Full Moon Features: The Werewolf of Woodstock rocks out

Six years before she was viciously mauled to death by lycanthropic serial killer Eddie Quist in The Howling, Belinda Balaski nearly met a similar fate at the paws of The Werewolf of Woodstock. Made in 1975 by Dick Clark Productions for ABC’s anthology series The Wide World of Mystery, the film takes place in the immediate aftermath of the festival and finds crotchety local (and special guest star) Tige Andrews getting his dander up to such a degree that he goes out during an electrical storm and takes the now-empty stage, decrying the “freaks” who just vacated it, and is promptly electrocuted by a dangling wire. Far from killing him, this merely leaves him with severe burns on his face and hands, and instead of putting him in the hospital for an extended stay, his doctor (Richard Webb) lets him convalesce at home under the care of his wife (Ann Doran), who chooses to sleep on the couch so it will be easier for him to sneak in and out at night when he starts spontaneously sprouting fangs and fur.

Meanwhile, a quartet of would-be rock stars rolls into town in their psychedelic van with the intention of recording their demo “live at Woodstock.” Since he came up with the idea, band leader Robert Weaver is totally behind it, as is drummer Danny Michael Mann. That leaves resident hippie chick Balaski to babble on about karma and perennial wet blanket Andrew Stevens to repeatedly declare that the whole thing is a “bummer.” Hey, you know what else is a bummer, man? When Stevens lets Balaski’s dog Virgo out and it becomes werewolf chow, serving as an appetizer before Andrews dines on pig. And by “pig” I mean an officer of the law, which gets the attention of police lieutenant Harold J. Stone, who deduces from the perpetrator’s description (long hair, heavy beard) that it’s a “Woodstock leftover.” Special LAPD “youth officers” Michael Parks and Meredith MacRae — who are in town to find out firsthand how the festival went — develop their own theories, though, especially when a watch belonging to Andrews turns up at one of the crime scenes.

That crime, incidentally, is the abduction of Balaski, who does a lot of screaming as Andrew drags her off to an abandoned mill, but eventually she calms down enough to ask him point-blank, “You killed my dog, didn’t you?” For some reason he doesn’t kill her, though, giving MacRae a chance to bring up some dubious-sounding research on “severe electrical shock altering tissues and organs” which leads her to believe that “something terrible has happened” to Andrews. Even after he transforms right in front of his terrified wife, that still isn’t enough to convince Stone that they’re dealing with anything supernatural, though. “Oh, excuse me,” he sarcastically quips. “This is 1969 and this is a modern, electrical werewolf.”

Once Stone’s skepticism evaporates, Parks hatches a plan to capture their werewolf. Since he hates rock music so much, they have the band set up on stage and crank their amplifiers to lure him out with their racket. Unfortunately, director John Moffitt (whose resume is packed to the gills with comedy shows and specials, making this something of an anomaly) stages this in the middle of the afternoon, thus exposing make-up designer Joe Blasco’s less-than-convincing werewolf effects to the harsh light of day. What’s even more unfortunate is the way writers Bill Lee and Hank Saroyan have Andrews escape with Balaski (who’s clearly developed a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome since she doesn’t want any harm to come to him), stealing a dune buggy in the process. (“Hey, where are you going with my dune buggy?” asks its idiotic owner, as if he’s expecting the WEREWOLF to answer.) And since the whole thing started with an electrocution, it only makes sense that the climax of the film takes place at a power plant. Just think, if Dylan hadn’t gone electric, this might have never happened.