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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Werewolf Impossible or Disco Werewolf

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Anyone who wants to do a historical sweep of the werewolf movie genre will find themselves traversing a Grand-Canyon like terrain of possibilities. Starting in the 1930's and stretching for nearly two decades, werewolf movies are in abundance. Granted, most of them are produced by the same studio and feature the same character, Lon Chaney Jr.'s Wolf Man, but there is plenty of material to work with. Likewise, from about 1980 through early 2000, there was a remarkable output of werewolf films, a number of which we will be viewing later.

However, like it is in so many other ways, the decade of the 1970's is a cultural wasteland when it comes to werewolf movies. And so we are left with one 70's werewolf movie, The Scream of The Wolf, a made-for-television flick made in 1974 and starring Peter Graves and Clint Walker.

Graves (John Wetherby) is a retired game hunter who is recruited out of retirement by a local sheriff to help track a wolf-like animal that is terrorizing a small California town. At the scenes of the terrors, cops and hunters alike are baffled by two things: the tracks surrounding the victims change from four-footed tracks to two-footed tracks before disappearing altogether, and search dogs can't keep the scent of the predator because the scent keeps changing.

Wetherby tries to recruit his old friend and colleague, Byron Douglas (played by Walker), but the creepy and enigmatic Byron refuses. As the story unfolds (somewhat like a ceral box statuette), we come to know Byron as a menacing figure who travels the world hunting dangerous animals, nearly escaping death himself on a regular basis. He has, in fact, been bitten by a wolf. Hmmmmm.

The movie plays upon the most obvious pieces of werewolf legend without actually appropriating it. You get shots of a full moon, the brief mention of Byron's wolf-bite, and an off-handed joke about silver bullets. But the movie isn't really about a werewolf; it's about Wetherby and Byron, their tarnished friendship, and the different paths their lives have taken. Wetherby has quit hunting and settled down to write a book, while Byron continues to hunt, driven by the conviction that the animals he kills are never more alive than the moment before he kills them; he's doing them a favor. Would that people could feel so alive. Hmmmmmm.

Scream of The Wolf really doesn't merit much more attention than I've already given it. Nostalgia requires me to point out the film's akward mechanics, like the never-ending and unsteady super-up-close-pan shots (you can almost hear the director: "Pan in on Peter's face! Pan in on Clint's face! Pan in on the handshake! Hold it there guys--pan in! Pan in!"). And that is as technically sophisticated as the movie gets; you never see a werewolf, and you--thankfully--never see a victim.

And in addition to the dun-dun-dun!! pan shots, you get wa-wa pedals and disco beats at the beginning, middle, and end of the movie. Add that to Graves' sweet burgundy Corvette, and you have the makings of a swanky 70's thriller--just not a werewolf movie.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 5:49 AM


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