on 3 August 2014
While the glorious 80s had werewolf films dominating for the first half, switching over to vampires to see out the decade, this one was different, appearing in 1987 and not 1983 like I thought, even though it looks more like, and suits that year. But then 1983 also displayed limp and pretentious MTV attempt at vampirism in 'The Hunger', so that balanced out, but as vampire films were easier to make, it's not surprising they would always end up ahead, but quantity, we all know, is no substitute for efficient or imaginative brilliance. Don't let the less than creative title make you turn away, for this becomes the sixth and last must-have werewolf film of that great decade, only this actually was never meant to be a film.
'Werewolf' was actually a 1987 TV series made for Fox by American writer and director Frank Lupo, which was broadcast between July 1987 and ran until its cancellation date just over a year later, whereupon it had clocked up 28 episodes, including the a two hour introductory pilot show which, generally spliced together, though with a few changes sufficing to clock it in at just an hour and twenty three minutes, is what we are presented with for this Entertainment in Video VHS copy. It exists very well without the rest of the series, it does stand alone, but there are nonetheless hints and allusions to a story that was supposed to go on. At the moment, only those there at the time to catch it can tell if this truly was worth a series (I say how can it not be?), and to date, only American cable and satellite TV channel Chiller subscribers have been lucky enough to catch when much of the show, if not its entirety, was shown between 2007-2009, and 2009 was supposed to be the year that Shout! Factory released the whole show on DVD, which, in particular, would have been a lovely Halloween move for me, what with enjoying this pilot-as-film so much, and was salivating even more to know that, while an early October date of that year had been typically pushed back, that was only to include a fat of special features, a completely justifiable excuse, but completely and utterly without merit, all plans to release it were cancelled, and there's nothing to suggest these plans will be reversed before the next ten thousand full moons.
As aggravating as this is, acerbated by the horrible possibility that, if this were more well-known, it would get a horrific and completely uninvited and unwanted MTV remake with any amount of the barbie-boy clots of today in it, I still have the VHS, and copied it to disc thankfully, when I briefly had a machine capable of doing that. The story of a boy attacked by his own friend, whom himself had been trying, until recently, to halt the curse, and find the instigator of it, before adapting to like his new double life, is as good as anything previous werewolf films, and future ones have come up with. And this actually predates the clever, stylish, and also rudely cancelled before its time vampire series of some twenty years later 'Moonlight' by having a protagonist, who whilst being infected with a curse he didn't ask for nor can truly control, goes out of his way to only make villainous types and scumbags his prey (this is hinted at in this film, but would become a feature of the show), before he fears he may lose control.
There's also good effects to segue nicely into all the other 80s werewolf films, with a brilliant standout feature being a pentagram branded on the sufferer's palm which then bleeds and pulses like a Cronenberg type insect under the skin. John J York is the student innocent playing the vulnerable but fundamentally decent system who insists on his girlfriend locking him up when "the change" is upon him. He gets across well the desperation he will be living under, with a sweet sense of humour, all without giving in to any blameworthy rages. His girlfriend is winningly played by Michelle Johnson, who herself would star in an utterly anemic and horror-free bore to reshape vampire lore in 1991 called 'Blood Ties'-far more successful was her vampire strand in 1988 horror film 'Waxwork'-there was also a werewolf strand in there too, but it featured one of her friends, but at least she can say she's bitten and howled with both and with quality (excusing 'Blood Ties'). Acting legend Chuck Connors, best-known for his late 50s ABC show 'The Rifleman' is the truly frightening monstrous being who seems to be the blame for Eric Cord's (John J. York's characters's condition)-and that's even before he begins to metamorphosis. Most deliciously of all it equals 'The Company Of Wolves' when it comes to a subtle cameo from a groundbreaking source, 'Company' featured Brain Glover, any werewolf fan will remember as the most irate villager from 'An American Werewolf In London', but this goes one better, and with a glance at the rising full moon as she mops up slops at the bar of a student pub, there stands Elisabeth Brooks, werewolf queen from 'The Howling', and it's an even bigger kick, because she last saw her back in '81 on the other side of it, procuring her next victim.
This is hell to unearth, being very like 'Bad Moon' in that aspect, though 'Bad Moon' does at least appear on DVD, but if you can prowl and hunt it down, you may find it fills in that howling gap in your werewolf collection as snugly as a fur coat on a cold night.