Guys, guys. What are you doing making a werewolf movie in 1979 at a time when slasher movies are at their peak? I mean, Halloween had just come out the year before! Why didn’t you wait until 1981 to release your werewolf movie, when the great triad of An American Werewolf In London, The Howling, and Wolfen were released? Talk about being out of touch!
Of course, how would they know? This was Worth Keeter’s writing and directorial debut (You know Worth. He’d go on to direct episodes of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers), and I’m sure he was an eager kid waiting to get his career started. If this movie was on the level of the werewolf features listed above, he could’ve been hailed as a genius; most geniuses are not in step with their time anyway. The fact is, this is a terrible, schlocky, third-rate Hammer movie ripoff that didn’t have a chance. As a result, poor Worth never attained the status of John Landis, Joe Dante and I guess Michael Wadleigh respectively (Wadleigh was responsible for the documentary about Woodstock so he’ll go down in history for that). Even if it was released in 1981, it still would have sank without a trace.
Wolfman is a “horror” film set in the “I don’t know when” century; I see telephone lines and a horse and buggy, so your guess is as good as mine. It takes place in, I guess the South? From the decor, it seems like they were trying to do New England, but a horror movie in the Deep South works too. Colin Glasgow (Earl Owensby) comes home in the wake of his uncle’s murder to discover that he’s inherited the family curse of turning into a werewolf. It isn’t long before the full moon comes out and he turns into a werewolf that looks like a rejected costume from the Planet of The Apes film series. So anyways, he goes around trying to tell people he’s a werewolf and they don’t believe him! (shocker) Soon, he starts killing people before eventually getting killed while fighting Satanic priest Leonard (Edward Grady). In other words, your basic werewolf plot.
This movie has a lot of problems, but the main one is that it’s 102 minutes. For those of you that don’t know, most horror films (as well as comedies) run about 90 minutes on average. It’s not like they even had a full story to tell; this movie could have easily been 90 minutes, or even less. My lord, the classic The Wolf Man (which this movie lifts dialogue from) is 70 minutes long, and it does more in that time span than this movie could do with a three hour run time! It also feels a lot longer than it is because the pacing is ungodly slow; all of the actors say their lines with the same rhythm, most scenes are shot in the most elementary of ways, and even the more “tense” scenes trudge along with the speed of molasses.
Now, I don’t really get into the whole “so bad it’s good” mentality and even if you did, this movie hardly qualifies; it doesn’t have entertaining lines. It’s just bad lines done badly; you’re not going to find any “They’re eating her! And then they’re gonna eat me!” lines here. Despite this, the quality of the acting and the death scenes will probably still make you laugh. Earl Owensby is the worst; the lack of emotion in his line readings is staggering (he’s on the same level as the lead in Birdemic: Shock and Terror). It wasn’t until after I saw the movie that I found out Owensby produced many kinds of these films through his production company, so his bad acting makes a lot more sense now. Too bad this guy’s no Roger Corman; this movie doesn’t even rank with the worst of Corman’s films. The death scene where he kills the butler is actually quite funny: the butler screams and throws a plate with wine on it in the air before being killed.
The reason that An American Werewolf In London and The Howling did so well is because they were essentially old stories taking place in a contemporary setting; they weren’t being shameless about their updating either. If this movie came out in the 1940s or 1950s, it would have fit quite comfortably. Unfortunately, there have been few successful period horror films since then, and this movie is even worse than those. This is as if Ed Wood directed a werewolf movie, and even then it doesn’t have the entertainment value of a Wood film. It’s not even good camp, just schlock at its worst; bad lighting, bad acting, bad production design (you know a movie’s bad when you notice the sets are bad) and just bad storytelling. It doesn’t even fit in the category of a schlock movie with good makeup, which is where Owensby failed as a producer. Even if “so bad it’s good” movies are your thing, I would still approach this movie with caution.
If you care enough to watch the whole movie, it’s right here.