I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)

I Was A Teenage Werewolf title

Directed by Gene Fowler Jr.

Written by Herman Cohen and Aben Kandel

Tagline: "The most amazing motion picture of our time!"

Run Time: 76 min

Other titles: "Blood of the Werewolf "


Before I watch a movie, I feel it is very important to do a little background research first. It is far too easy to take an old "B-movie", watch it, and say "Man! That movie was stupid!" If a viewer knew a little bit more about the ‘zeitgeist’ when the film was made, a deeper understanding and possibly appreciation can be engendered. Ok, yes, a movie can still be bad and corny, no matter how much you peek into its past, but at least it can be seen in the context of its creation and release.

This extra research is especially important when seeing films from the 1950’s and 1960’s. Needless to say, the mindset of the public, and the way of life were very different. (Don’t ask me: I wasn’t alive then! I’ll just take my parent’s words for it.) Interests, past times, technology, dreams, desires, everything centered around a different set of life style and values than they do today. These differences are obviously reflected in the films of those times.

One important difference was the immense leaps in space technology that we have made since these films were first made. It is easy to laugh at the ridiculous concepts proposed in "space" films of that era (for example, the ability to walk around on the surface of Mars with just nose plugs), but the viewer must remember that most of these films were made years before the first man walked on the moon! People just didn’t know what it was really like out there, so the filmmakers took liberties in their films in order to make the film "work" and advance the plot: Liberties that if taken today would make the a laughingstock!

Another important trend that took place just after World War 2, was the baby-boom. Millions of soldiers returned to civilian life, and unsurprisingly, immediately started families. These "baby-boomers" grew up in an era of unparalleled economic prosperity. Never before had the "average" working class family such a large amount of disposable income. This extra money trickled down to the teenagers, who could suddenly afford cars, motorcycles, and, something the filmmakers did not fail to notice: the teenagers had a pile of money to spend at the movies!

I Was A Teenage Werewolf PosterIn order to lure the teenagers to the movies, the film makers created "teen" movies, specifically targeted at the teenagers, dealing with "teen" issues: Isolation, alienation, and of course: rebellion. Teenage rebellion was introduced to the public for the first time in the 1950’s with motorcycles, rock-n-roll parties, leather jackets and so on. In addition, the movies also began to star teenagers (or at least actors that looked young enough to pass as teenagers). These famous icons included James Dean in "Rebel Without A Cause" (1955), Marlon Brando in "The Wild One" (1953), and of course Elvis Presley, gyrating his hips to the horror of all the parent’s, in "Jailhouse Rock" (1957) and "King Creole" (1958).

Our feature presentation, "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" was the first of the "teenage monster" movies. Preceding all the others, it was a huge success: Shot in only 7 days and costing $82,000, it raked in over $2,000,000 in the first 2 weeks! The writer and director of the movie, Herman Cohen, capitalizing on the anger, alienation, and rebellion that teenagers felt at the time, had hit the jackpot.

Michael LandonMichael Landon, in his first starring role, plays the teenage werewolf, Tony Rivers (although he was 21 at the time). After starring in this smash hit, Landon went on to star in a western called "The Legend of Tom Dooley" (1959). He was approached later that year to star in a TV pilot called "Restless Gun", which changed its name to "Bonanza" when it was picked up by the networks in 1959. After 14 years of playing "Little Joe" Cartwright on Bonanza, Michael Landon had become a household name. (Landon was terribly embarrassed about his role in this film, and it wasn’t until much later that he could look fondly back on it with a bit of humor.)

Riding on the success of "I Was a Teenage Werewolf", the monster movie makers begin to crank out other "teenage" monster movies. Often of dubious quality, these films would almost always feature the word "Teenage" in the title, in order to lure their target audience to the theaters. Such titles include (among others):

I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957)
Teenage Caveman (1958)
I Was a Teenage Doll (1958)
Teenage Monster (1958)
Teenagers From Outer Space (1959)
Teenage Zombies (1959)

This particular movie is not your normal werewolf movie. There is no full moon to trigger a transformation, rather the werewolf is brought out by hypnosis and an experimental serum. There are also no silver bullets, since he is gunned down by normal pistols at the end of the film. Actually, the monster in this movie reminds me more of the caveman in the 1980 William Hurt film "Altered States", another film where a mental regression to our "primitive beginnings" actually brings about a physical transformation! However, the title "I Was A Teenage Werewolf" certainly had a ‘bite’ to it, and the rest is history.

