40 Years of Werewolves
Happy Anniversary to The Howling
April 10, 2021 This is the impact THE HOWLING has had.
There have been plenty of werewolf related films over the years. The Wolfman, Ginger Snaps, Wolf Cop, Dog Soldiers (2002), Cursed, Blood & Chocolate, Late Phases, Bad Moon, Silver Bullet, Teen Wolf, An American Werewolf in London, WolfCop II, Monster Squad, Wolf, Wolfen (1981), The Wolf Man (1941), She-Wolf of London, Underworld, I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Wolf Guy (1975), The Company of Wolves (1984), Frankenstein Meet the Wolf Man (1943), Late Phases (2014)
Everyone from Lon Chaney Jr. playing The Wolf Man in 1941 to Jack Nicholson playing a devilish wolf.
I can name so many more werewolf related films. The first werewolf movie I ever remember watching as a kid was The Howling (1981). I know, I know… I hear things like, “your parents let you watch that.” (My mom is an artist. She has never been a judgmental person. She also never looked at horror movies and said, oh you can’t watch that, that’s horrible.) “How did you sleep?” “Oh my gosh, that’s terrifying.”
Joe Dante even made a few references to other films in The Howling. As soon as you hear that haunting music, you know. You just know The Howling (1981).
The Howling was originally a book written by Gary Brandner and it was released in 1977. The Howling wasn’t hokey or silly. It was this psychologically terrifying movie that also mentioned mental health back in the day. It wasn’t often always talked about. They talk about “repression” and just being free. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Karen and be this television journalist and I grew up with Dee Wallace’s films. She was familiar to so many of us.
The Howling (1981) was originally released on April 10, 1981. Joe Dante directed it and it has an incredible cast. Joe Dante has made some legendary films including: Gremlins, Masters Of Horror, The Burbs, and more. His work is revered and loved. He also cast a lot of the same cast and different films. There is a lot of “werewolf lore” and they even mention different therapy and psychology-based techniques in the movie. They did a few documentary types films about the movie and of course over the years the cast has reunited at a few conventions.
Werewolf lore goes back for many years. It goes back to 2,100 BC. There are different types of werewolves, there are different ways they can change, transform, and become a werewolf. The Howling didn’t use the full moon or any of the hokey things they mention although the moon certainly seems to drive some folks insane. The screenplay was written by John Sayles and Terence Winkless and obviously based on the novel by Gary Brandner.
Susan Arnold was the casting director. I certainly think she made the right choice. The Howling is one of those movies you watch and you can just watch it over and over.
Dee Wallace plays Karen White. She’s being stalked by this creepy guy who everyone thinks is just that, a “creepy guy.” He’s so much more, so much more. They have no idea. Karen is married to Bill played by Christopher Stone. He is this supportive husband who wants to help his wife. Dee Wallace was such a part of my childhood. Movies like, Critters, Cujo, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and so many more incredible films and television shows that even played on some of the wonderful characters she has portrayed. Dee’s portrayal of Karen was brilliant. She is vulnerable and strong. She becomes terrified and you feel her fear in this movie.
Dee Wallace has been in some insane moments in films like Cujo. She takes this character and the scenes to the next level. Karen has a doctor, a psychiatrist, Dr. George Waggner played beautifully and calmly by Patrick Macnee, A View to a Kill, The Avengers. Patrick Macnee plays this doctor as a man who is genuinely trying to help Karen. He tells Karen about “The Colony.” The Colony where you go to get away from repression and you get away from the stresses of everyday life.
I imagine this today would be the beach or some cabin in the woods… no pun intended. We meet Karen’s friends. They also work with Karen and Bill at the television station. Karen is a television reporter and she agrees to meet the creepy guy Eddie, played by Robert Picardo (Innerspace, China Beach, Star Trek: First Contact). But back to Karen’s friends Terry Fisher (Belinda Balaski) and Chris (Dennis Dugan) Belinda also appeared in Gremlins.
Dennis Dugan has been in quite a few films including: Happy Gilmore and Parenthood. Karen and Bill head to The Colony and Terry and Chris investigate Eddie’s life. Karen goes to meet Eddie at a seedy porn shop and he wants to show her his transformation. He’s in this booth that you go in to watch porn. Eddie promises Karen he’s going to “light her whole body.” It’s terrifying. You feel for Dee Wallace. Dick Miller delivers some light moments as Walter Paisley, the werewolf expert. He knows what it takes to kill a werewolf, find a werewolf and that it may not be bullshit.
