I’m…a Werewolf: Teen Wolf (1985)

Let’s see, we’ve done teen zombies with Thriller, teen vampires with Once Bittenwhat are we missing? Oh yes:teenwolf

I’m… a werewolf.

So you are probably wondering why I didn’t review this film two years ago when my Horrorfest III was obsessed with werewolves. I wanted to, but didn’t have enough time.

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So instead I am doing it now as it seems fitting with all my other teen films I have done so far. So this film was Michael J. Fox’s first non-TV film. The only reason he was able to make it, was because filming was delayed by his TV mom, Meredith Baxter’s pregnancy. However, this film came out after Back to the Future even though he made it first. And even though people liked this film, Back to the Future became the monster hit of the year.

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But while people loved this film, this was actually Michael J. Fox’s least favorite film. He disliked it so much he declined being in the sequel Teen Wolf Too. Instead going on to do The Secret of My Success, Bright Lights Big City, and of course Back to the Future: Part II.

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I have to agree with Michael J. Fox, while I don’t hate it, it isn’t my favorite of his work. I mean we all know what that is…

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Okay, enough with The Back to the Future references, let’s move on to Teen Wolf!

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So this film takes the idea from I Was a Teenage Werewolf but steers away from the darker tones and tries to focus on what teen life would be like with instead of puberty, you turn into a werewolf.

This film also came out during a cycle of werewolf films, such as: An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, etc.

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So the film starts off with Scott Howard’s (Michael J. Fox) basketball game. Scott is not the best player and not popular, more on the geeky side.

As if Clueless

I know, an uncool Michael J. Fox?

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It seems impossible to me. But this is acting, sometimes we pretend to be the opposite of what we are.

So moving on. So he’s horrible at basketball, the most popular girl in school won’t say two words to him, he is bullied, etc. And to top it all off his body has been going through some…changes.

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First he growls during the basketball game

Then he finds a super long hair on his chest, hair on his hands, pointy ears, wolf teeth, and during a two minutes in heaven at a party he grows crazy long nails and scratches up his best friend, who is secretly in love with him and he is totally oblivious to), Boof.

What?

What?

Yes, that is her name. She was named after the writer’s friend from high school. Anyways, he soon learns from his dad what is causing this.

I liked the transformation scene it was pretty creepy looking, good job makeup guys. I thought the make up was cool too, sort of similar to I Was a Teenage Werewolf but longer hair.

I was a teenage werewolf

Scott decides to let his best friend know about him being a werewolf, and his friend Stiles (Jerry Levine [you might recognize him as Jamie in Casual Sex] who doesn’t freak out but decides that they could profit from this if done right. Yes, in this werewolf’s don’t act bestial and attack, the full moon doesn’t come into play, and no one screams in terror or tries to kill him; instead the Horwards can control it, most of the time. And unlike most horror or werewolf films; Michael J. Fox spends most of the film in werewolf makeup.

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Most werewolf films is either split fifty-fifty, or under fifty. And of you think of it, most werewolf films focus on how the person’s life is affected, trying to stop it, the carnage that comes of it; not how you could profit from it or being a werewolf almost 24 hours a day. Yes, this is a very different concept.

I'm in shock

I’m in shock

So everything comes to a head when during one of the games he fully voges into a werewolf.

We then see how being the wolf is bettering his life. He is a better basketball player

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I know I thought it was weird too, but then again they did do the same thing in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992). After the guys were bit by vampires, they suddenly became extremely good at basketball. I guess being a supernatural being makes you good at sports.

Who knew?

Who knew?

He becomes super popular, Stiles selling all kinds of merchandise and products. It makes him smarter as he starts getting A’s in his classes, everyone loves him and wants his autograph, and the the most popular girl in school starts wanting to be with him.

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In fact, one of the weirdest nonsensical scenes involves the most popular girl in school, Pamela. Scott has been asked to be in the school play, a play that was previously just Pamela and the director, and she comes on to Scott. At first the scene starts off with her in her bra and panties, and then she takes her bra off. We cut away to hear Scott howling, so it is safe to assume they had sex. After this they go on a date and her boyfriend Mick is there and angry at Scott for being with his woman. When Scott talks to Pamela about it, she says:

Pamela: Well, you can’t really blame him. He is my boyfriend.

Well then why were you messing with Scott?

What?

What?

When Scott asks her the same thing, she says that it was then and just something that happens.

Say What

And she legit does not get why Scott is confused. If you ask me, she and the school drama teacher were probably doing some stuff backstage. I mean otherwise why was the school production a production of one and why did he cast such a horrible actress as the lead?