So yes, this movie is corny (a werewolf walking around in a high-school jacket!), and the, er, science proposed to us is dubious at best (man has descended from werewolves?!) , but this film paved the way for all the other corny, teenage-exploitation monster movies that followed: Films that have given "bad movie" lovers so much joy over the years.

Enjoy the show!

The Cast:

Michael Landon Tony Rivers (Michael Landon)

The alienated, hot tempered youth. Quick to throw dairy products when irritated, Tony is manipulated and exploited by Dr. Brandon leading to a tragic end.

Barney Phillips Det. Sgt. Donovan (Barney Phillips)

The good-hearted detective that tries to save Tony from himself. Patient and kind, he unknowingly refers Tony to the sinister Dr. Brandon in order to get psychological help. Ironically, he is the man who has to kill the werewolf in the end.

Yvonne Lim Arlene Logan (Yvonne Lime)

Tony’s caring and naive girlfriend ("Wow! This party is really percolating!"). At the time of the film’s making, Yvonne was the real-life girlfriend of an up-and-coming entertainer named Elvis Presley. Elvis would often come to the sets to visit her.

Whit Bissell Dr. Brandon (Whit Bissell)

Aircraft plant psychologist and mad scientist. Realizing that man is on a course to self-destruction, he decides to regress the human race back to its primordial roots: Werewolves! Long on ambition, but a little short on logic, he creates the werewolf and seals his doom in the process.

Vladimir Sokoloff Pepe (Vladimir Sokoloff)

The friendly police station janitor from the Carpathian Mountains. An expert on werewolves since he is from the, er, "Old Country", Pepe uses his esteemed position as janitor in order to see police files whenever he wants to.

Rockdale High SchoolThe film opens with a scene at "Rockdale High School". The day is sunny, and we hear kids screaming and shouting. The camera pans over to a group of kids standing in a circle watching 2 boys have a fist fight. One of the boys is of course Tony Rivers (Michael Landon), and Tony is getting his butt kicked. The kids punch and throw each other around a bit (contrast this fighting to the way people settle disputes today: pulling guns) and the other kids root for their perspective favorites ("Go Jimmy!", "Give it to ’em, Tony!", etc.) A police siren grows louder and louder and the kids disperse as a police car arrives on the scene to break up the fight. Two cops get out of the car (One of them, Detective Donovan, is in a 3-piece suit! Those were the days!) and try to get to the bottom of the argument.

It turns out that Tony is the one that wanted to fight, even though Jimmy is much bigger than him and even apologized over what really was an innocent mistake (Jimmy slapped Tony on the back, or something. Tony freaked out and wanted to fight). Donovan has had run-ins with Tony before and realizes that he’s quite the hot-head. Donovan, being the cool cop that he is, isn’t going to make a big deal about the scuffle in his "report", but nonetheless, the school principal will have to hear about it. Furthermore, he wants the boys to shake hands because it will "look better in the report" (??). Tony and Jimmy shake hands and Jimmy walks off.

Detective DonovanDonovan has a few words with Tony before he leaves. He points out that Tony is too much of a hot-head, and too suspicious of other people. (See Classic Lines) Donovan also points out that he’s had to break up fights involving Tony 3 times in the last month alone, and even mentions a horrible act of violence in a super-market that Tony was involved with. (See Classic Lines again) Donovan, turning into the good-cop now, tells Tony that he needs to seek help or he’s going to end up in serious trouble. (Like what? Turn into a werewolf, for example?) Tony seems open to the offer and Donovan tells him about a "prominent doctor", Doctor Brandon, "a consulting psychologist out at the aircraft plant" (!?). If those credentials don’t convince you to seek his help, then I don’t know what would! It turns out that Brandon does a lot of work with troubled teens, and just might be able to help Tony overcome his hot temper. It turns out that Brandon is a "modern" doctor and uses hypnosis to help the kids adjust. Tony balks at the idea of seeing a shrink, despite Donovan’s efforts to convince him otherwise. Well, being the rebellious teenager, Tony stalks off while Donovan warns him that next time the police get involved…he’s in big trouble!

Tony’s girlfriend Arlene is waiting for him in the bleachers. She asks if he’s OK, to which he starts shouting at her to mind her own business. Tony quickly apologizes and blames it on his temper (Dude, get some help already). He explains to Arlene that Donovan wants him to go to a psychologist and he aint having none of it! Arlene bats her eyes a bit and sticks her chest out a little and Tony changes his mind. He grudgingly agrees to give Dr. Brandon a try, but only if he can do it "his way." Mmmmkay.

Tony's DadBack at home, Tony’s dad says that the principal has called and said that Tony has been in another fight. He exposits that Tony’s behavior has gotten worse and worse since his mother died, and he is just cruising for big trouble some day. He further tries to explain to his son that he just has to try and get along with other people, telling a story about himself as an example. You see, he works in a factory with a jerk for a boss and "..everytime I put a motor together he beefed!" (Um..I don’t want to know how somebody ‘beefs’, thank you very much.) He sums up this strange analogy by saying "Tony, sometimes you just have to do it the other fella’s way." Well, as any rebellious 1950’s teenager knew, that just aint going to happen! Well, daddy has to get back to the factory before the boss starts ‘beefing’ again. He tells Tony that there’s some lamb chops in the fridge he can eat and to "not eat them raw like you did the hamburger last night." (!) When his dad leaves, Tony takes out a bottle of milk and smashes it against the wall! (Is this what you call a ‘dairy intolerance’? Sorry couldn’t resist. By the way, do you remember glass bottles of milk?! You do? You’re getting old….)

Later that night, Tony arrives at Arlene’s house to pick her up for a date. He doesn’t bother going to the door, but rather honks the horn a few times from the curb. Arlene’s ‘square’ parents don’t particularly like Tony, and wish that she would date somebody different, but Arlene sticks up for Tony, explaining that she ‘…just likes him…likes him a lot’. Well, Arlene’s father wants to have a word or two with Tony before he allows her to go out on this date. Arlene hesitates, but her mother reassures her by saying, "Go ahead…we won’t bite him." (This movie has a lot of corny little one-liners like that. Kind of funny actually.)

Arelene’s dad begins to chew Tony out (ha ha! Get it? ‘Chew out’! Nevermind…) for not coming to the door to pick up his daughter. Well, Tony explains that he never feels welcome when he does make the effort to come in and pick up Arlene. ("I feel like you’re going to swat me with a baseball bat.." says Tony to Arlene’s father. Well, I guess I would honk from the curb too…) Arlene’s mom tries to calm things down by saying that it’s probably just Tony’s imagination. Her father snidely adds, "Yeah, it must be…unless you fell guilty about something!" (Piss off, old man! Sheesh!)

They then start harping on Tony about getting a respectable job, even noting that a person has to "…bow to authority." Running late, Arlene notes that it’s Halloween and they really have to go to the party. Arlene’s dad gives Tony ‘Ye Old Have Her Back By Midnight’ speech, and the kids are out the door.

As Tony and Arlene get in the car, Arlene asks Tony once again to try Dr. Brandon. Using the old ‘bat the eyes’ trick and laying on a lot of guilty "please?…please?". Tony shouts at her again, saying that there is no way he’s going to go see a shrink. She silently slides into the car, and they drive off.

Tony at a partyAt the party, kids are dancing to some music: rock-n-roll! You squares!. You can tell this is a ‘cool’ teenage party because the basement (or wherever) is full of symbols of rebellion: A guy passed out on the sofa, stolen traffic signs leaning against the walls, even a dude playing bongo drums! It’s really a hilarious party scene when you listen to the kids talking and acting cool, always mentioning the "squares". (See Classic Lines) We even have the couple making out on the sofa resulting in the girl slapping the boy in the face for getting too ‘fresh’.

After the song is over, the kids head to the bar for a few beers. Pleased with the party locale ("Boy, this pad is really crazy!"), one of the girls notes that it was Tony that found the place and got permission to use it. One of the girls asks if the place is haunted at which time Bongo Boy shouts "Boo!", scaring the girl resulting in a scream (boy! How those women could scream back then!) We find out his name is Vic when somebody makes an announcement that he is going to sing a song for them (Uh oh! This is going to be good!)

Vic runs onto the stage and the music begins. He begins to lip-sync a goofy 1950’s rock-n-roll song, which is pretty damn funny to see. Not that he does a bad job (hell, he lip-syncs a lot better than Jennifer Lopez!), it’s just such a corny 1950’s scene that you just have to smile. After the song, the kids play some silly practical jokes on Vic’s girlfriend, resulting in some screams and laughs. Ok, whatever. Some more Halloween shenanigans take place before Tony pulls Vic off to the side to ask him something in private. Hoping for something juicy to happen, Tony asks him if he "can play the big drums as good as he can play the bongos" (I hope so!). Tony tells him that the drums are in an adjoining room, Vic opens the door and a bucket of water falls on him (I’m not sure how he rigged that up since the door opened inwards…but anyway). Ok, Ok. I get the point now. Being a teen is fun. Let’s move on.

After the laughter dies down (theirs, not mine), the kids head over to the buffet to eat. As Tony is filling his plate, Vic comes up behind him and blows a toy horn in his ear (this horn sounds suspiciously like a dubbed in trumpet blast). Tony flips out and punches Vic right in the chops. (Who can blame him? Somebody comes up behind you and blows a horn right in your freakin’ ear? They deserve a smack in the face!)

Blowing a horn

Ha ha! Now you’re deaf!

After he smacks Vic, he even gives Arlene a shot to the chops. Tony looks around, as in a daze, while the others stare at him like he’s lost his marbles. Tony gaze meets Arlene’s, silently pleading for him to get help…Fade to black.

We fade into Dr. Brandon’s office where Tony has just finished taking a physical, because, as Dr. Brandon explains, "Before we can know the mind, we must first know the body." (Hmmm…you just keep your hands away from me, doc.) Brandon goes on to explain that there is a very good chance that he’ll be able to help Tony, to which Tony remains rather pessimistic.

Tony gets on the couch and Brandon gives him a mild sedative to drink. He then leaves the room and tells his assistant, Hugo, "…prepare the scopolamine!" Hugo begins to object but is reassured by Brandon that he knows what he’s doing (don’t they all?). Brandon explains that after years of searching, he has found the perfect subject, both because of Tony’s mental instability and "…certain tell-tale marks on his body only I would recognize." (Umm…ok Doc, so how many teenage boys have you examined?)

Hugo repeats his concern for the boys life, to which Brandon, in typical ‘mad scientist’ fashion, explains that the loss of one life is nothing compared to the advances of science (in a nutshell, you know how mad scientists love to talk a lot and beat around the bush…See Classic Lines).

Chatting

Brandon and Hugo discuss Tony’s tell-tale body markings…

Brandon helpfully exposits his plans to Hugo (and us):

"Through hypnosis, I’m going to regress this boy back…back into the primitive past that lurks within him. I’m going to transform him, and unleash the savage instincts that lie within him."

Ok, I’ll buy that.

But why on Earth does he want to do all this? Well, he helpfully continues with the exposition:

"Mankind is on the verge of destroying itself! The only hope for the human race is to hurl it back into its primitive dawn…to start all over again!"

This plan brings up a small issue I would like Dr. Brandon to address: Where in our evolutionary tree were humans werewolves? I guess Darwin overlooked that branch.

Tony hypnotizedWell, Dr. Brandon’s insanity safely established, he goes back into his office and administers the injection to the sedated Tony. Hugo takes the used syringe and exits the office, leaving Brandon and Tony alone. Dr. Brandon begins to hypnotize Tony, explaining the process of discovery through hypnosis and other psychiatric gobbledy-goop.

They begin the old "count-backwards-from-100" trick and Tony quickly falls into a hypnotic state. Brandon pushes Tony further and further back into his past. After a few minutes of reliving Tony’s childhood, Brandon wakes Tony up and says that they will continue in a couple of days. Don’t want to push all the way back on the first visit.

Next scene, Tony is back with Dr. Brandon under hypnosis (obviously this is the next session because Tony is much further in the past). Now Tony has been pushed to the point in history where human’s were werewolves (!?). Tony is encouraged to remember what it was like "…to run over the hills in the moonlight…to hide by the stream, to wait in silence…until…remember how wonderful it was when you sprang suddenly…you dug in your fangs…" and so on.

We cut to another cool party at the crazy party pad. Vic is tapping on the bongos while others tell him how good he is (just in case we didn’t notice). Tony is feeling ‘out of it’ and decides to take Arlene home. Tony offers to give one of his friends, Frank, a ride home. Frank isn’t ready to leave yet and says he’ll walk home later, taking the short cut through the woods. (Uh oh! I hope little alarm bells went off in your head at that line!)

The next sequence shows the hunting down and killing of Tony’s first victim. To be honest, I think it is quite an effective scene, and at the time the film was released in the theaters, probably quite scary. Frank walks alone through the woods when he senses somebody is following him. When Frank stops, we hear somebody else take a couple extra steps before also stopping. He continues for awhile, and stops again, listening…sure enough, the second set of footsteps continues for a few more steps before stopping. He calls out, "Who’s there!?", to no effect. He quickly realizes that he’s in danger and frantically runs through the woods, where he is eventually cornered and killed. We don’t get to see the werewolf in this first attack, we only hear its footsteps, giving us the same feeling of uncertainty as Frank must have felt. I also feel that it was an effective change of pace to have a boy running through the woods, falling over tree roots, crying out in fear, and so on, instead of the typical ‘helpless female’ that has been used in horror films ad nauseam.

The next morning at the police station, Detective Donovan is going over the murder report with Chief Baker. The cops are stumped, the only clue they have are two slash marks on Frank’s throat, which they believe to be caused by…you got it…fangs! The Chief has a hard time believing this, but in the face of the evidence, what else could it be? They decide to keep quiet about the case until the "final report". (No sense in alerting people to the fact that there is a wild animal tearing out people’s throats in the park, eh?)

PepeDonovan leaves the Chief’s office to go down to the crime lab. On the way down, he passes Pepe, the janitor, who is of course knowledgeable of werewolves since he’s from "..the old country…" Pepe puts down his mop and asks the duty officer, Chris, if he can take a look at the picture of Frank’s’ body. Following the special police rule that states all janitorial staff have access to police files, Chris shows Pepe the picture. The janitor immediately announces the cause of death: Werewolf!

Back in Dr. Brandon’s office, Tony has arrived early for his next hypnosis session. (See Classic Lines for some good psycho-babble from Dr. Brandon). He leaves the confused Tony is his office and goes to prepare another injection. Despite Hugo’s pleadings to reconsider, his efforts are in vain and Brandon injects Tony again.

Meanwhile, the police are going over the scant clues that they have. They have ascertained that Frank was walking home from a party that took place at the party pad, an abandoned house called "The Haunted House" by the teenagers (Those crazy kids!). One of the officers has contacted all the surrounding farms to see if they have had any animals escape. The livestock is all accounted for. Being the thorough investigator that his is, Chris even investigated a mink farm (!!) but was told that "They were all baby mink…the first thing they do is cut off their teeth." (Whew! Well, I guess that rules out a ‘were-mink’ as the cause of death!)

We cut to the next victim, er next scene. A teenage girl, Theresa, is practicing gymnastics in the school gymnasium. Her coach is pleased with her progress and wants to call it quits for the day. Theresa decides to practice a little later on her own (alarm bells!).

Tony is also at the school where Principal Ferguson has called him into her office for a "little chat". She tells Tony that she’s just read a report from Dr. Brandon and is pleased with his progress. She is even going to award Tony the much vaunted ‘Honor Certificate’ at the end of the year if he keeps up his good behavior. With Tony’s high grades, and Honor Certificate, Ferguson is even planning on recommending him to the State College. (Wow! State College! Cool! Screw Harvard!)

