It’s been nearly 15 years since Shout! Factory had to scuttle its proposed release of the ’80s TV series Werewolf due to unforeseen music rights issues they weren’t able to resolve, but the disappointment is still palpable. Boasting werewolf characters designed by the great Rick Baker (although the day-to-day makeup, effects and transformations were left to Greg Cannom), the series wasn’t enough of a ratings winner to get picked up for a second season, leaving the fate of its lycanthrope lead as much in the air as it was at the conclusion of the feature-length pilot, which aired on July 11, 1987. The show’s cult remains steadfast on YouTube, though, where fans have posted the entire series exactly as it aired three and a half decades ago.
As pilots must, the one for Werewolf — written by series creator Frank Lupo and directed by David Hemmings — spends a fair bit of time establishing its main character, college student Eric Cord, who’s first seen threatening to drop his studious girlfriend Kelly into a swimming pool. (You can’t get more happy-go-lucky than that.) Before that, though, it teases one of the show’s antagonists, bounty hunter Alamo Joe, who delivers hard-boiled narration while loading a rifle with silver bullets. (A sample: “You can stand up to anything if you’ve got the guts to look it in the eye. If you can look it in the eye.”) This is followed by a sequence in a club soundtracked by the Mike + the Mechanics song “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)” where an unidentified character with a pentagram etched into the palm of his hand stalks the couple he plans to make his next meal out of. (Naturally, this features POV camerawork overlaid with video effects to indicate that we’re seeing were-vision.) Then comes the aforementioned pool scene and the opening credits, depicting Eric driving around to Timbuk 3’s “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.” (That one could easily be substituted, so my money’s on “Silent Running” being one of the songs Shout! couldn’t clear.)
Eric’s life is irrevocably changed when he arrives home to find the lights out in his apartment and his roommate Ted loading a revolver with silver bullets and referencing a newspaper headline (“MURDER VICTIMS FOUND PARTIALLY DEVOURED”) he claims to be responsible for. “You better have one hell of an explanation to get me to believe this,” Eric says. After a long pause punctuated by thunder, Ted replies, “I’m a werewolf.” (This happens 19 minutes in for those keeping score at home.) When Ted begs to be tied up until midnight, Eric humors him, but dozes off while waiting for him to transform and is caught unprepared when Ted finally wolfs out, losing the gun in the scuffle and getting bitten in the shoulder before recovering it and putting Ted out of his misery. Eric’s misery has only just begun, however, since he’s soon charged with murder and showing signs of following in his roommate’s paw prints.
The balance of the pilot includes an American Werewolf-like nightmare, multiple scenes of Eric sheepishly waking up in the buff, the addition of two comic-relief characters (Eric’s klutzy doofus of a lawyer and his fast-talking bail bondsman), and the proper introduction of Alamo Joe and the show’s other antagonist, salty boat captain Janos Skorzeny, who readily confirms that he’s the werewolf who infected Ted the previous summer and claims Eric as part of his bloodline. (“You’re one of mine, aren’t you?” he asks with a twinkle in his eye.) Since Ted’s belief was that he could end his curse by killing Skorzeny, that becomes Eric’s mission as well, but their first face-to-face — or snout-to-snout — encounter ends in a stalemate and Skorzeny scampering away unharmed. “Maybe it’s ending,” Kelly says hopefully, but Eric is quick to correct her. “No, it’s just beginning,” he says, and his adventures continued for 28 more episodes before the plug got pulled the following spring.