Mmhm great gatsby

So the film instead of being a werewolf film, actually becomes a teen film about a person getting too much fame and losing who they are; turning on their friends and the people who really care about him. He hardly spends time with Boof and keeps having “cooler” things to do then help out with his father’s hardware store.

Scott Howard: I was with Stiles this afternoon.

Harold Howard: I know.

Scott Howard: You saw?

Harold Howard: Yeah, I saw, unless that was another werewolf doing a handstand on top of Stiles’ wolfmobile and making a fool of himself.

I think that is one of the things that made me dislike the film. We had a werewolf but not a real one; instead a drama about teenagers that could have been done without the transformation scenes.

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Although I did think the van surfing scene was cool.

So everything comes to a head when they go to the school dance. First Scott starts off as the wolf, but goes back to being plain old Scott; switching back to the wolf when instigated into a fight. The rage and anger he has at the other student scares him and makes him wonder at his ability. Can he hold it together, or will he become like the other wolfmen?

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He also is struggling with who he should be, another teen element and not real horror one. Should he be what everyone wants? The wolf? Or should he be true to his heart and be himself?

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It is time for the final game, and Scott decides to be himself instead of the wolf. In Karate Kid fashion (but not as good) we have a montage of the basketball game with Scott scoring the final basket and finally coming to terms with who he is.

So there is Teen Wolf. It isn’t horrible, but just regurgitates a lot of teen films clichés and tosses in werewolves. It also had a lot of montages and drags in a quite a few places. It also is weird placing it in a genre; it’s too serious to be a comedy, but too serious to be a drama, and it doesn’t really contain the typology of a horror film. Its a bit mish-mash and will be either be a hit for you or just meh.

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But whether you love or hate the film, there is one thing we can all agree on: Michael J. Fox is the BEST!

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To start Horrorfest V from the beginning, go to Who You Gonna Call?: Ghostbusters (1984)

For the previous post, go to We’ve Seen Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein’s Monster: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

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For more werewolf films, go to Beast or Man: The Wolfman (2010)

For more Michael J. Fox, go to Portrait of a Fangirl

For more ’80s films, go to I Don’t Want to Be a Vampire. I’m a Day Person: Once Bitten (1985)

For more teen films, go to I’m the Chosen One. And I Choose to be Shopping: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

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Even a Man Pure of Heart: The Wolf Man (1941)

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“Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” 

This is such an amazing film as the story is excellent, the acting superb (Lon Chaney Jr. + Claude Rains). It is also a member of Universal’s Classic Monster Movie Collection, its buddies being The Phantom of the OperaFrankenstein,  The Bride of FrankensteinThe MummyDracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc. And this post means that I have finally, finally finished the list I set out to complete two years ago.

But what really makes this a spectacular film is that many of the modern myths of werewolves were originated in this film: such as a person becoming a werewolf through a bite; the only way to kill a werewolf is with a silver bullet; and changing into one during a full moon. These are all original concepts created by writer Curt Siodmak. Isn’t that amazing! Like The Mummy and The Creature from the Black Lagoon this film isn’t based on a book or any specific resource, which allowed the writers a lot of leeway in their work and creations.

So this isn’t the first werewolf film, as that was The Werewolf of London, which actually did rather poorly in theaters. This was the second werewolf horror film to be made and become the most famous. All the later depictions such as: The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Van Helsing, The Wolfman (2010), etc.looked to it in creating their stories.

So the film was originally written for Boris Karloff, but he turned it down. And although I love that man [read my The Mummy (1932), Frankensteinor The Bride of Frankenstein post] I can’t imagine this film being as amazing with him as the title role. Lon Chaney Jr. was just superb. Lon Chaney Jr, was the son of the famous Lon Chaney (who I talk about in my Phantom of the Opera post) and interestingly the set that was used to film this movie was the same used for The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) which starred Lon Chaney Jr.’s  father, Lon Chaney.

Unlike other films, The Wolf Man is the only Universal monster to be played by the same actor in all his 1940s film appearances; Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and  Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

Now I love this movie and story but it is soooo sad as well. Here is a wonderful man pure of heart, who has the unfortunate luck of being bitten by a werewolf and can’t do anything to stop it. Unlike modern movies where the person can control it, change at will, etc; in the original when the man transformed into a wolf he literally transformed into becoming a beast and losing all his humanistic thought, reasoning, etc.

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So the film starts out with Lon Chaney Jr. as Lawrence Talbot returning home.

Look at this sweetheart

Look at this sweetheart

His older brother has died, and as he is the second son he will now inherit everything–money, title, family home, etc. More importantly, after the realization that his brother is no longer, Lawrence AKA Larry, is eager to rebuild his relationship with his father. They had previously parted on not the best terms (he wanted to be an engineer his father wanted him to be something else. He decided to run away to California, against his father’s wishes).

