Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bad Hair Day: I Was A Teenage Werewolf(1957)

One of my favorite cinematic and TV monsters is the werewolf, also referred to, on occasion, as a "lycanthrope". There have been many films about this beast in cinema: some good and some horrendous. Prior to the decade of the 60's werewolf films were infrequent but among those that were produced a handful are quite good. Werewolf Of London(1935), The Wolfman(1941) & The Werewolf(1956) all provide genuine creeps and decent makeup effects. Another film about lycanthropy, from the 50's, is also a favorite I like to watch on DVD(-R) from time to time: I Was A Teenage Werewolf(1957)(American International Pictures).

The film's story: meet Tony, a likable young high school teenager who might be like any other typical high school student, but isn't. Why? because he has an explosive temper. After Tony's latest skirmish, a fight on the school grounds in which he tries to jack up and beat the daylights out of another student, the high school principal arranges for Tony(played by Michael Landon) to see a psychiatrist(played by Whit Bissell). The psychiatrist attempts to treat Tony for his aggressive behavior, but the result is hardly expected, or desired: Tony becomes a werewolf!

Tony's high school becomes a den of terror as the teenage beast terrifies students and preys on others off the school grounds, which attracts the immediate attention of the police, who obviously become tasked with stopping the creature's attacks on students and the locals.(no other spoilers).

Observations: a surprisingly effective movie, given the "cheese" factor, which is prevalent in so many of the 50's "monster-on-the loose" giant monster and horror films. Michael Landon is terrific as the moody, intense teenager with the temper, and fists, from hell, whose rage is amplified even more by his becoming a lycanthrope. The werewolf makeup effects are decent as Tony's hairy, fanged and bloodthirsty alter-ego understandably scares the hell out of all those unfortunate enough to cross paths with him. The makeup effects include an abundance of hair and generously oversized fangs and brows. The hostility and generally violent temperament of the student-werewolf clearly indicate that it is not interested at all in gym class or home economics. Bottom line: trying to send this student to the principal's office, for not having a hall pass, will definitely get you killed.

The film's trailer: