released in the US two years later — on a double bill with the Boris Karloff vehicle Corridors of Blood — it is precisely as cheesy as you would expect a film about a wolf man terrorizing a girls’ reformatory to be. Instead of a straight-up horror film, though, what director Paolo Heusch (credited as Richard Benson) and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (fresh off 1960’s The Vampire and the Ballerina) cooked up is more akin to a murder mystery, with reform school girl Priscilla (Barbara Lass) determined to find out who clawed her best friend to death. (Quoth Priscilla: “Mary was just assassinated. No one will convince me she was torn up by wolves.”)
Good thing for Priscilla she has no shortage of possible suspects. There’s new science teacher Dr. Olcott (Carl Schell), who arrives in a cloud of mystery; the institute’s director Swift (Curt Lowens), who knows his secret; lecherous aristocrat Sir Whiteman (Maurice Marsac), who was being blackmailed by the murder victim; Peter Lorre-ish caretaker Walter (Luciano Pigozzi), who is used to doing Whiteman’s dirty work; and creepy-looking porter Tommy (Joseph Mercier), who has little to do apart from hang around and be a creepy-looking red herring. Once you get past the low-budget trappings and the lazy plotting (the first time we get a clear look at the werewolf, it’s easy to tell which character he is), this is actually a fairly entertaining movie. If it had been made a couple of decades later, it might have even delivered on its exploitation title (à la 2006’s Werewolf in a Womens Prison), but some things are better left to the imagination.
Help turn the first 5 issues of WEREWOLVES VERSUS into a book!
You may not know that in addition to running Werewolf News, I’m the editor of WEREWOLVES VERSUS, a (previously) digital-only anthology project that collects art, comics, stories and all kinds of other great content about werewolves. We’ve done seven issues so far, with another four on the way, and I’m proud to announce that we’ve teamed up with Make That Thing and launched a Kickstarter to turn the first five issues into a giant 780-page book!
Here’s the campaign video:
This book has been four years in the making, and it shows off the incredible work of literally dozens of amazing creators. I’m thrilled at the chance to put it on shelves! Here’s a mockup of what the final book will look like:
That’s a Photoshop render, but if you want to see how big this monster really is, check out the “blank” the printing company sent me as a proof. This has all the properties of the final book – page count, dimensions, and stock. It’s huge.
In addition to the book, backers will also receive some rad rewards created especially for this campaign by WEREWOLVES VERSUS contributors. We’ve got stickers, an enamel pin, a bandana, a new and extremely rowdy song by Colin Janz, and a print of the amazing cover art by John Keogh (whose work you may remember from this stunning poster he did for The Mountain Goats). Have a look at these rewards:
I’ve worked harder on the contents of this book than just about anything else in my life. It’s absorbed a lot of my attention (including time I would have otherwise spent posting stuff here!), and I’m incredibly proud of it. If you like WEREWOLVES VERSUS or just want more great werewolf content in your life, consider checking out the campaign. If you’re not in a position to make a pledge, even just sharing the link is a huge help. Thanks so much!
Full Moon Feature: Night Shadow (1989)
Another month, another Full Moon Feature. This month’s selection is 1989’s Night Shadow, a film I came by in a four-movie pack with Howling IV: The Original Nightmare, Raging Sharks, and Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep. (I guess you’d call that a surf-and-wolf combo.) I knew the film couldn’t possibly live up to its cover image, which depicts a man with a howling wolf’s head and hairy shoulders who’s wearing pants that have slipped down to reveal his underwear, but a werewolf movie is a werewolf movie is a werewolf movie…
Unless, of course, that werewolf movie is Night Shadow, which sends up its first red flag during the opening credits when it reveals that it’s “based on a concept and creature designed by Mark Crowe.” Not that I have anything against Crowe and his creature design work, mind you, but if this movie got made simply because he had a werewolf suit lying around, that’s not a good enough reason. I guess it was sufficient for writer/director Randolph Cohlan, though, who killed two birds with one swipe of the claw by making Night Shadow both his directorial debut and swan song. It was also one of the last films for veteran character actor Aldo Ray (as Gene Krebelski, novelty fish product salesman), and it was the last for special effects technician Rick Scott, who got the role of a lifetime — literally — as the bearded drifter with the gnarly fingernails who (shock! horror! puzzlement!) turns out to be a werewolf. (I often wonder why low-budget movies bother “introducing” actors if they’re only going to fade back into the woodwork.)
