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Friday, November 5, 2010

The Werewolf (1956) review


Steven Rich (Duncan Marsh), Don Megowan (Sheriff Jack Haines), Joyce Holden (Amy Standish), George Lynn (Dr. Morgan Chambers), Eleanore Tanin (Mrs. Helen Marsh)

Directed by Fred F. Sears

The Short Version: Fascinating B/W werewolf flick is quite possibly the single most original of the form. While nothing spectacular, the plot and lead performance make this well worth seeking out for monster fans.

Duncan Marsh, suffering from amnesia after a car accident, turns into a werewolf whenever he becomes angry or threatened. He's tracked through the mountains by the sheriff and a group of hunters after a man is found butchered outside a bar. Two scientists are also after Duncan in an attempt to kill him before it's learned they are responsible for his condition after injecting him with a radiation serum made from contaminated wolf blood.

Engrossing little minor footnote in werewolf cinema is of special interest in that it's possibly the most unique of all in that this wolf man doesn't change during the full moon, nor do silver bullets come into play. If you make Duncan Marsh angry, you won't like him when he's angry, because that's when he changes into the HULKing lupine marauder. He is also likely the only werewolf to ever skulk around in broad daylight.

Also, aside from the similar THE MAD MONSTER (1942) and 1993's FULL ECLIPSE (about a secret police force made up of officers injected with a serum turning them into full moon crime fighters with superhuman strength), this is one of relatively few movies to feature 'man-made man into wolf' creatures.

In keeping with the formula of dozens of 50's science fiction films that blame atomic power as the catalyst for the horrors wrought against man, science and radiation prove fatal once again in this, the first and only atomic werewolf flick I am aware of. Like the Chaney Jr. character before him, Duncan is a sympathetic man. Where he differs from Larry Talbot is that Duncan changes when threatened and isn't trying to harm anyone. He is the one being pursued, only striking when pushed into a corner.

Campy at times, the originality of the production is commendable while the lead (his first movie) is successful at imbuing the wolf man with a certain degree of pathos. The scene where he runs frantically through the snow country bare footed shows Rich to have been a real trooper. This lycanthrope is truly a walking essay in tragedy. In an auto accident, two scientists pull him from the wreckage and inject him with this experimental serum. Suffering from amnesia, he kills and doesn't know why. Not only are the towns people of Mountaincrest after him, but the very doctors that made him are out for his blood as well.

The movie is well made for the most part, although it veers dangerously into the kitsch-en when the two crazy scientists unspool their wacky plans regarding the alleged fate of mankind. Director Sears was also behind the hugely entertaining EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956) and responsible for the colossal turkey (in more ways than one) that is THE GIANT CLAW (1957). With no howling, wolf bane or poem quoting gypsies in sight, this unique sci-fi/horror werewolf movie is recommended for those seeking something completely different.

This review is representative of the Columbia Icons of Horror Collection: Sam Katzman DVD


I Like Horror Movies said...

Somehow I have missed this one as well, but will be sure to have that remedied soon. You know me and my werewolves V, loved your contributions on TFC, am trying to track each of those down soon!

venoms5 said...

This was a surprisingly engaging movie, if dated. It nonetheless was an interesting approach to the subject matter.

I Like Horror Movies said...

Just finished watching dude, glad you rec'd this one!

venoms5 said...

Way cool, Carl! Glad you liked this one.

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