Moon of the Wolf
Deadly secrets emerge from the shadows when the full moon rises!
Year of Release: 1972
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 75 minutes (1:15)
Director: Daniel Petrie
David Janssen ... Sheriff Aaron Whitaker
Barbara Rush ... Louise Rodanthe
Bradford Dillman ... Andrew Rodanthe
John Beradino ... Dr. Druten
Geoffrey Lewis ... Lawrence Burrifors
Royal Dano ... Tom Gurmandy Sr.
John Davis Chandler ... Tom Gurmandy Jr.
Claudia McNeil ... Sara
Paul R. DeVille ... Hugh Burrifors
Sheriff Aaron Whitaker covers the Louisiana bayou country and is faced with a mysterious death. The victim appears to have been attacked by a vicious animal, until the medical examiner determines the death was actually a murder. Using the circumstances of the crime and the evidence he uncovers, Sheriff Whitaker concludes a werewolf is responsible for the killing and must discover who the monster is before any further deaths occur.
Moon of the Wolf, remindin' us that rich folks don't stay rich by sendin' their werewolfen off to obedience school. Ever notice how mosta the cheap people on Earth are stingy rich folks? I mean, what's electroshock collar therapy even cost at Frau Neinbite's School for Wayward Mongrels? $200, maybe $300 a week? You'd think they'd pay it just to get their little Mandingo to quit tearin' up the sofa cushions an leavin' dead squirrels on the breakfast table, but oh hells no. Then they might not be able to buy Atlantic City in the next Donald Trump bankruptcy auction. Doesn't really make a whole lotta sense, but I guess it ain't up to me. An speakin' of people with too much money for their own good, you prolly didn't think we could pull it off, did ya? An on the same day as Finding Dory no less. But we had a durn good openin' night at the Grime Time Drive-In, an finished the night with only two empty spaces. An really, we actually sold those spaces too, it's just that the cars on either side of Mark Skidman's International hadda leave when he an Fannie Ogglesby started makin' noises like a coupla buffaloes that'd gotten stuck in the La Brea tar pits. Would'na been such a big deal if they'd at least kept it in the cab, but even I was startin' to get grossed out, an I've seen Nude on the Moon six times. Anyway, it was just like old times. Maybe better'n old times even, cause the smell of Skunky Hernandez' cow pasture's a significant upgrade over the sewage treatment plant the Grime Time used to be next to. More teenagers'n I'd expected too, an as predicted, all seven of the tightwads Tetnis discovered clingin' to spare tires like baby orangutans to their cloth surrogate mothers inside car trunks were over the age of 45. Didn't have much trouble, fortunately, cause you can imagine what must run through somebody's mind when a rhinoceros wearin' a leather jacket finds 'em hidin' in a trunk an starts slappin' the palm of his hand with a lead pipe. Some of the excuses were pretty good though, I'll give 'em that. One guy swears he'd been trapped in there for a week after havin' the latch come down while he was diggin' for an old rooster tail that'd fallen out of his tackle box. Another claimed she was bein' kidnapped, only the car was registered to her an was bein' driven by 'er 12-year-old son cause she thought she could get in at the children's rate. As for the flick; Skunky agreed with me about showin' Tomboy for the first feature, but he thought playin' Night of the Living Dead on openin' night was settin' the bar too high. Actually, what he said was: "Too tough act to follow pendejo. We show crapola second movie first week." Don't really bother me since I've already reviewed Night of the Living Dead anyhow, an this gave me the opportunity to review my first flick out under the stars like God intended. Rousing success, is what I'm tryin' to get at. You shoulda seen the outhouses that followin' mornin' too, man can that Juanita fry up some first class drive-in chow. Glad I ain't on latrine duty, I'll tell ya that. But thanks to everybody who came out, an remember, we got more first rate schlockola planned for tonight.