Actually, the star of the film is Brenda Vance, who plays successful TV anchorwoman Alex Jung, who chooses to spend her vacation in her sleepy hometown and finds she’s being stalked by a real creep who seems to have some kind of a psychic connection with her — that is, when he isn’t killing old men for their pickup trucks. While she’s home, Alex checks in with her brother Tai (Stuart Quan, credited as Dane Chan), a kickboxing handyman in a half-shirt, and makes time with old flame Adam (Tom Boylan), whose job as sheriff is complicated by the vicious mutilations that get dropped into his lap. Meanwhile, Tai pulls pranks on and with his two asshole friends Dean and Bruce (Kato Kaelin — yes, that Kato Kaelin — and Orien Richman), who are marked for death when they steal the drifter’s diary out of his stinky motel room.
Now, some people who lived through the ’90s will say it’s worth tracking this movie down just to watch Kato Kaelin get a metal pipe shoved through his chest by a hairy werewolf. Let me assure you, these people are wrong. If there’s any entertainment to be wrung out of this tedious monster movie, it can be found in the performance of Jeannette Lewis as unflappable county coroner Francis Stern. Not only does she deliver the requisite werewolf movie dialogue (“All of the victims were mutilated in exactly the same way. There are definite signs of an animal attack.”) like a champ, but she also says one of the funniest lines I’ve ever heard in any werewolf movie: “The woman’s head is missing, making identification very difficult.” I tell you, that’s Academy Award material right there.
Full Moon Features: Freaks of Nature (2015) and Slice (2018)
This month’s Full Moon Feature is a double since I’m covering a pair of films set in places where humans coexist with supernatural creatures. In Freaks of Nature, it’s Dillford, the “Home of the Riblet,” where humans, vampires, and zombies live side by side, with shock collars on the zombies to prevent them from chowing down on the human population and an uneasy truce keeping the humans and vampires from going at each other. Meanwhile, Slice’s Kingfisher is divided between humans and ghosts, but the town’s slogan — “A Great Place to Be Alive!” — is a real slap in the face to its 40,000 deceased residents. Of course, I wouldn’t be talking about either film if they didn’t also feature werewolves, but in both cases the hairy beasts feel like an afterthought, as if the screenwriters decided to throw in another monster at the last minute, which is pretty much when they show up in each film.
The protagonists of Freaks of Nature are high school students Dag (Nicholas Braun), whose hippie parents have long kept from him the fact that he’s a werewolf, newly turned vampire Petra (Mackenzie Davis), who gets labeled a slut for going “all the way” with one of the vamp bullies at their school, and put-upon nerd Ned (Josh Fadem), the smartest kid in school who deliberately gets himself bitten by a zombie after an uninspirational teacher shatters his dream of getting into a good college. Said teacher, who just so happens to be a vampire, also happens to be played by Keegan-Michael Key, one of a number of funny people director Robbie Pickering and screenwriter Oren Uziel don’t spend nearly enough time with.
Other grown-ups who get short shrift in Freaks of Nature are Denis Leary’s asshole riblet plant owner, Bob Odenkirk and Joan Cusack as Dag’s “understanding” parents (who give him The Talk about the changes his body is going through), and Patton Oswalt as a doomsday prepper who’s ready for the coming apocalypse — whatever kind of apocalypse it turns out to be. His decision to let Dag, Petra, and Ned into his shelter in the midst of an alien invasion predictably backfires, but at least he can take comfort in having aided the only creatures — undead or otherwise — standing between Dillford and oblivion.
There’s no alien invasion to foil in Slice, just a conspiracy by a coven of witches to open the gate to Hell located in the basement of Perfect Pizza Base, which is suffering from a shortage of delivery people thanks to the mysterious killer targeting them. Since fugitive werewolf Dax Lycander (Chance the Rapper) is spotted at the scene of each murder, Kingfisher’s mayor (Chris Parnell) is quick to attribute them to him in a series of press conferences. This isn’t too hard to swallow since Dax fled town after the Yummy Yummy Chinese Cuisine Massacre, which claimed six lives, but has returned for reasons known only to writer/director Austin Vesely. (He certainly doesn’t seem too concerned about clearing his name.) Meanwhile, the first victim’s girlfriend (Zazie Beetz) tries to get to the bottom of things since the lead detective on the case is prejudiced against werewolves and therefore eager to pin it all on Dax without any evidence.
“What kind of werewolf are you?” Dax is asked when he’s taken into custody, and the answer turns out to be the kind that needs the moon to be full to wolf out, and when he does the change in his appearance is decidedly underwhelming. (See above. That his transformation back to human form mere minutes later is accomplished with CGI only adds insult to injury.) As in Freaks of Nature, the brightest spots in Slice’s supporting cast are filled by skilled comedians like Parnell and Paul Scheer (as the owner of the cursed pizza place who’s more concerned about the losses in sales than his employees’ lives). To paper over the copious holes in his script, though, Vesely throws in tons of narration by an eager newspaper reporter (Rae Gray) whose efforts to make sense of it all are ultimately beside the point in a film with lines of dialogue like “Godspeed, you Chinese food werewolf.”
