Full Moon Features: The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972)

The IMDb doesn’t give an exact release date for it — the best it can do is May 1972 — but as we’re coming up on the 50th anniversary of Andy Milligan’s infamous The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!, I figured it was about time I tackled it in this column. As catchy as its present title is, The Werewolves Are Here! started out as a movie about a brood of bickering lycanthropes called The Curse of the Moon, but when producer William Mishkin got wind of Willard‘s runaway success he had Milligan literally throw some rats into the story, hence The Rats Are Coming! They’re not integrated very well, though, so to reflect this I’ll deal with the werewolves first and then haphazardly toss in the rats later on.

The whole shebang takes place in England around the turn of the 20th century, and Milligan restricts most of the action to the Mooney estate, where ailing patriarch Pa Mooney (Douglas Phair) holds sway over his five adult children. His favorite is natural born troublemaker Monica (Hope Stansbury), who hates everything and everybody and delights in tormenting her imbecilic brother Malcolm (Berwick Kaler), who is first seen tussling with a couple of roustabouts who proceed to light him on fire on his own front lawn. The most responsible of the bunch is eldest sister Phoebe (Joan Ogden), who looks much older than her stated age of 39, followed closely by the level-headed Mortimer (Noel Collins). The household is thrown into a tizzy, however, by the return of prodigal daughter Diana (Jackie Skarvellis), who went away to Scotland for medical school and came home with a husband, painter Gerald (Ian Innes). Naturally, she hasn’t told him that she comes from a family of werewolves, but that’s just as well since Malcolm doesn’t want him in the family anyway. Even talking about the subject is enough to give him an attack that he needs a shot to recover from.

In the day or so leading up to the full moon, Diana has plenty of time to get reacquainted with her family and exchange repetitive, exposition-laden dialogue with them. (With Milligan, there’s no detail so unimportant that it can’t be repeated five or six times, usually within the same scene.) Meanwhile, rightfully figuring out that something is amiss, Gerald tries to talk her into leaving with him, but she believes the (possibly normal, possibly not) baby growing in her womb will change his mind.

And now is the time during my review of The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! where I mention the scene where Monica heads into town to see a severely deformed man (Milligan, credited as Chris Shore) about buying a bunch of rats that have developed a taste for human flesh ever since they gnawed off his arm and part of his face while he was sleeping. Once Monica gets them home she starts talking to them and even names a few (“I think I’ll call you Willard,” she says to one. “You look just like a Willard.”), but when the one she names Ben bites her she stabs it to death and marches back to town to demand a refund. And that’s all for the rats in The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!

Finally, the day of full moon arrives and Diana takes her own trip into town to buy a pistol from a chatty old gunsmith (Milligan again, this time credited as George Clark) and sweet talk him into making some silver bullets to go. It also sees the introduction of Monica’s previously unseen best friend, childish neighbor girl Rebecca (Lillian Frit), who sticks around just long enough to get the chop for knowing too much about the Mooneys. In the end, everybody reveals the secrets they’ve been hiding from everybody else for years and years, and every Mooney who’s cursed to turn into a werewolf does, starting with Pa, whose weak heart gives out after his transformation, both of which come as something of a shock to Gerald. Just when he thought he was finally being accepted into the family!