On the way out of the school, Tony happens to pass by the gym where Theresa is putting in some extra practice. Tony watches her for a bit, then moves quietly into the corner of the gym. Unfortunately he stands right beside a bell hanging on the wall. The bell suddenly goes off right beside his head, startling him, and setting in motion a transformation into the werewolf.

Theresa continues to practice, doing some sort of stretching on the parallel bars requiring her to bends over backwards. On the next stretch she sees the werewolf approaching her, and we see him from her point of view, giving us our first view of the werewolf with an upside-down angle. This shot is also effective because it forces our attention away from the makeup (which in fact is decent, given the time the movie was made). By seeing the monster upside-down, we are disorientated and taken by surprise (bet you weren’t expecting that!), just as his victim was.

Tony werewolfTony werewolf

Tony chases the terrified Theresa around the gym, finally cornering her and killing her. Unfortunately for Tony, her screams are heard by Principal Ferguson and some other students who happen to be in the area. The students run into the gym and see him standing over the body. With a growl, he runs past the shocked students and out the school’s front doors.

The police are called and we see Donovan talking to Principal Ferguson while Theresa’s blanket covered body is carried from the gym. Ferguson tells Donovan that when the monster ran from the gym, she recognized the jacket and pants as belonging to Tony. Busted!

Sure enough we see the werewolf running through the woods, wild-eyed and frothing at the mouth. Where could he be heading? Could it be back to Dr. Brandon’s office? Back to the source of his troubles? To the man who used and manipulated him for his own selfish, nefarious desires? Ummm…could be!

In the meantime, Donovan has driven to Brandon’s office and is asking him about Tony and if he actually could have turned into this murderous beast. Brandon plays it cool and is understandably not too forthcoming with any information for Donovan. Brandon goes into a long history of the werewolf legends and dismisses them as fantasy, coldly telling Donovan that he "lives in facts!" (and bizarre logic).

Now comes a sequence of scenes showing Donovan interviewing people, or, in cop-talk, ‘getting to the bottom of things.’ He interviews Arlene and her parents, but to no avail. Arlene’s parents ask him to leave because he’s upsetting her with the questioning, but first he has the photographer who is with him take some pictures of her (!?). Next he interviews Tony’s father, who thinks that Tony’s behavior is possibly due to the fact that he was raised without a mother in the house (An interesting issue to bring up in a 1950’s teenage monster movie, or any monster movie for that matter).

That night, the police have rounded up a posse and are going to search the woods. Besides guns and flashlights, the men have also brought torches because "…animals are afraid of fire, maybe werewolves are too." (!) After stomping around the woods for awhile, the men stop and light the torches. All of this activity does not go unnoticed by Tony, who watches from the bushes, still in werewolf form.

While the men roam around the woods, Tony is spotted by a German Shepard and attacked. They tussle around on the ground, both dog and werewolf exchanging growls and bites. Some men from the posse hear the dog barking and come up to investigate. By the time they arrive, the dog has been killed and the men run off to inform the others. Deciding it’s too dark to keep looking (ok, why did you start then? Was it any lighter 5 minutes ago?), they post some guards and leave for the night.

Back at Tony’s house, we see Tony’s father and Donovan drinking coffee and waiting for Tony to come home. Suddenly the phone rings and Tony’s father picks it up. Expecting Tony to be calling, it turns out only to be Tony’s father’s boss, calling to say that he won’t dock his pay for not coming to work that night. (I guess he’ll have to use one of his "My-Son-Is-A-Werewolf" sick days.)

Tony calls ArleneThe next morning Tony wakes up in the park and we see that he has returned to human form. He sneaks his way through the, er, perimeter, that the men had set up around the woods and makes his way into town. Once in town, he almost getting arrested for J-walking (ha ha, how ironic, eh?) as he runs across the street to a phone booth. Tony takes the phone and calls Arlene. For some reason, he doesn’t say anything and just hangs up the phone. The cop at Arlene’s house asks her if she recognized his voice, to which she replies "I couldn’t be sure." (Well, I couldn’t be sure either since he didn’t say a freakin’ word!) (Oh ok, Arlene says that he did say "hello", well, my bad.)