Joke's on Skunky though, cause when I told 'im that Moon of the Wolf was an old made for TV movie from 1972 he just assumed it was garbage an had me throw it up on the screen, when in reality, I never once had the urge to go dunk my head in the deep fryer durin' its 75 minute run time. I think it only even ended up in the public domain cause some putz who never watched a Rocky movie slapped a copyright date of MCMLXII on it, instead of MCMLXXII like it shoulda been. Seriously, this's prolly the best werewolf movie ever made in the Louisiana bayou to feature Royal Dano huntin' Bradford Dillman with a shotgun, an to show proper respect, I'm gonna share with you a few of the reasons why TV audiences were glued to their sets on the night of September 26, 1972. I'm pretty sure it had to do with the bottle gettin' too hot an dribblin' down onto their faces, but let's not go splittin' hairs. First, keepin' the microphones outta the shots, while important, should never be achieved by attachin' 'em to the collars of baying hound dogs. Second, if you're gonna invite the fat sheriff onto your 27-hole golf course of a front lawn, maybe have the decency to get the butler to bring the golf cart around for the guy. An third, werewolves have no place livin' in the bayous of Louisiana. The last thing we need is werewolf alligator wrestlin' that ends in weregators roamin' around attackin' the cast of Swamp People. But the thing I really liked about this one is how old-fashioned an proper everybody in the movie is. Like, remember how in the good ole days people had the decency to conceal their family history of dementia so the rest of us could continue livin' in our private little malt shop dwellin', block party socializin', immaculately landscaped Leave it to Beaver episode, without ever havin' to deal with what a hellhole life really was? Ya know, back when people had all those cute expressions for things, like: "having a spell" or "Uncle Elwood just ain't himself tonight," to help mask the fact that the help was secretly upstairs tryin' to keep some crazy relative from launchin' dook-filled top-siders into the backseat of the neighbor's Studebaker cause they thought their cat was possessed by the devil? You know what'd happen these days if a city found out that their town was originally founded by honest to God werewolves? We're talkin' Roswell, New Mexico. Cheesy tourist traps on every block sellin' "Werewolves do it Doggystyle" t-shirts, an coffee thermoses forged in the shape of a silver bullet with optional "hair of the dog" companion flask. But back in the days of REAL America, a malady was a thing to be ashamed of so nobody'd think you were strange an start spreadin' rumors about you around the American Legion hall. Now just look at all the people puttin' their bipolar personality disorders on Jerry Springer where God an everybody can see 'em. It's flicks like this that really make ya miss the good ole days of teenage girls vanishin' for six months at a time an returnin' home with an "adopted little sister," even though we all know, deep down, that can't none of us go home again. Specially if the adopted little sister was ours.
The movie begins at Royal Dano's house out in the sticks where he an his kid're fixin' to take ole Pooh Bear out coon huntin', but instead they end up findin' this girl layin' out on the side of the cow path like she's just finished a date with Ted Bundy. This's why Royal's emotionally distraught when the Killer Klowns from Outer Space kidnap his dog, cause he an Pooh Bear'd been through a lot together over the years. Then Royal gets his son to call the sheriff (Aaron) an the coroner (Dr. Druten) out so Druten can brood over the corpse an complain about the odors emanatin' from Royal's kinfolk, until the dead girl's brother (Lawrence) shows up to recreate the aftermath of the Nancy Kerrigan clubbin' incident an mourn the loss of the southern belle bottoms. Next thing you know the body's been moved to the hospital where Druten declares the girl legally dead an eligible to vote in the upcomin' Louisiana gubernatorial election, only he's a little concerned about why the body's got more bite marks on it than Elvira's hamdingers after a vampire orgy, an explains to Aaron that whoever did this is left handed, an prolly left leanin'. So Aaron drives out to the girl's house where word of the Emancipation Proclamation is still waitin' to be delivered via Western Union, an watches the girl's dyin' Pa sweat like a toilet in a south Texas diner an mumble somethin' about kangaroo... or coochie-coo... or... I dunno. Somebody came bangin' on the door to the projection booth thinkin' it was the concession stand right then an I missed that part. Anyhow, the jist is that the old man knew his daughter'd gone to the big NASCAR track in the sky without anybody tellin' 'im, but Aaron won't listen to 'im cause the guy only speaks French, an cause he don't wanna get too attached to 'im before he hasta deport 'im back to Paris. Then Lawrence tells Aaron that the dead girl'd been havin' problems with 'er rich boyfriend from over on the right side of the swamp an that when he asked 'er about it she sassed 'im an left 'im no choice but to give 'er a partial concussion, as is allowed by Section 22, Paragraph 9 of the Louisiana state charter. So now Aaron hasta head across the swamp to the polo shirt district an ask Bradford Dillman an his sister (Louise) what they know about the dead Georgia peach, but mostly Louise just flirts with Aaron until Bradford starts givin' 'er this look like he's about to staple every scarlet letter in the alphabet to 'er an make 'er walk around the Woolco where everybody can see.
