Craig J. Clark — Oct. 6th 2014
When it comes to the vocalizations of werewolves — or wolves in general — one tends to think of them howling or growling. In a pinch, you could even imagine one barking or (depending on how sad they are) crying, but unless they’re in the middle of a painful-looking transformation, it’s difficult to picture a werewolf screaming. Unlikely as that may be, though, it didn’t prevent two movies released a decade apart from asking viewers to do just that.
The first was 1964’s Face of the Screaming Werewolf, which noted schlockmeister Jerry Warren cobbled together by throwing two unrelated Mexican monster movies into a blender, dubbing the resulting smorgasbord into English, and shooting some extra footage to paper over any plot holes with news bulletins and a lackadaisical police investigation. My favorite cheat, though, is the off-screen car crash and smash cut to a newspaper headline that disposes of two characters with just five words: “ANN TAYLOR KILLED; MUMMY DESTROYED.” Now, if you’re wondering what a mummy is doing in a film about a screaming werewolf, the answer is “quite a lot.”
This is because the first film Warren makes use of is Rafael Portillo’s The Aztec Mummy from 1957, which was also plundered for 1964’s Attack of the Mayan Mummy. It’s about a scientist who uses past-life regression to send a female subject (the aforementioned Miss Taylor) back to the time of the ancient Aztecs, then uses the knowledge gleaned from this to lead an expedition to the Yucatan. This leads to a great deal of padding as Warren intercuts long scenes of ancient Aztec ceremonies and the modern-day expedition exploring the pyramid where they took place. He also throws in a cutaway to Lon Chaney, Jr. as some kind of a mud-caked mummy — lifted from the second film — and includes a brief, confusing encounter with the Aztec mummy, which is apparently not the genuine article, at least according to the news report that declares it to be a modern man who “exchanged body fluids” with the Chaney mummy. Seems unlikely to me since they’re not even in the same film, but whatever.
Warren jump-starts the second film — Gilberto Martínez Solares’s The House of Terror from 1960 — by having the protagonist of the first film killed in the middle of a blackout (which is convenient since his death can be revealed in a voice-over), during which Chaney’s body is spirited away by a different scientist who takes it to his secret lab (hidden inside a wax museum) and tries to bring it back to life. Naturally, it’s lightning that does the trick and Chaney comes around just in time for the full moon to turn him into a snarling werewolf, but he quickly runs out of juice and the scientist finds he can be kept at bay with a flashlight. Meanwhile, the scientist contracts a hit man to steal the Aztec mummy for some damned reason, which leads to Ann Taylor’s abduction and the aforementioned newspaper headline that signals Warren’s exhaustion of the Aztec Mummy material. That leaves the home stretch to Chaney’s werewolf, which breaks loose, attacks a couple, abducts the woman, climbs the outside of a building, sensibly takes the stairs back down, loses the woman, stalks another one, invades her home, abducts her, and winds up back at the wax museum, which gets burned down because that’s what happens to wax museums in horror movies. Warren then gives the final word to one of the policemen he shoehorned into the story, who says, “It’s great what the imagination can do, huh?” If the imagination is Warren’s, probably not.
One distinct advantage the 1974 TV movie Scream of the Wolf has over Face of the Screaming Werewolf is that it was conceived as a single story from the get-go. Also, since it was made for television, the viewer is inclined to be somewhat forgiving if it isn’t as terrifying as it might be (even if this is a courtesy few would be willing to grant one that was made the very next year).
Produced and directed by Dan Curtis, with a teleplay by Richard Matheson, Scream of the Wolf stars Peter Graves as a retired hunter-turned-successful author (who drives a flashy car and lives in a fancy house) who is brought in by local law enforcement to track down a wild animal that has started killing people. The problem is he can’t identify what it is because the tracks at each crime scene start out on four legs, then change to two and then disappear completely as if they’ve been erased — or as if the killer were a werewolf! DUN-DUN-DUNNNNN! Graves tries to get his old hunting pal, the insufferably smug Clint Walker, to help him bring down the bloodthirsty beast, but Walker declines, claiming that he needs to prepare for an upcoming trip to South America. Meanwhile, Graves’s love interest, coffee shop owner Jo Ann Pflug, begins to suspect that Walker is behind the killings, especially after she learns that he was once bitten by a wolf while on a hunting trip in Canada! DUN-DUN-DUNNNNN!
In Curtis’s defense, he doesn’t actually rely on musical stings to goose the audience. In fact, at times the music sounds like it’s been airlifted straight from your standard ’70s action flick — complete with wocka-cha guitar — but that makes a certain amount of sense since this is more action than horror. Still, it’s good to see Graves taking charge and ultimately getting the upper hand. Walker may have had his doubts about his old colleague, but in the end Graves proves to be the better hunter.
Both Scream of the Wolf and Face of the Screaming Werewolf can be found rather cheaply if you have the burning desire to own them on DVD, but they can also be viewed for free on YouTube, which is the right price in the case of at least one of them.
Up Next: Oh wer, oh wer has my little wolf gone?