Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Friday, October 14, 2011

31 Days Has October: THE WEREWOLF

We're wrapping up Week 2 (Werewolf Week) of the greatest month of the year with The Werewolf, a 1956 Sam Katzman production that puts a Fifties, Atomic Age twist on classic lycanthropic lore. Ordinary businessman Duncan Marsh (Steven Ritch) becomes a bipedal, bloodthirsty werebeast not through any sin of his own doing, nor through an unfortunate, violent encounter with a rabid wolfman, but through the machinations of a couple of remarkably irresponsible scientists. This pair of geniuses take this survivor of an automobile accident, and impulsively decide to test their latest experimental "radioactive wolf blood" serum on him. Obviously, these guys skipped the ethics class.

Anyway, though produced by the notoriously cheap Katzman, The Werewolf is a nifty little monster flick, that benefits from some picturesque natural location work, shot around Big Bear Lake in the San Bernadino National Forest in Northern California. The werewolf make-up is cool, too; created and executed by Clay Campbell, it is nearly identical to the one he created for actor Matt Willis  a decade earlier for the 1944 Bela Lugosi chiller, The Return Of The Vampire, just a little shaggier.

The script is exciting and even thoughtful, populated by a cast of characters that come across as real people. The characters evince sympathy for the tortured human within the monster, and try to take him alive with the intent of trying to get him help. It's only when the body count gets too high and the wolf overcomes the man that the townspeople, led by the compassionate sheriff (Don McGowan), realize they have no choice but to shoot to kill. And that's another cool thing about the movie - as this werewolf is a creature of science, there's no need for silver bullets or full moons or any of the other traditional trappings.

The Werewolf is not a horror "classic," but it's a much better-than-average 50s B-monster flick, and one of my favorites.

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