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Peter Graham Scott
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Herbert L. Strock
This movie is a lot better than the title would lead you to think, and it is in fact a lot better than many of the other monster movies produced in 1957.
At the time this film was made, everybody in the industry knew teenagers liked monster flicks. But this is the first film to actually feature a teen as full-fledged, murderous monster. It seems obvious today, 53 years later, but when the creators of this film had the insight that the adolescent audience actually tended to identify with the monsters as persecuted, misunderstood, misfits, this was a revolutionary moment in cinema.
The screenplay actually does a pretty good job of setting up a plausible troubled teen hero (Michael Landon) with anger-management problems, who is justifiably afraid of his own passions. He is sent to see psychiatrist Whit Bissell, who at first seems to understand our hero, but later turns out to be using him for his own purposes. This fact alone is striking, as psychiatrists and guidance counselors tended to be universally depicted as virtuous advocates of teens in 1950's movies. Within this context, Whit Bissell's character is truly subversive.
The idea of hypnotic regression as means to monster-hood is used here to good effect, anticipating William Hurt in 'Altered States.' Besides the monster reflecting teenage anger, there are also indications that it personifies his sexual energies as well.
This movie was a big hit when 1st released, and it was followed by a wave of teen horror-scifi cinema: Teenage Frankenstein, Teenagers from Outer Space, and Teenage Caveman, to name but a few. Even after the genre quickly eschewed the inclusion of the word 'teenage' from titles, it has continued uninterrupted, alternately waxing and waning, to this very date. Notable entries in recent years include: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the series), the Craft, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, the Vampire Diaries, and of course the Twilight Movies. But while the latter entries are clearly popular among the younger set, they make most adults roll their eyes at the excesses.
Not so for 'Teenage Werewolf.' This is a tight, fast-moving, and unpretentious little movie that does the job quickly and efficiently, and doesn't stare back at you wearing a ton of eye shadow and a stupid blank expression. I recommend this to any fan of old school horror and/or B-movies.
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