Moon of the Wolf (1972)

Moon of the Wolf Title

Directed by Daniel Petrie

Written by Alvin Sapinsley

Run Time: 75 minutes

Tagline: Deadly secrets emerge from the shadows when the full moon rises!

Classic Quote:

“It’s not considered good medical practice to perform autopsies in the middle of swamps surrounded by howling dogs and scratching rustics”
– Doc Druten

David Janssen Sheriff Whitaker (David Janssen)

Raspy voiced TV veteran David Janssen portrays small town Sherrif Whitaker who is trying to find the ‘mad dog’ behind a murder.

John Beradino Doc Druten (John Beradino)

The town doctor has a secret of his own…but is it enough to implicate him as the ‘mad dog’?

Geoffrey Lewis Lawrence (Geoffrey Lewis)

Yeah, you’ve seen this guy before in alost every TV movie ever made. Here, Geoffrey Lewis is simply ‘Lawrence’, a hapless swamp cracker that’s doomed to die at the claws of the ‘lookaroo’…

Bradford Dillman Andrew Rodanthe (Bradford Dillman)

Local old-money scion, Andrew sure seems jumpy when the moon is full…oops.

Barbara Rush Louise Rodanthe (Barbara Rush)

Andrew’s flirtatious sister has no clue as to her family’s dark secret, but she sure seems to have the hots for Sheriff Whitaker…yech.

Open with blood red titles over a full moon because this is a Werewolf Movie and blood red titles over full moons are required. We cut to a pair of Louisiana bayou rednecks, Ted and his son, Ted Jr. (I kid you not) who were awakened by their blood-hounds all a’barkin’ and a’goin’ crazy because of something in the woods. After putting on their overalls and grabbing their scatter guns, the Teds lurch off to investigate. Magically daytime now, they discover a young woman’s body (later identified as Ellie). Good old Sheriff Whitaker is called in and, judging from the bite marks on the body, wild dogs are blamed. (Then again, I’m not sure what the actors said because the boom mike was so close to the barking dogs that’s it’s hard to hear what their lines…I love it!)

Ted

Ted. Yep. Ted

The next day, the victim’s friend, Lawrence, arrives just as the body is being carted off. (Wow, take your time guys…just let the body rot in the heat.) Lawrence demands to know how it all happened.

"It was wild dogs, aint no human person done this!" explains one of the scratchin’ rustics.

Back in town, Doc Druten discusses the autopsy results with Whitaker. In addition to the bite marks on the body, Druten has discovered that Ellie was knocked unconscious by a blow to the head before being killed (or bitten or whatever). Since the blow was on the right-side of the face, Whitaker assumes that it was a left-handed person that killed her. (Plot point! sort of…no. It never really matters.) Never mind the fact that a right-handed person could have stood behind her and hit her…but, let’s not question Whitaker’s authority just yet.

Old Man Hughes

The ever delightful Old Man Hughes

Later that afternoon, Whitaker pays a visit to Lawrence’s father, Old Man Hughes, who just might know something about werewolves since he’s, you know, an old timer. Hughes, suffering from dementia and "spells", keeps jabbering about "lookaroo" but nobody knows what the hell he means. Outside, Lawrence mentions to Whitaker that Ellie was having "man problems" with a rich guy up the river, Andrew. So…there’s some more red herrings to keep Whitaker busy until the Climatic Finale. After finishing with Lawrence, Whitaker cruises up to Pecan Hill to visit Ellie’s aforementioned ex-boyfriend (and snob), Andrew Rodanthe. (Whitaker pronounces "Rodanthe" as "Rodan" to my great amusement.)

The Rodanthes

Chillin’ with the Rodanthes

After a bit of small talk, Andrew’s flirtatious sister walks out the front door of the house and mentions that she’s recently returned from New York where she’s been "ill". Andrew, for no reason at all, begins to act suspicious and coldly asks the Sheriff to leave…and we’re painting by the numbers here. I mean, now everybody has a motive to have killed Ellie, but since there’s only about 30 minutes left in the movie, Whitaker will have no time to investigate any of them, so all these dangling plot points are just dropped when the monster appears. It’s really drag to realize this early into the film that nothing that anybody says or does really matters. Then again, you’d think I’d be used to that after running this site for nearly 6 years.

