Full Moon Features: Screaming Werewolves Never Bite

October 6, 2014 by in Film, Television & Music, Full Moon Features

Face of the Screaming WerewolfWhen 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.

Scream of the WolfOne 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?


Preorder the complete 216-page “Who Needs The Moon?” graphic novel

September 27, 2014 by in Books & Comics, Crowdsourced Projects

For the last year, Canadian comic creator Todd McCullough has been writing, drawing, and self-publishing his stellar werewolf horror comic “Who Needs The Moon?” as “pay what you want” PDFs. With the series at the halfway mark, and with plans to complete the remaining for issues by the end of 2014, Todd’s teaming up with Under Belly Comics and Kickstarter to publish the entire series as a 216 page full-colour book.

The goal is $3,000 CAD, all of which will enable Under Belly to “produce the highest quality book possible”, “without cutting corners”. Most Kickstarter projects are speculative in some way, but this one is refreshingly confident and direct: if you contribute $20 CAD or more, you’ll get a copy of the book in the mail in March. The more you contribute above that point, the more copies you get, along with some postcards, a poster or an original sketch by Todd.

As I’ve said before in no uncertain terms, Who Needs The Moon? is one of my favourite comics of all time. If it only ever existed as PDFs I would have been just fine, but I’m thrilled that there’s going to be a physical copy. Todd’s work here is phenomenal, and worthy of support – I’ll be contributing shortly, and I urge you to do the same!


Sorry!

September 27, 2014 by in Administration

Apologies for the recent lack of posts. Other than a once-monthly post by Craig, it’s just me running this site, and I have been very busy with my day job and two side projects I need to finish in order to make my financial advisor retrieve my credit card from the deep freeze. This time/attention crunch is happening at the worst possible time – Halloween is coming and there’s a lot of awesome werewolf stuff happening! I’m going to try to get back into posting at least three times a week, starting today (no this post doesn’t count), but I’d also like to point you to Lycanthropology 101, a terrific werewolf news site and soon-to-be-home of “upcoming werewolf micro-encyclopedia, Pocket Lycanthropology”. Check it out!


Full Moon Features: The Company of Wolves

September 7, 2014 by in Film, Television & Music, Full Moon Features, Reviews

The Company of WolvesIn September 1984, Neil Jordan’s horror-fantasy The Company of Wolves was screened at the Toronto Film Festival and then went into general release in the UK, giving the Canucks and the Brits a jump on their Yank counterparts since we didn’t get it in the States until the following April. Based on the short story of the same name by Angela Carter, published in the collection The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, Carter and Jordan’s screenplay for The Company of Wolves greatly expanded on its themes and gave Jordan a taste for the fantastic that he would revisit in such subsequent films as High Spirits, Interview with the Vampire, Ondine, and Byzantium. He has yet to make another werewolf movie, though, which is a major failing on his part.

More than just a retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” with an emphasis on the psycho-sexual subtext, The Company of Wolves is also a tale about a young girl’s awakening sexuality — several tales, in fact. The film starts in modern day, where Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) dreams about a pack of wolves attacking her hated sister, then we enter her dream, which takes place in a fairy tale world, but never fully. Jordan periodically cuts back to Patterson tossing and turning in bed to remind us that everything we’re seeing is being generated by her subconscious. (In a way, it would make an excellent double feature with Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, which came out around the same time.)

The well-qualified cast is headed up by Angela Lansbury as Rosaleen’s granny, who tells her stories full of warnings about men whose eyebrows meet and wolves that are hairy on the inside, with David Warner as her father, who’s at a loss with his daughter in both the real and the dream world. Other recognizable faces include An American Werewolf in London veteran Brian Glover as the father of a neighbor boy who takes a liking to Rosaleen (who, of course, has no time for him), Graham Crowden as a kindly old priest, Kathryn Pogson as the young bride in one of Lansbury’s tales, who marries traveling man Stephen Rea, who “answers the call of nature” one night and doesn’t come back, an uncredited Jim Carter as the man Pogson marries in his stead, and an uncredited Terence Stamp as the Devil, who appears in a flashy car to tempt a young man in the forest. If that last part doesn’t seem to make sense, remember it’s in a story being told by a girl in her own dream. With all the different levels of fantasy and reality, things are bound to get a little mixed up.

To date, the only Region 1 DVD release of The Company of Wolves is the bare-bones disc put out by Hen’s Tooth Video over a decade ago. As such, it lacks the director’s commentary that was included on the Region 2 disc released in 2005. Amazon also lists a region-free Blu-ray, but it is apparently special features-free as well, so let the buyer beware.

