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Herbert L. Strock
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Tony Rivers is a teenager who has a real problem with anger. He's always ready for a fight and explodes at even the slightest provocation. A sequence of unfortunate events lead him to seek help with a psychotherapist, who turns out to be a mad scientist obsessed with the possibilities of reverting man to his animal state. After a few sessions which seem to be helping, brutal animal-like killings begin to occur in the town and Tony fears that he has become ... a werewolf! Although it was made for an extremely low budget by a brand-new production company called American International Pictures, this movie became very successful very quickly. Whether or not somebody actually sat down and figured out that teenagers should be the target audience for movie theatres now that the older folk stayed at home to watch TV is uncertain, but it was definitely a winning formula. Of course, the authority figures at the time were quick to damn the movie, saying it was psychologically damaging the kids who watched it. What a bunch of squares.
The werewolf aspect here is a metaphor for common teenage mood swings, with the anger of Tony being eventually channelled into the beast. There are hints of a darker subtext, particularly in a scene where he watches an attractive, partially-clad female gymnast doing her moves, right before changing into the wolf and attacking her. Overall the movie fails to notice the other similarities between the werewolf myth and adolescence, at least not to the same extent as "Ginger Snaps" or even "Teen Wolf". It tries very hard to be hip to the teenagers of that time, with fifties slang and a completely out-of-place extended music number and dance sequence thrown in. Unfortunately, it isn't really as thrilling or as fun as it really should be in places ... it's quite slow moving, takes a long time to get started and a lot of the scenes in the second half of the movie seem thrown together and lacking in narrative flow. Obviously it isn't perfect (it was given the "Mystery Science Theatre" treatment), but hey -- it's a B-movie.
Michael Landon is a real star in this movie, giving a performance that is both intense and convincing. Rather than setting his sights on movies, from here he went on to become a popular face on television, with major roles in series such as "Bonanza" (for over a decade), "Highway to Heaven", and later starring in "Little House on the Prairie". Nobody else on the cast really stands out, although everyone is competent. Tony's girlfriend is played by Yvonne Lime, who was actually dating Elvis while this movie was being made (how cool can you get?).
The notable writing team here, although originally credited as "Ralph Thornton", were in fact Herman Cohen and Aben Kandel who also wrote the sequels "I Was A Teenage Frankenstein" and "How To Make A Monster", then credited as Kenneth Langtry. Aben Kandel also did some earlier uncredited work on the "Werewolf Of London" screenplay. Unfortunately none of these movies were particularly strong in terms of story or dialogue, but nevertheless they did contribute a great deal to werewolf movie history. Director Gene Fowler Jr made his career in B-movie horrors and westerns, with this being his most well-known work (although "I Married A Monster from Outer Space" has to rank highly).
Werewolf movie fans really have to see this movie, not only because it was so popular and so influential, but because it was one of the most interesting werewolf movies of it's time.
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