Then he finds a fancy locket layin' not too far from the dead girl's chalk stencil an heads into town where Miss Cleo (Sarah) is pickin' up some "Loocharooch" repellent so that whatever killed the daughter won't come back an turn everybody into Skoal Creole. She also tells 'im that she's pretty sure whoever knocked the girl up was prolly the same one who knocked 'er down, an after this little revelation comes to light Aaron's just a little bit P.O.'d at Druten for not sayin' anything. Which makes sense, cause around these parts that kinda thing's a powerful motive for murder if'n the baby daddy's also the baby uncle. But then Druten tells Aaron that he was the father, an that they'd had a big fight after he'd suggested they process the fetus into stem cell research cause he can't afford both his malpractice insurance an the necessary volume of Pampers. Aaron's got a lot to think about an not a lot of room to contain it all, so he decides to invite Louise out for coffee so we can get get a breather from the movie's break-neck pacin'. Only it aint long before Bradford shows up an drags 'er outta there after bribin' all the bar flies to promise they'll never tell anybody that he was in there occupyin' the same space as folks who can enjoy the simple pleasures of a snappin' turtle steak basket. Meanwhile, Druten's back out at the dead girl's house where Pa's givin' Lawrence a palm readin' an sayin' "mon dieu" a lot, an Druten hasta tell Lawrence that it might be a good idea to start plannin' the estate yard sale cause he's pretty sure Pa's about to blow his head gasket. Then Miss Cleo tells Lawrence about the pregnancy an that twists up his French rolls so bad that he hasta run 32 miles into town to knock Druten's teeth down his throat before Aaron can toss 'im in jail an sentence 'im to 40 hours of community service shuckin' crawdads over at the homeless shelter. Unfortunately, later that night, the shaky Parkinsons scary cam that breathes like one of those 400lb women who hafta ride around on the Walmart golf carts breaks into the jail, unravels the deputy's guts like a roll of toilet paper, tears the cell door off its hinges, an does the Jailhouse Rock all over Lawrence's face.
So the followin' mornin', Aaron's so desperate for a new deputy that he brings Bradford on board an takes 'im out to Pa's place to try to get his secret recipe for chigger gumbo before it dies with 'im, cept when they get there somebody's barbecuin' some racoon etouffee on the front porch, an when Bradford gets a whiff of it he starts grabbin' his throat like somebody just turned on the 1968 Bob Hope Christmas Special. So Aaron has Miss Cleo sling Bradford over 'er shoulder an load 'im up so he can drive 'im to the hospital, but Druten's completely stumped. Bradford's nose is wet, his coat's glossy, he's got no ticks, basically everything's in good workin' order, so Aaron hasta go see Louise an ask 'er if Bradford's ever crumpled up like a Geo Metro at a demolition derby before, an notices the locket he found near the corpse around Louise's neck in one of their old family photos. Apparently, Bradford gave it to the dead girl as payment for swipin' his flea an heartworm medication from the hospital cause he was afraid that folks might get wind of his condition an start makin' 'im chase tennis balls anytime he went to a city council meetin'. So later that night, Aaron an Louise head back over to Pa's place cause she's been to some fancy French boardin' school an Aaron's dyin' to know what the heck the old man's gibberin' about like a macaque on crack, an Louise finally breaks through the language barrier an says that Pa's been cryin' werewolf all this time. Meanwhile, Bradford's over at the hospital gettin' fuzzier'n the hind end of a Beanie Baby an pretty quick he goes full Lon Chaney, gets muddy prints all over the furniture, an jumps out the window to chase Dodge Darts on the highway. So now that Aaron knows what he's dealin' with he drives out to Louise's place to make sure it ain't genetic an that she ain't goin' into heat or nothin', an once he gets there she shows 'im some passages from the big book of big bad wolves an explains that Bradford's body's built up an immunity to his drugs like a heroin addict an that no fire hydrant is safe. Next thing you know we've got an American werewolf in Dockers howlin' out in the moonlight, an once Aaron goes out to find 'im, Bradford's on the hunt an after Lou. Cause he's Hungry Like the Wolf, see. Gonna cut it off here, but this one's in the public domain so you can check it out for free at the link below if you're interested.