Up Next: For October, a double bill that’s a real scream.


“Who Needs The Moon?” part 4: an antihero beyond redemption

August 22, 2014 by in Books & Comics

Who Needs The Moon? issue 4The next instalment of Todd McCullough‘s stellar horror graphic novel “Who Needs the Moon?” is now available via Gumroad (and comiXology pretty soon, I would guess). This is the fourth issue, the midpoint of the story, and the most horrifying entry yet. It describes a high point in McCullough’s storytelling ability so far, and a low point in our time with the werewolf protagonist Ethan. I read it two days ago and my skin still crawls to think of it.

From the first issue it’s been made clear that Ethan is haunted (literally) by the consequences of his actions, but as a reader it’s been tempting to write those actions off as the behaviour of an out-of-control “Past Ethan”. He’s been a werewolf for a while, and the capable, methodical, sometimes charming guy we know now is certainly capable of keeping his bestial impulses in check, right? Wrong. This issue reveals with shocking clarity just how little control Ethan has over his monstrous side, and now I’m starting to feel like the ghosts pursuing Ethan and demanding his death might have the right idea.

This issue disturbed me in a way I haven’t felt about anything I’ve shared on this site. McCullough found it difficult to write, and it’s a credit to his vision and storytelling abilities that it feels like the next step in a pitch-black downward spiral instead of an abrupt left-turn into gratuitous depravity. I still maintain that this is the best graphic novel series I’ve ever read, and I urge you to buy it immediately (it’s a pay what you want scenario on Gumroad so you literally have no excuse not to). Just… be careful.

Edit: check out this interview with McCullough on Pipedream Comics for more on the story’s background and a look at the real-life challenges he and his family are facing. This is why it’s so important to support the people who make the things you love.


Little Red & werewolf go on killing spree in music video for The Griswolds’ “Beware the Dog”

August 21, 2014 by in Film, Television & Music

Australian indie rock band The Griswolds release their first full-length album Be Impressive on August 25th (or 26th, depending on where you live), and the video for the single “Beware The Dog” is gory, goofy and a lot of fun!

The song is a breezy, summery romp that fits well with the band’s self-described “tequila-inspired party pop” aesthetic (though the lyrics actually seem to chronicle the dissolution of a friendship). The video follows Little Red Riding Hood and her special friend as they go on a murderous rampage, complete with dismemberments, an angry mob and a huge werewolf in a tiny motorcycle sidecar. The werewolf suit is impressive, and the number of rubbery flying limbs and the quantities of fake blood getting poured on the ground approach Monty Python levels of extremely silly gore. If you enjoyed it as much as I did, support the band by picking up Be Impressive from iTunes, Amazon or their own shop.


Check out indie horror comedy short “She-Wolf Of The Woods”

August 13, 2014 by in Crowdsourced Projects, Film, Television & Music

She-Wolf Of The Woods

This Werewolf Wednesday, I want to share with you She-Wolf Of The Woods, an independent horror comedy short film by UK filmmaker Adriana Polito. Adriana spent £3,000 ($5,000 USD) of her own money to write, direct and produce the  “homage to horror films and popular culture from the 70s, 80s and 90s”, and she’s made it available to stream or download for an extremely reasonable £2 – £3 ($3.40 – $5 USD). Here’s the synopsis from the web site:

Our short film, SHE-WOLF OF THE WOODS is an extraction from one of the story strands in our feature film of the same name. In it, we take a glimpse into the world of Amy Shields, a beautiful and unlikely forest ranger. Amy is a She-Wolf’s apprentice and has a taste for flesh. She likes her women for fun and her men for food. Bound to her master through an ancient curse, Amy spends her days scouting the Scottish Highlands for loners and fulfilling her ritualistic duties in the ways of the hunt.

And here’s the trailer via Distrify, which also has integrated streaming and download options.

I’m no film expert (that’s Craig’s deal) but this looks like it was put together on a much higher budget than the cost of a used car, and it shows the vision and confidence of someone who should be sending out for coffee while hunkered down in an editing bay, not making coffees for cranky commuters. I’ve purchased the HD version and will be watching it post-haste. I encourage you to do the same!