Anyhoo, Whitaker takes a drive out to the murder scene and immediately spots a pendant laying in the mud. Why this pendant wasn’t found in the initial investigation is never mentioned. Oh. It’s because there was no investigation. So…instead of placing this potentially critical piece of evidence in a plastic bag and taking to the forensics lab, Sheriff Whitaker just shoves it in his pocket.

To muddy the waters even more, Ted and Ted Jr. stroll up (note that Whitaker doesn’t notice that these 2 nitwits are polluting the crime scene with footprints and tobacco juice…nice job, Sheriff) and through a combination of Whitaker’s verbal finesse and the Teds’s block-headedness, the Teds implicate themselves as suspects as well as everybody else in the town. But like I said, we already "know" it’s a werewolf, and we "know" it’s not these 2 knuckleheads, so what’s the point of all this?

The Teds

Meet the Teds

Back in town, man Whitaker really gets around, the Sheriff has a quick word with Lawrence’s house maid, Sara. After some verbal sparring, Sara explains that the person that killed Ellie is the one who…wait for it…got her pregnant! Oh joy! Another red herring! Also that Old Man Hughes sent her to town to buy some sulfur because…wait for it…it keeps away wolves! (Cue going to commercial music…fade to black.)

Naturally, Whitaker rushes off to Doc Druten and asks him why he didn’t mention that Ellie was pregnant. Sure enough, Druten explains that he knocked her up and he didn’t want to cause a ruckus and that it really didn’t have anything to do with the murder blah blah blah…oh boy, is your head spinning yet?

"I didn’t kill her…I loved her," he explains. Whitaker concludes the interview by taking a slug off the Doc’s whiskey bottle. Man, Sheriff Whitaker runs one tight operation, I tell ya.

Whitaker

Sheriff Whitaker investigating Ellie’s murder

Back in town, is this the same day?!, about 30 locals have gathered with their pickups and shotguns in order to sweep the march and find the "killer dog." Out of the blue, Lawrence rushes into the crowd and punches Druten in the chops for knocking up Ellie and supposedly killing her. (In a earlier throwaway scene, we see Sara telling Lawrence about the pregnancy, so I guess that’s how he found out about Druter, but still, Lawrence got into town fast!). With Druten rubbing his jaw and Lawrence under arrest, the crowd breaks up in an awkward silence and heads out "while there’s still light."

Annnnnnnnd, Whitaker drives out again to the Rodanthe place where Louise greets him and invites him in for a glass of good old country lemonade.

Seriously, I wish I had a nickel for every time I had to watch Whitaker drive up somewhere and park his car.

Soooo, here they are drinking lemonade and talking about the gold old days. And I have to ask,….isn’t this a werewolf movie? Where the hell is the monster in all this?

Ahhh, cut to night time where a full moon graces the sky…now we’re talking! We see Lawrence sitting forlornly in his unlocked cell. (Whitaker tells the night-shift deputy to leave the cell unlocked because Lawrence won’t try to escape. Like I said, this is one tight operation.) Heading home for the night, Whitaker walks to his car and we’re treated to the werewolf’s POV from behind some cars complete with foleyed heavy breathing as it sneaks into the jail house. The werewolf causes a commotion by smashing something so the Deputy locks Lawrence’s cell (at least somebody has some brains) and goes into the hallway to investigate. Surprise! The werewolf kills the Deputy then tears the door off of Lawrence’s cell before murdering him as well.