Alrighty, well, does it sound a like a 70s made for TV movie? Cause this thing couldn't be any tamer if it was acted out by the cast of Sesame Street. More of a whodunit than a horror flick when you get right down to it, specially since you never get to see the werewolf actually kill anybody. The other thing about it that'd be considered unusual by today's standards is how early they give away the werewolf's identity. I mean, they let you wonder for about the first 50 minutes or so, but after that you've got another 25 where you're just kinda waitin' around for the final confrontation. It's kinda funny, really, cause after you've seen as many of these types of movies as I have, particularly the flicks made in the last 20 years or so, you start to overthink who the werewolf is, rather than going with the obvious solution. These older mystery movies are kinda fun that way after you've seen so many Saw sequels that any solution that seems even kinda obvious probably isn't gonna pan out. There's also a bit of an editing conflict goin' on here with that scene at the courthouse near the climax where the mayor puts Royal Dano in charge of findin' and eliminatin' the werewolf, cause as the movie exists, that never goes anywhere. I'd imagine that there was originally another scene that was shot (but not used) that was supposed to be happening concurrently with David Janssen's midnight hunt for the werewolf, but featuring Royal Dano and his posse of shotgun toting drunks. Otherwise there's really no point in shooting the courthouse scene, but then again, if you don't air them both, there's really no point to either of them. Really, this's one of those movies that was probably pretty decent when you consider it aired on cable and nobody who watched it had to pay anything extra to see it, but these days we expect a little more action when there's a werewolf runnin' around puttin' the bite on people. They also changed some of the werewolf rules around a little bit so that they wouldn't have to work in a plot device that allows for the creation and acquisition of silver bullets, cause all they need here are bullets that've been blessed. Now think about that for a minute, can you imagine what'd happen if you went into a church and said: "Father, I don't wanna freak you out or anything, but could you please bless these hollow points for me?" 10 minutes later you'd be sharin' a cell with the cast of The Road Warrior. Unless maybe you confessed some sins too, cause I think there're rules about the Padres snitchin' on you when you tell them anything in confidence. So in general, they tweak the werewolf mythology a little bit, and allow the movie to drag more than it really should with just a 75 minute running time, but it's still pretty solid on a technical level.
Anyhow, let's brush this unruly beast and see if he can place in the best in breed competition. The plot is older and more worn out than Methuselah after a 10K marathon, and while they change the werewolf rules on us a little bit, the story is still pretty tired, if acceptable. Maybe a little more predictable than most, since you know that they had a very precise running time alotted for cable, but it's not really anything to gripe about. I think if they'd just focused the script a little more on the werewolf, instead of the townspeople, it would've turned out a bit better. The acting is probably the high point, with David Janssen and Barbara Rush turning in likable and believable performances in the two lead roles, although I much preferred the scenes with Bradford Dillman and Royal Dano. So it kinda had something for everybody, with strong, experienced leads, and a coupla great character actors to round out the ensemble. Something else I'll say for the supporting cast; these people look like real deal rural southerners. I hate it when they cast pretty boys as hicks, really sears my rear. So other than the scene where the werewolf kills Lawrence in his jail cell (it's pretty abysmal, and it was always going to be, because it's just a guy being attacked by the camera), the movie is pretty well acted.