Universal’s “Halloween Horror Nights” maze to feature An American Werewolf in London

August 11, 2014 by in Film, Television & Music, Pop Culture

universal-maze-awilAccording to The Hollywood Reporter, Universal has decided to incorporate an elaborate An American Werewolf in London maze into their yearly Halloween Horror Nights event.

Visitors will enter at the Slaughtered Lamb, the English countryside pub where the film begins, and continue to the fog-shrouded moors where the werewolf attack occurs. The maze’s scenes will include the London Underground, an encounter with demon soldiers and the werewolf transformation for which Rick Baker won the first Academy Award for best makeup.

The AWIL-themed maze was a hit at the Universal Orlando Resort last year, and will be unique to Universal Studios Hollywood this year. Orlando visitors will have to be content with the features shared by both locations, including The Walking DeadFrom Dusk Till Dawn and AVP: Alien vs. Predator. Also, they will be in Florida, which is terrifying in its own right.

Halloween Horror Nights begins on September 19th at both locations and runs on select nights through November 1st. From what’s shown in the trailer below, it looks like a pretty awesome experience. Check the web site for more details.


Full Moon Features: Cry of the Werewolf

August 9, 2014 by in Film, Television & Music, Full Moon Features, Reviews

Cry of the WerewolfSeventy years ago this month, Columbia Pictures attempted to hop on the werewolf bandwagon with 1944′s Cry of the Werewolf while also throwing in a dash of Cat People (a recent hit for RKO) for good measure. Set in New Orleans — just like Paul Schrader’s Cat People remake — the film takes place in and around a museum dedicated to the paranormal which becomes a crime scene when an aged researcher (played by author Fritz Leiber) is killed to prevent him from revealing the secret resting place of a legendary werewolf. (I guess it’s not enough that the museum has taken over the house where she once lived.) The police have a number of suspects, but we know right from the start that it’s the handiwork of gypsy princess Nina Foch, the daughter of the werewolf in question and high priestess of her tribe, which has some unusual burial practices to say the least.

Foch is the star of the film, but we end up spending a great deal more time with Leiber’s son, a scientist played by block of wood Stephen Crane, who attempts to reconstruct his father’s notes with the help of his assistant, the heavily accented Osa Massen, whose Transylvanian heritage makes her gruff police lieutenant Barton MacLane’s prime suspect. When fingerprint evidence clears her, MacLane moves on to limping janitor Ivan Triesault (who’s also from the old country), conveniently forgetting that Leiber was the victim of a savage animal attack. (Where else but a werewolf movie would one see a newspaper headline like “Jury Probes Wolf Slaying Mystery”?) Then again, he does keep idiotic detective Robert Williams around, but I suspect that’s mostly so he can look intelligent in comparison.

Meanwhile, Crane conducts his own investigation, paying close attention to the customs of Foch’s tribe, which keeps its dead on ice eleven months out of the year before burying them in a secret gypsy burial ground. (Yes, it’s that kind of a movie.) Eventually this brings him face to muzzle with Foch in her lupine form, which director Henry Levin chooses to depict by bringing in an actual wolf and having it run around the set. Not exactly the most threatening creature around, but apparently it was cheaper than the alternative.

Incidentally, Cry of the Werewolf doesn’t appear to have been released on DVD (and likely never will be at this point), but used VHS copies can be found on Amazon, and it pops up on Turner Classic Movies from time to time if you’re patient enough. And if you’re impatient, it can also be found in its entirety on YouTube.

Up Next: A British film from the ’80s that poses the question: Are werewolves good company?


Three classic werewolf films get the Trailers From Hell! treatment

August 8, 2014 by in Film, Television & Music, Pop Culture

Nothing underscores the size and depth of the Internet for me like the realization that the cool new thing I just discovered is actually an entrenched and respected phenomenon. Did you know about Trailers From Hell? Were you aware that film director Joe Dante (yes him) and many of his filmmaker pals have been giving trailers for horror, sci-fi and cult movies a paternal sort of MST3K treatment since 2007? This was news to me, and I can only hope to undo my shame by sharing with you the three (3!) consecutive werewolf film trailers that received the TFH treatment this week.

First up is director John Landis (yes that’s correct) admiring the cinematography, sets and performances of Curse of the Werewolf.

Next is screenwriter Josh Olson, who confronts the danger of reviewing one of his boss’s films before identifying The Howling‘s greatest contribution to pop culture: criminalizing the smiley-face five years before Alan Moore did it.

Finally, writer and director Ti West has effusive praise for his favourite Michael J. Fox movie of all time – Teen Wolf.