DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
THE HOWLING (director/writer: Joe Dante; screenwriters: from the novel by Gary Brandner/John Sayles/Terence H Winkless; cinematographer: John Hora; editors:  Joe Dante/Mark Goldblatt; music:  Pino Donaggio; cast: Dee Wallace (Karen White), Patrick Macnee (Dr George Waggner), Slim Pickens (Sam Newfield), Dennis Dugan (Chris), John Carradine (Erle Kenton), Christopher Stone (R William "Bill" Neill), Robert Picardo (Eddie Quist), Belinda Balaski (Terry), Dick Miller (Walter Paisley), Kevin McCarthy (Fred Francis), Elisabeth Brooks (Marsha), Noble Willingham (Charles Barton), Jim Mckrell (Lew Landers), John Sayles (Mortuary Attendant); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jack Conrad/ Michael Finnell; Avco Embassy; 1981)

 
"One of the rare good werewolf films."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

One of the rare good werewolf films is directed Joe Dante ("Gremlins"/"Piranha"/"Matinee") and co-written by him and John Sayles, as adapted from the novel by Gary Brandner. It's filled with a plethora of funny in-jokes (many of the characters are named after werewolf film directors such as George Waggner, Bill Neill, Fred Francis, Charles Barton and Lew Landers), the make-up for the werewolves was imaginatively created by the 21-year-old Rob Bottin in a groundbreaking fashion, there are plenty of thrills and it offers a winsome blend of suspense and comedy.

Brave LA TV anchorwoman Karen White (Dee Wallace) acts as bait to nab a dangerous psycho sex maniac serial killer, Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo), in an adult book store and becomes traumatized when the police seemingly kill him with rifle shots after he confronts her. Suffering from selective amnesia, recurring nightmares and other problems because of the incident, Karen is encouraged by the eccentric TV talk show New Age therapist, Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee), to join his experimental encounter group, the Colony, and receive therapy with other participants trying to raise-consciousness. Karen goes there with her jock husband Bill Neill (Christopher Stone), and the bizarre place turns out to be a secret society of werewolves that places the couple in grave danger.

Meanwhile Karen's TV producers Chris (Dennis Dugan) and Terry (Belinda Balaski) have been investigating Eddie's background after learning that his body has disappeared from the morgue. It leads to their research on werewolves, as they go to an occult bookshop run by Walter Paisley (Dick Miller), who tells them only silver bullets can kill a werewolf. Karen's co-workers then become her only chance of being rescued.

John Carradine and Slim Pickens do justice to their roles as werewolves, even if both only have small parts. Kevin McCarthy is amusing as the empty suit TV boss.  But the pic's major fault is that there's not much of an emotional connect the viewer can make with the characters, not even with the heroine anchorwoman.

REVIEWED ON 7/5/2013       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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