Larry reacquaints himself with the village, taking a deep interest in a particular shopkeeper, Gwen Conliffe, who is unfortunately engaged. However, she is equally interested and as Larry buys a silver-wolf handled cane the two make a date to meet up later that night and visit the gypsies that are camping nearby.

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  That night Larry meets up with Gwen and her friend Jenny. The three make off to the gypsies passing some wolfsbane along the way. Both girls repeat the old gypsy folklore about wolfsbane:

Even a man who is pure in heart

and says his prayers by night

may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms

and the autumn moon is bright

Now what is really interesting about this old piece of folklore is that it isn’t that old. This quote has been thought to be an Eastern European folk saying, but Siodmak admits that he was the one who made it up. Even though that might be true, it went  down in film history becoming a part of almost every future Werewolf film and recited in every future Universal film appearance of the Wolf Man. [It is quoted by Van Helsing, but one of the lines was changed to “The moon is shining bright” instead of “The autumn moon is bright“]

Meanwhile, in the gypsy camp one of them has a terrible secret. Bela, played by Bela Lugosi, is actually a werewolf and hiding it from everyone.

Mal_huh Whoa Wow

When the group gets to the gypsy camp and have their fortunes read, Bela sees the pentagram on Jenny’s hand and knows that she’s next for death.

Ahhh!

Ahhh!

 

Bela runs off and the trio start walking home. Soon Jenny is attacked by a wolf and Larry tries to save her. He wrestles with the wolf and kills it by braining it with his cane. (It being silver can kill it) Unfortunately, he couldn’t save Jenny and during the battle, he ended up getting bit…

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Making him the next werewolf.

AAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

AAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The next day the constable comes to visit, causing Larry to second guess himself as they found a dead Bela instead of a wolf!

Say What

They found Bela beat in the head, and Larry’s silver cane matches perfectly as the weapon.

Col. Paul Montford, chief constable: [showing Larry’s stick to him] Is this your walking stick?

Larry Talbot: Why, yes. That’s the stick I killed the wolf with.

[Sir John Talbot and Col. Montford look at Larry with great concern]

Sir John Talbot: Larry, Bela the gypsy was killed last night. Your walking stick was found next to the body.

Larry Talbot: You mean, Bela the fortune teller? But… I only saw a wolf.

Larry is completely confused as he knows that it was a wolf. And how does that explain the murder of Jenny? Which was done by a wolf? The constable tells him he is still investigating as he really doesn’t want to arrest the Lord’s son, especially since there are so many questions. He ultimately deems the incident an accident.

Larry on the other hand is extremely puzzled. Could he have killed Bela? But he saw a wolf he was bit by one. Except the mark can not be found!

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Larry needs answers and decides he will go see the Gypsy woman and not only apologize for her son’s death but ask her what is going on! Gwen and her fiancé Frank go with him.

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The gypsy woman, Maleva reveals that he did kill a wolf–a werewolf. Her son Bela was a werewolf and the only thing that could kill him was silver, silver like the silver on his cane.

Maleva: You killed the wolf.

Larry Talbot: Well, there’s no crime in that is there?

Maleva: The wolf was Bela.

Larry Talbot: You think I don’t know the difference between a wolf and a man?

Maleva: Bela turned into a wolf and you killed him. A werewolf can only be killed by a silver bullet, or a silver knife…[looks down at Larry’s walking stick]…or a stick with a silver handle.

Larry Talbot: You’re insane! I tell you, I killed a wolf! A PLAIN, ORDINARY WOLF!!!

Maleva: Whoever is bitten by a werewolf and lives becomes a werewolf himself.

Larry Talbot: Ah, don’t hand me that. You’re just wasting your time.

Maleva: The wolf bit you, didn’t he?

Larry Talbot: Yeah. Yeah he did!

Maleva: [Larry shows Maleva his chest wound concealed under his shirt] Go now – and heaven help you!”

 

Larry of course doesn’t believe her and leaves. That night he transforms into the WEREWOLF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now the transformation was laborious. The makeup took six hours and was the design by  Jack Pierce  for Henry Hull in Werewolf of London Hull had rejected it as he didn’t like how long the process would be to apply it. Chaney Jr. claimed he had to sit motionless for hours as the scenes were shot frame by frame. Pierce used grease paint, a rubber snout, wigs, and glued layers of yak hair to Chaney Jr.’s face. Larry’s dissolve transformation on screen only took seconds, while in actuality it took almost ten hours as they had to keep reapplying layers for the changing fur.

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That night the Wolf Man attacks a grave-digger, Richardson.

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The constable and the Doctor finds his ravaged body and wolf tracks.

