Full Moon Features: Moon of the Wolf (1972)

Craig J. Clark — Sep. 5th 2017

Some werewolf tales are liberal enough that their lycanthropes are capable of transforming several nights in a row — as long as the moon looks full enough. Such is the case with the 1972 TV movie Moon of the Wolf, in which sheriff Aaron Whitaker (David Janssen) goes head-to-head with the uncanny when an unknown creature with superhuman strength starts chowing down on his constituents.

Set on the Louisiana bayou in the quaintly named town of Marsh Island, which gives director Daniel Petrie a fair amount of atmosphere to work with, Moon of the Wolf provides Whitaker with any of a number of suspects. There’s backwoods hick Tom (John Davis Chandler), who is out hunting with his pa (Royal Dano) when he discovers the werewolf’s first victim. Then there’s the victim’s distraught brother Lawrence (Geoffrey Lewis), who didn’t like her messing around above her station. And Whitaker also comes to suspect the town doctor (John Beradino), who apparently got the young lady in question pregnant and was pushing her to get an abortion. Meanwhile he rekindles a long-forgotten crush on Louise Rodanthe (Barbara Rush), whose family founded the town way back when and who’s just returned from the big, bad city. This doesn’t exactly endear Whitaker to her overprotective brother Andrew (Bradford Dillman), but until he solves his mystery it’s not like he has a whole lot of time for romancing anyway.

For such a short film (it’s only 74 minutes), Moon of the Wolf sure takes its time getting to the werewolf attacks (or even hinting that the attacks are being carried out by a werewolf). Apart from an old man on his deathbed raving in French about the “loup-garou,” no one even suspects that they have a lycanthrope on their hands (except maybe for the old man’s superstitious nurse, who knows how to ward them off), which leads the gun-toting populace to organize a wild dog hunt (the results of which are kept tastefully off-screen). Of course, when the killer finally does show his hairy face (and hands, which come complete with black fingernails) it’s none too impressive, so there’s a very good reason why the filmmakers kept his identity under wraps. It’s just too bad they also kept the body count down. A couple more murders would have livened the proceedings up immensely.