Belinda and Chris delve into Eddie’s world and they find out all sorts of stuff. Meanwhile at The Colony, Karen and Bill are adjusting to these new people. They meet Marsha (Elisabeth Brooks), Erle Kenton portrayed by the legendary John Carradine (The Ten Commandments, Stagecoach). Sam Newfield is portrayed by Slim Pickens The Getaway, 1941). He’s the lighthearted cop who believes oh, it’s just noises.
Then there’s Donna (Margie Impert), Jerry Warren (James Murtaugh), T.C. Quist played by Don McLeod (Hook, The Man with Two Brains, Trading Places). T.C. is the “blood hound.” No one thinks anything of this. No one thinks anything of any of the strange things happening at The Colony. Eddie also has a brother and sister. Marsha and T.C., and Eddie are siblings. All sibling werewolves who stay at The Colony.
Roger Corman appears in the film along with Mick Garris, Forrest J. Ackerman, Robert A. Burns, Michael Chapman, Robert Hammond, John Jensen, Jonathan Kaplan, Kelli Thompson, and John Sayles who plays the morgue attendant.
The creepy music you hear which is near perfection is by Pino Donaggio and of course the legendary make-up and transformations by Rick Baker. Film Composer Chris Young would share a wonderful Pino Donaggio story with me during an interview for Horrornews.net.
One of the most legendary transformations and the character of Eddie still stands out today. Robert Picardo plays this calm, cool, and collected man who turns into a werewolf. His transformation scene is epic. You hear these cracking sounds, the drool, the towering figure glaring at Terry and then Karen. The transformation seems to go on forever but it’s worth it. Watching him go from this already broken man to this terrifying, towering beast is incredible. The growing of his fingers, his eyes changing, the mouth growing. All this happens while he tells Karen he wants to give her a piece of his mind. Karen is mind-boggled and overwhelmed. Eddie isn’t just a werewolf but he’s a killer. Some would say a serial killer. He’s embraced killing.
She finds her friend Terry dead. She has been traumatized and her husband has also been bitten by wily Marsha who doesn’t give a sh*t. They call her a nymphomaniac. She walks around with a look that someone like Angelina Jolie and Morticia Addams would love.
The Howling is the only film I believe I’ve seen Elisabeth Brooks in but she’s also been in The Six Million Dollar Man, The Forgotten One, and Deep Space. She sadly passed away on September 7, 1997.
The creepy symbol of the smiley face sticker also became another part of The Howling. Every time I see a smiley face sticker, I think of The Howling.
One of the most terrifying and memorable scenes is when Terry finds the Quist cabin. Something is lurking outside and Terry is so terrified and you genuinely want her to get out of there.
Joe Dante has put Dick Miller in all of his movies. Walter says: “We get ‘em all: sun-worshippers, moon-worshippers, Satanists. The Manson family used to hang around and shoplift. Bunch of deadbeats.” He says all of this very nonchalant. If you watch Unleashing The Beast: The Making of The Howling. They talk about the making of the movie and different scenes and where it was filmed.
The music, the lighting and the darkness made everything scary. It made the anticipation for the werewolves so intense. The music sets up a lot of the mysterious scenes, the scary scenes and these light, calm scenes.
The Howling took a different route and it worked. They don’t do this everyday sort of oh, this is going to be this silly movie. The werewolves turn because they’ve been bitten or as they say, it is a better life. The way they live is better.
Rob Bottin also did the special effects makeup. I went on Twitter and asked what werewolf movies people love. Wolf starring Jack Nicholson was one of the picks.
The end of the movie is crazy. What they decide to do is unique because you think, would they really do this? They try to hide everything in the world. If you haven’t seen the film, I won’t spoil the ending.
There have been sequels and of course other werewolf films over the years including: Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf, The Howling III, The Howling: Reborn, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare, Howling VI: The Freaks, Howling V: The Rebirth. The Howling II: … Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1985) was the sequel directed by Phillippe Mora and again based on Gary Brandner’s book. Robert Sarno also has a writing credit. Christopher Lee, Annie McEnroe, and Sybil Danning starred in the film.
The argument about the transformations still goes on. Is it An American Werewolf in London or The Howling? They are both great! The Howling feels like it will always be a go-to movie to watch if you do love werewolves. Happy 40th Anniversary to THE HOWLING