Meanwhile, Larry finds himself in bed with wolf tracks all around and has finally decided that the gypsy women must be telling him the truth. He talks to his father who just thinks that he is in shock and doesn’t take any of the “werewolf nonsense” seriously. He even calls the doctor who deems it just a mild form of hysteria.

The Constable and doctor prepare the woods to catch the wolf so that it doesn’t kill another person. The nigh as Larry as the Wolf Man  steps in one of the traps and gets caught. Luckily the Gypsy woman frees him, as she had  felt sorry for his predicament.

Larry transforms back into a human and asks the Gypsy woman and for help. She gives him a charm that will protect him from turning into a werewolf and warns him not to give the charm to ANYONE ELSE AS IT WON’T WORK FOR ANYONE ELSE!

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He then runs off to see Gwen to tell her that he is leaving. He knows he has killed the others and doesn’t want to hurt anyone else.

“Larry Talbot: You wouldn’t wanna run away with a murderer wouldja?

Gwen Conliffe: Oh Larry, you’re not. You know you’re not.

Larry Talbot: I killed Bela. I killed Richardson. If I stay here any longer, you can’t tell who’ll be next.”

Gwen tries to get him to take her with him as she loves him, but Larry sees the mark of the pentagram on her hand and tells her he can’t. Instead he gives her the charm. YES THE CHARM  THAT IS ONLY SUPPOSED TO PROTECT HIM! Really Larry? REALLY??????!!!!!!

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YOU ARE MAKING THE  SAME FREAKIN’ MISTAKE THAT EVERY OTHER MONSTER FILM HERO DOES!

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DID YOU NOT HEAR THE WOMAN EARLIER? SHE SAID IT WILL WORK ONLY FOR YOU! ONLY FOR YOU!! ONLY YOU!!! YOU KEEP IT! What’s the point of going to a gypsy for help if you ARE NOT GOING TO LISTEN????!!!!!!! I mean this is such a classic mistake made by these men in these horror films. In Dracula, he gives the girl the cross charm that is supposed to protect only him, and then gets knocked out and is unable to keep her from being kidnapped. In The Mummy, he gives the girl the charm that is only supposed to protect him, and it doesn’t work for her. Instead Imohtep knocks him out and takes the girl anyway. MORAL OF THESE STORIES, KEEP THE DANG CHARM!!! DON’T GIVE IT AWAY!!! Alright! So if any of you are given a protective charm you freakin’ keep it!!! YOU HEAR ME????!!!!

And now that I got that little rant out of my system, let’s get back to the story.

So Larry goes to see his father and asks him to lock him up; tie him up in a chair, lock the door, etc and to go far, far, away as he doesn’t want him to be hurt. He also gives his father his silver cane as he knows that it will protect him.

Now this is why I hate modern interpretations of werewolves, except for The Wolfman (2010), as they never capture this aspect of the story. Here is a good man who has become evil, but he doesn’t want to be evil. It wasn’t like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which Dr. Jekyll made a choice, or even The Phantom of the Opera where he suffered such horrible things and had a complete snap and broke down. This was a good man who wanted to fix bad things in his life but the timing was off and he too is caught up in the evil. Modern interpretations also never cover the heartbreaking scene as this with his dad. He knows he can’t control the evil and the last thing he does is try to protect the ones he loves, first Gwen and then his father. The most emotional is the scene with his father, as here is a man he has been fighting with, had a horrible relationship, but you see in this moment how much love he has for his father. He gives him the cane as he wants his father to be safe, no matter what. And you see how much his father loves him by taking the cane, even though he thinks Larry is delusional.

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Gwen is worried about Larry and goes looking for him, running into the woods even though the Gypsy warns her not to. I mean seriously, why don’t we listen to the Gypsies? They are gypsies, they know stuff.

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So Gwen runs out and into Larry, who has escaped from his room. But instead of the sweet, adorable, loving Larry we are confronted by the horrible beast.

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But before the werewolf can do anything, Sir John comes and hits him with the cane, killing him.

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The constable and doctor presume that Larry was killed trying to save Gwen, but Sir John knows the truth and now is left alone and has to bury his other son.

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Maleva: The way you walked was thorny though no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Now you will have peace for eternity.”

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Yep. I have to say that this is one of my all-time favorite horror films. Although it makes me want to cry every time. 

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So that was our kick-off piece. Stay tuned for many more wonderful pieces to come!

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For more on The Wolf Man (1941), go to Pink Elephants

For more on werewolves, go to A Halloween Hello from the Austen Men

For more monster movies, go to They’re Coming to Get You Barbara

For more on Claude Rains, go to Universal’s Classic Monster Movies

For more on Bela Lugosi, go to I Bid You Welcome

For more films that spanned countless sequels and remakes, go to Everyones Entitled to One Good Scare