Award-winning short “The Hunted” brings a ghost, a werewolf & a monster hunter together
Werewolf Claire in a shot almost certainly paying tribute to An American Werewolf in London (image: GORE Pictures)
Luke is a paranormal hunter who is able to communicate with the spirits of the undead. Claire is a recently turned lycanthrope on the run from the wolves who took away her humanity. And a vengeful spirit named Karen makes these two cross paths.
Based on that synopsis and the trailer, I’d give this a few bucks and ten to twenty minutes of my attention! I’m not likely to get a chance soon, though – The Hunted is currently winning awards on the festival circuit, popping up as recently as March 2019 at NJ Horror Con, with future screenings planned this summer at Indie Horror Film Festival in DeKalb and Reels of the Dead in Las Vegas. Unless they show up at VIFF this autumn, I’ll have to wait until GORE Pictures puts it up online somewhere. Find more information on upcoming screenings at the film’s Facebook page.
For a look at the film’s distinctive (and award-winning) werewolf makeup, check out the Instagram page of makeup artist Alexa Branco. She has a few photos of actress Liz Meinders (who also won awards for this film!) as Claire in (possibly partially-transformed) werewolf mode.
A Brief Visit to Chicago’s Werewolf Coffee Bar
The exterior of Werewolf Coffee Bar, as seen from one of the two(?) available parking spots out front.
After several days spent traipsing around Lake Michigan and Lake Huron on a top-secret mission (during which Tandye won first prize at a monster costume contest), it was time to begin our three-day drive back home to Vancouver, BC. Our route took us from northern Indiana through Illinois. On a day when we planned to drive for twelve hours, we’d generally try to avoid travelling through a metro area like Chicago, but on this Saturday morning, traffic was relatively light, and we had a little spare time, so we took a brief detour off I-94 to Werewolf Coffee Bar.
Like so much of the lycanthropic ephemera I experience, I learned about Werewolf from a passing reference on a podcast. Two of the hosts of Do By Friday, Max and Alex, record in Chicago, at the Lincoln Park headquarters of Cards Against Humanity. Sometime last year, Max made a passing reference to the nearby coffee shop, and a small portion of my brain became forever dedicated to knowing that there was a caffeine retailer called “Werewolf” a mere 2,200 miles from my home.
Werewolf is a truck inside a building, parked by the entrance to a space with high ceilings, plenty of seating, and a design aesthetic that’s much more Glass Walker than Uktena. This quiet, airy space is ostensibly for customers of the coffee bar, although it also seems to serve as a hang-out space for other tenants of the building. We only visited long enough to get our drinks and snap some photos, but I could easily imagine hanging out there for hours.
In addition to coffee and tea, they offer a narrow range of snack food, but I skipped over that to zero in on their merch zone, where they sell t-shirts and patches emblazoned with their logo. Those items – and the signage out front – are the only things that reference werewolves, which is fine, because most of their customers probably aren’t utter fanatics like me. I bought a t-shirt and a patch. Like a fanatic.
Coffee is an essential component of any road trip, and in that context, I am not particularly picky about quality – although I will gladly suffer a withdrawal headache rather than drink Tim Horton’s hot brown water. Werewolf’s coffee menu, however, is calibrated to satisfy people who know about things like Chemex ratios and “bloom”, and their barista provided Tandye and me with the best mocha and Americano of the entire trip.
If one were so inclined, one could probably spend years driving around America, visiting coffee bars and restaurants and nail salons with werewolf-related names. I think the overall experience of such a pilgrimage would be fairly middling – the inclusion of a werewolf theme in an enterprise is no indicator of quality, as werewolf movies have taught us – but perhaps the standout locations would make the effort memorable. Werewolf Coffee Bar certainly rose to the occasion. If you live in the Chicagoland area or are even just passing through, it’s worth stopping by! Just remember to be patient with the parking, and bring an extra fifteen bucks for a t-shirt.
Werewolf Coffee Bar is located at 1765 N. Elston Ave in Chicago, and is open Mon-Fri 6am-4pm, and Saturday 8am-3pm.
Polymer Clay Werewolf Sculpture by Ace of Clay
(image: Ace of Clay)
I’m on a cross-country road trip without my computer, so it’s tricky to post, but after seeing this video in the Werewolf News Slack group, I figured it was worth trying to navigate the process through my phone.