Finally (as in, finally we get to the climax of the film…), Tony returns to Dr. Brandon’s office. Tony tells Brandon that he knows what he has done to him (and is not too happy about it, I must say). Tony grabs Brandon and begs him to help him. Brandon sets Tony on the couch and goes into his lab to fetch another injection. Hugo, never giving up, tries again to convince Brandon to stop the experiments. (Hello, Hugo…he’s not listeningggg to youuuu!) Brandon gives Hugo a camera in order to film the entire transformation from start to finish, that way he can prove to "even the most exacting scientist" that he has perfected the world’s first case of regression (or something).

Anyway, Tony is hypnotized and the injection given. As predicted, Tony quickly transforms into the werewolf while Hugo dutifully catches it all on film. Suddenly Dr. Brandon’s phone rings (!)(DOH!). Since we already know that Tony has a something against bells, he freaks out and starts smashing up the office (including the camera, thus exposing the film (double-doh!))

Brandon runs from the office and into his lab, leaving Hugo to have his throat ripped out by the werewolf (thanks, boss!). Finished with Hugo, Tony corners Brandon and stalks him around the lab. After smashing a few beakers and test tubes, Tony grabs Brandon, throws him to the floor and kills him (Ahh…poetic justice in such a pure form).

At that moment, Donovan and Officer Chris break into the office and see Hugo’s dead body laying in the office. They draw their guns and move into the lab where Tony is standing over a mutilated Dr. Brandon. As Tony approaches the policemen, Donovan has no choice but to fire: forced to kill the teenager whom he so badly wanted to help.

Tony deadTony’s body lies on the floor (curiously without bullet holes, but oh well…), and we see that he has changed back into human form. Donovan takes a glance at Dr. Brandon’s body and says that well, the score is at least even. (heh, heh, I guess he won’t be shedding any tears for him!)

As we fade to black, Donovan sagely notes that after the newspapers are finished with this sensational story, "…one thing will be clear, it’s not for man to interfere in the ways of God."

Yep, leave the transformation of teenagers into werewolves up to God. Don’t wanna mess with none of that. Not me.

The End.

Dennis Grisbeck (March 2005)

Afterthoughts

Don’t let the title fool you: this was a good movie. It’s hard not to get caught up in the cheesy 1950’s language and the goofy innocence of the kids. However, you can’t hold that against the film…it would be like making fun of a Spanish movie because the actors speak Spanish. They act and talk a little silly because, well, that’s just how people acted back then. OK, I couldn’t help but point out some funny lines here and there, but it was always in good-spirited fun.

Despite what some critics may say, I thought Michael Landon did a great job portraying the angry, alienated teenager, Tony Rivers. He even did all of his own stunts and was said to be a great person to work with by the director of the film, Gene Fowler. As I said earlier, he was initially embarrassed of this role as his fame grew in the years after the filming, but later in his career, Michael Landon always had a fond place in his heart for his werewolf beginnings.

For the director, Gene Fowler Jr., this was his first full-length directorial effort. Previously, he had been a well respected and highly talented movie editor. It is easy to see his talents and experience in the way certain scenes are composed: For example, framing Tony’s father through a close up of a stream of coffee pouring into a cup, having our first glimpse of the werewolf be from an upside-down point of view, etc. (Compare the scene composition in this film to a much more boring, static film, such as "Slime People", in order to see the difference.)

If you ever see this film, and I recommend it, just enjoy it for what is is. Relish the teenage innocence of the kids, the stereotypical "mad scientist" (played to perfection by Whit Bissell), and of course, the cool cars! Save the heckling for the other "I Was A Teenage….." films that followed this one. Lighten up, turn off the lights, and just have a little fun!

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3 comments to I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)

  • guts3d

    Little Joe, we will miss ya… Everything I read about Mr. Landon tells of him being a true nice guy.

  • Yeah, always sad when somebody dies so young. The well-known bastion of objective media, CNN, was mentioning his father and the films he was in but never mentioned this movie. Cretins!

  • Totally agree with the review – this movie has “Bad B Flick” written all over it, but is actually surprisingly decent. A lot of fun to watch.

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