Divorce is tough on a young boy but that’s nothing compared to the challenge of watching dad become a howling, hair covered, lunatic as depicted in this early seventies hairball that was coughed up by Universal Studios to serve as the second half of a double feature top lined by Dirk Benedict (turning into a cobra) in ‘Sssssss.”
This one wastes no time in treating us to the titular monster. It is glimpsed prowling through the woods near a cabin just as a car pulls up containing newly divorced Robert Bridgestone and his son Ritchie. This is an important getaway as Robert and the Mrs. have just completed a bitter divorce battle.
Ritchie wastes no time tearing at the marriage wound by asking dad if he and mom are ever getting back together. Dad opts to change the subject and offers that they take a walk in the woods before going out for dinner. Dinner is just what the werewolf wants too and he is happy to pounce on Ritchie when he darts ahead of dad. Father comes to the rescue and beats the snot out of the furry intruder with his cane. The wolf man turns out to be part klutz and promptly stumbles off a cliff and is impaled on a sharp hunk of wood.
The Sheriff shows up later to interview dad. Ritchie states it was a werewolf that attacked pop but dad and the law think he’s just a tad overtired. That night dad goes out to start the grill but wanders off when he spies the moon. Ritchie goes looking for him but only finds the monster which chases him through the forest. He eventually finds some cover and bears witness to what happens when weary drivers espy a ferocious werewolf in their headlights.
An elderly couple go off the road and crash and burn while a TV repair truck jack knifes into a tree. Ritchie s subsequently treated to the sight of a werewolf snacking as it rips the poor driver’s arm off and chows down. Ritchie winds up at the trailer of a young couple who take him in for the night. The Sheriff writes off the wreckage as an accident between the two vehicles which, to be fair, is a whole lot more plausible than thinking it could be the work of Lon Chaney, Jr.
Ritchie’s psychiatrist is convinced that the timing of these incidents is going to interfere with his patient’s ability to process mom and dad’s divorce(he sure earned that degree). He suggests that Ritchie spend even more time with dad at the cabin(alright maybe he was a few credits short of earning that license to shrink). He further asks to see Robert in his office . Robert shows up just as the moon is rising so the good news is that those mounting medical bills are about to dead end.
It all boils down to a modern take on Aesop’s Fable as Ritchie tries to convince everyone that dad is a werewolf without hurting his father’s feelings. By the time everyone put two and two together the werewolf has racked up an impressive body count. While this is good news for the viewer it can’t be doing Ritchie’s mental stability any good. It all comes down to a huge posse hunting fur-face through the woods while Ritchie tries to save dad from certain slaughter . A decent time waster .
This is all competently directed by Hollywood monster veteran Nathan Juran(Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman). Juran casts Kerwin Matthews(The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad) as Robert and he does a reasonable job . Best are his scenes with his ex where we see he was a beast about the woman’s revolution and wanted her to stay in the kitchen. George Gaynes(Police Academy and Tootsie) turns up as the ill fated psychiatrist but the best work is the werewolf make-up courtesy of Tom Burman(The Fly). This critter would definitely pass muster alongside Mr. Chaney, Jr.
Universal Studios would release no more double features after this pair. Sort of fitting that the Studio that gave up Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Invisible Man would close up their double feature productions with a wolf man flick.
Best Line: ” We’re not ‘freak’ freaks. We’re freaked out on God.”
Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.