Sculptor and YouTuber “Ace of Clay” recently accepted a viewer request to create a werewolf, and the result, rendered in polymer clay and acrylic paint, is fantastic. Enjoy this nearly 30-minute time-lapse video of the process!
Jesse Bartels & Tandye Rowe
Full Moon Features: Ladyhawke (1985)
Matthew Broderick was a year away from his signature role at the time, but there are many ways in which Phillipe Gaston — the pickpocket he plays in Ladyhawke who goes by the nickname Mouse — is Ferris Bueller transported back to the Middle Ages, substituting his one-sided conversation with God for Ferris’s fourth-wall-breaking asides to the camera. Phillipe talks so much, in fact, that his nickname should have been Motormouth, but that may have been too anachronistic, even for a film with a hard-driving synth-rock soundtrack produced by Alan Parsons.
Often cited as one of Ladyhawke’s biggest flaws, its score (composed by Andrew Powell, who did the orchestral arrangements for the Alan Parsons Project) is far from the film’s only problem. For starters, it’s the kind of medieval epic where all the soldiers’ tunics look brand new (or at the very least freshly cleaned) and their swords all gleam, a marked contrast with Paul Verhoeven’s down and dirty Flesh + Blood, which second-billed Rutger Hauer starred in the very same year. Hauer, incidentally, plays the film’s lycanthrope, a knight named Navarre cursed to live as a wolf by night while Isabeau, his lady love, is a hawk by day. In her human form, she’s played by Michelle Pfeiffer, whose sudden arrival on the scene stuns Phillipe almost as much as the wolf that makes its first appearance (and kills a peasant) the first night he is traveling with Navarre. “There are strange forces at work in your life, magical things that surround you,” he tells the knight the next day, but it is a while before he finds out precisely how strange.
The second night passes without any sight of the wolf (which is no great loss because it is, after all, just a wolf), but on the third day of their journey the hawk is shot with a crossbow bolt (did I mention that Phillipe and Navarre are being pursued by a tyrannical bishop played by John Wood who has dispatched his guards to capture/kill them?) and Phillipe is sent with the wounded bird to the ruined castle of a monk (Leo McKern) who knows all about their curse (“Always together, eternally apart”) and believes he knows how to break it. Alas, there’s a great deal of wheel-spinning to be done before that can occur, stretching the running time to two full — nay, overstuffed — hours.
Since Ladyhawke arrived in the midst of the decade when in-camera transformations were all the rage (even the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” indulged in them), it can’t help but be disappointing that director Richard Donner opts for simple dissolves or cuts between flashes of lightning to change Hauer into a wolf and Pfeiffer into a hawk and back again. That’s the difference between horror and high fantasy, though. No need to make the transition seem physically painful since Navarre and Isabeau are enduring the emotional cruelty of being kept apart.
Nightmare Force’s DemonDawg Mask is a Real Monster
The DemonDawg mask representing what it would look like if Hell had glamour shots (image: Andrew James)
Looking like a cross between a classic short-muzzled wolfman, a scorched demon, and Rawhead Rex, the DemonDawg is a great option if you want a mask that says “I have just killed so, so, so many people who thought silver bullets would work, and you’re next” while repping a lycanthropic style. It’s available from Nightmare Force for a surprisingly modest fee in both “wearable” and “display” variants.
My thanks to collector Andrew James (nuclear.satan on Instagram) for making this mask known to me, and for taking the fantastic photo featured at the top of this post. The product photos on Nightmare Force’s site are adequate, but Andrew’s photo makes this mask look like it costs a hell of a lot more than $165 USD!
“Ask the Werewolves” Is Back!
Blackbird and Duran, werewolves and dispensers of werewolf life experience (image: askthewerewolves.com)
After a brief hiatus, JD Laclede’s comic Ask the Werewolves has returned with a new site on a new platform, bringing with it the promise of new comics and more werewolf Q&As.
Following the veritable collapse of Tumblr as a place to maintain an audience (or functional platform), JDL began porting over the content, collected comic volumes and “Ask” functionality of ATW. That work was completed today.
Ask The Werewolves has been answering viewer questions about the lives of a young werewolf couple since 2015. Originally on Tumblr, this blog was relocated to its own site at the tail end of 2018. The comic book series has taken things toward an ongoing narrative, while blog questions are answered as best as these two werewolves can.
I’ve been a fan of JDL’s work since I discovered Ask the Werewolves in late 2015. I’ve since devoured the whole series to date, plus his other stellar comic, El-Indon, and we’ve been helping each other with various projects since 2016. I’m very happy to see Blackbird and Duran return to the web, and I look forward to more questions, answers, and irresponsible behaviour from both of them.