Here's who matters and why: David Janssen (Marooned, Francis in the Haunted House, Cult of the Cobra), Barbara Rush (When Worlds Collide, It Came from Outer Space), Bradford Dillman (Lords of the Deep, "Demon, Demon", Piranha, The Swarm, Bug, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, The Atomic Brain), John Beradino (Them!), Geoffrey Lewis (The Devil's Rejects, Wicked Little Things, Fingerprints, Voodoo Moon, The Fallen Ones, A Light in the Darkness, Song of the Vampire, Trilogy of Terror II, The Lawnmower Man, Disturbed 1990, out of the Dark, Annihilator, Night of the Comet, Salem's Lot), The Dark Half, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, House II, Messiah of Evil, Ghoulies II), John Davis Chandler (Phantasm III, Carnosaur II, Trancers II, Crash and Burn, The Sword and the Sorcerer, The Shadow of Chikara, Whiskey Mountain, Mako: The Jaws of Death), Dan Priest (I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Rattlers, TAG: The Assassination Game), Robert Phillips (The Car, Dimension 5), George Sawaya (Batman 1966, Repo Man, Embryo, The Devil's Rain), Dick Crockett (Batman 1966, Munster Go Home!, Creature with the Atom Brain, Flying Disc Man from Mars, Adventures of Captain Marvel), Sonny Klein (The Severed Arm), Emery Hollier (Cat People 1982). Of course, since we're dealing with a made for TV movie, we've got a lotta guys and gals who were pretty much made for TV themselves, so here're the "best known for" roles that you wimps love to read about. David Janssen would be best remembered as either Dr. Richard Kimble on The Fugitive, Harry Orwell on Harry O, or Richard Diamond on Richard Diamond Private Eye. All fairly successful series that ran a few years each. Barbara Rush went on to play Marsha Russell on Peyton Place, Margret Freemantle in The Young Lions, and Lou Avery in Bigger than Life. Geoffrey Lewis was Orville in Every Which Way But Loose, Claudia McNeil's defining moment in cinema was her portrayal of Lena Younger in A Raisen in the Sun, and Bradford Dillman would be remembered by Streisand fans as J.J. in The Way We Were, or as Captain McKay on The Enforcer. Kind of a mixed bag, but it worked out pretty well.
The special effects... oh dear. I suspect that when the movie came out there was a conversation along these lines: "Bill! What happened? I thought you were doin' the effects? I thought you assigned that to Tom? Tom! Where're the special effects? What? Me? I thought Bill was doin' 'em? Well SOMEBODY was supposed to do them. Oh, ya know what? I think we were gonna work on those during the last week of shooting, cept the night we were doin' 'em we all got stinko on that farmer's moonshine and they kinda slipped through the cracks." So yeah, it's just the fuzzy face and fingers on Bradford Dillman, assuming he did his own fur stunts. And they're kinda pitiful. Vastly inferior to the effects from The Wolf Man, which was almost 30 years older. The shooting locations are excellent, with good outdoor cinematography that includes the Louisiana bayous, and a pretty nifty little rural coffee spot. There're also some excellent exterior shots of rustic old farm houses, and the fancy plantation owned by the ritzy characters, so a pretty good showing on that front. Definitely has some regional flavor to it, even if not all of the actors were local to the area. The soundtrack is exactly what you'd expect from a made for TV movie, with the dramatic drums and/or horns that lead up to all the fade outs, and while it's rather dated and a little silly, it does help to generate suspense from time to time. There's one section in it that reminded me a bit of Planet of the Apes, which I intend as a compliment, even though it implies that there might have been a little plagiarism. Overall, pretty decent for a public domain flick, and one of only a handful that I've given a passing score to up to this point. Kinda slow, but technically sound, and pretty safe for all you weenies out there who wanna shelter your children until they grow up and find out that you'd been lying to them about the real world all their lives. Recommended to fans of the werewolf subgenre, and old folks lookin' to get a nice big whiff of nostalgia.