Monday, November 24, 2008

Long In The Tooth: The Werewolf(1956)

There are a lot of horror movies from the 1950's and 1960's that were made on modest(or less than modest) budgets and have "flown under the radar", so to speak. One of the purposes of this blog is to promote these kinds of movies which, despite their budget limitations, provide a better than average return of entertainment value. One such film I believe does exactly that is The Werewolf, released in 1956, directed by Fred Sears and starring a then unknown actor named Steven Ritch in the title role.

The film's story: a lone man enters a small town's bar, disoriented and clearly traumatized. He seeks solace from a glass of whiskey and the warmth of a nearby fireplace but neither work. After departing the bar he is assaulted by a burly, and greedy bar patron-their scuffle ends up in a dark alley where the bar patron is killed, his throat slashed, the killer fleeing into the woods. Subsequently, another man is attacked in the neighboring woods, which prompts a manhunt for the killer, who has left some strange footprints in the snow. Meanwhile, two men, scientists, enter town looking for the killer as well. The killer is in fact one Duncan Marsh, an average, everyday guy who, we learn, was injured in an auto accident, "rescued" by the two scientists, and injected with a mysterious serum which causes Marsh to transform into a very hostile werewolf. Marsh, now hunted by both the law and the two scientists, seeks refuge in the surrounding countryside and woods outside the town limits. Marsh's wife and son arrive and help the sheriff coax him out from hiding. While in a jail cell the two scientists responsible for Marsh's condition secretly enter his cell(after knocking out the deputy), only to be surprised by the werewolf, not Marsh! The werewolf immediately preys on and kills both scientists, then escapes into the woods once more...(no spoilers).

Observations: This movie is a solid, creepy affair. Marsh is a very sympathetic character, a father and husband who through no fault of his own has had his life altered, irreparably as it turns out, by two nefarious and unethical scientists. The surrounding woods and rugged terrain used for many of this movie's shots adds to the creepy tone of the film, which is shot in black and white. The use of shadows is also expertly done, especially the "alley" skirmish at the beginning of the movie, and the scene where the two scientists sneak into Marsh's cell, thinking(incorrectly) that he is still Marsh. Duncan Marsh himself comes across as a genteel, sensitive fellow when not the beast. Give actor Steven Ritch credit for conveying these things about the character, which adds a tragic element to the man he plays in this movie.

This film used to appear on AMC's Monsterfest, though I have not seen it on this cable channel in recent years. After what seemed like an eternity this film has been officially released to Region 1 DVD as part of the Icons Of Horror Collection-Sam Katzman DVD set. Here's the link to this DVD set for sale at

For any fans of horror, especially those fans of werewolves, who have not seen this movie I highly recommend this melancholy and creepy classic!