Craig J. Clark — Oct. 17th 2013
Over the past few weeks, as partisan politics has resulted in a partial government shutdown and petty bickering over the budget and raising the debt limit, it has pleased me to consider what it would be like if there were a hairy beast prowling the dark alleys of the nation’s capital, culling some of our more contentious congressmen. Accordingly, while I usually abhor such things, I could totally get behind a contemporary remake of 1973’s The Werewolf of Washington, one of the few werewolf-themed Watergate horror-comedies in movie history.
Written, directed and edited by Milton Moses Ginsberg, the film stars Dean Stockwell as a rising star in the Washington press corps who wants to break off his affair with the president’s daughter (Jane House), so he chooses self-exile in Budapest over political (and possibly professional) suicide. There he takes up with a beautiful Romanian (Katalin Kallay), but is called back to the States to be the new assistant press secretary for the troubled president (Biff McGuire, who doesn’t try to act even remotely like Richard Nixon apart from his interests in football and bowling). Unfortunately for Stockwell, he’s set to depart on the night of the full moon and has a run-in with some gypsies, one of whom turns into a dog and savages him, thus cursing him to a life of random bloodshed and tick baths.
Once back in Washington, Stockwell begins making the rounds of various political functions and touching up speeches for the vice president. (For some reason, he’s given the latter assignment by attorney general Clifton James, who shouldn’t have anything to do with the press, but there it is.) He also meets the president’s daughter’s current fiancé, an army psychiatrist (Beeson Carroll) who becomes Stockwell’s confidante when he starts putting two and two together, and the mysterious Dr. Kiss (Michael Dunn), a midget scientist performing experiments in the basement of the Pentagon because why not? Also lurking in the background of a number of shots is a Secret Service agent (James Tolkan, who went on to play a character named Baldy in Wolfen and Principal Strickland in the Back to the Future movies) who does a lousy job of protecting the president when you come right down to it.
I fear I’m making this film sound too lucid. It’s actually fairly ineptly made, with cheap makeup effects, poor lighting (especially during the night scenes, of which there are necessarily many) and choppy editing. Most of its werewolf mythology comes straight out of the original Wolf Man, as does the film’s method for transforming Stockwell (like Lon Chaney, Jr., he generally thinks to remove his shoes when the urge comes over him). That’s all well and good, but its time-frame is all out of whack (the full moon rises six nights in a row, which is really stretching it) and there are several scenes that go on forever with absolutely nothing happening in them. I’d like to think that a modern retelling would solve the latter problem by having Stockwell’s character periodically maul a pundit or two. I’m sure few would mourn them.