Tight security

Tight security at the town jail

The next day, Andrew finds Whitaker and offers his services as a Deputy. Even though there is some sort of tension between the 2 characters (not sure why…Louise maybe?), Whitaker accepts the offer and they drive out to Old Man Hugh’s place because they suspect that he might be the next to die. (Whatever…just go with it. Their reasoning is that since Lawrence was just killed, then his father will be next, but that really makes no sense.) As the Sheriff drives up and parks (enough of the parking scenes already!), we see that Hughe’s entire house is surrounded by tiny bags of sulfur, but it sort of just looks like little tea bags. So, yeah, I bet a monster that can tear off a jail cell door would be pretty intimidated by a tea bag. Oh. But it’s full of sulfur and werewolves hate sulfur…huh?!

teabag

Werewolves hate these

But wait, at the first step of the porch Andrew has a fit and collapses on the floor! My God! Could this be an actual clue, Sheriff Whitaker?!

fit

An actor reacts to reading the script

As Andrew lies unconscious in the hospital, Whitaker drives out (argh!) to the Rodanthe place to chat with Louise and try to find out a little more about Andrew’s health history. Louise doesn’t remember Andrew ever having such a violent episode before, but she does remember that her grandfather had "spells" every now and then. Alas, eagle-eyed Sheriff Whitaker spots an old photograph of Louise with a pendant around her neck. You remember that pendant, right? Yeah, plot device #36b from 40 minutes ago. The pendant that Sheriff Whitaker is still carrying in his pocket instead of having it analyzed by the crime lab!

pendant

Anti-werewolf pendant not included.

Louise says that the pendant in the picture was a gift from her mother…but whoa! Louise is stunned when Whitaker tells her that he found it in the swamp where Ellie’s body was discovered. How could it be?! Could Andrew know anything about this?

With that scene run to its inevitable dead end, Whitaker and Louise drive back to the hospital to talk with Andrew about the pendant. Yes, I don’t know why Whitaker would think that Andrew would know anything, but that’s the Script. Andrew, awake now but still weak, insists that he gave the pendant to Ellie for some work she did for him (no, not that kind, you perverts). You see, Andrew suffers from a condition related to "Black Water Fever", but as Andres notes, "nobody really knows anything about it." (Oh. I see.) In order to avoid gossip, Andrew used to have Ellie sneak him drugs from the hospital to keep his fits under control. Thus, the gift pendant. (Which still doesn’t make any sense, but what does?)

fever

Recovering from being tea bagged.

Sooo….Whitaker finally starts piecing things together.

Sort of.

You see, when Whitaker questions Andrew as to his whereabouts on each night that somebody was killed, he can only recall that he was tired and went to bed early. Whitaker takes his leave, letting Andrew get some rest after this intensive 60 second interview, and goes out in the hallway where he explains the situation to Louise. I’m not sure if a Sheriff should reveal details of a criminal investigation to the sister of the lead suspect, but whatever.

Louise suggests that since she can speak French, maybe she should have a talk with Old Man Hughes and find out just what a "lookaroo" is. Soooo…off they drive…AGAIN!

LET’S GET ON WITH IT ALREADY!

And hey,…it’s magically night time again. Boy. That’s weird.

After listening to the old man, Louise quickly realizes that "lookaroo" means "werewolf" in the local dialect. Hughes goes even more insane when he sees a pentagram on Louise’s palm which means…yes…that’s right…she’s the next victim! Aiyeeee! Cut to a hairy hand in a hospital bed….mwu-ha-ha-ha!

(Cue corny made-for-TV "scary" music and fade to commercial.)

BEFORE I CONTINUE – PLEASE: Do Not Reveal The Surprise Ending to "Moon of the Wolf"

—– Andrew is the werewolf —–

And we still have 15 minutes to go, so…ack…this is going to be a long haul. Andrew, now in werewolf form, bursts from his hospital room, scares some nurses, beats up some orderlies, jumps on a table, and generally makes a nuisance of himself as brave Doc Druten swings an ashtray at him. After growling a little bit and trying desperately to keep his inadequately made-up werewolf face out of the lights so we can’t see how awful it is, Andrew jumps out the window and runs away.

The next day, a posse is organized and starts sweeping the swamp to find Andrew. Just why they think Andrew is in the swamp (he isn’t) instead of heading home (he is) is never discussed. I guess the locals just love to "sweep swamps" with their dawgs.

Sheriff Whitaker decides to pop in and visit Louise since he really has nothing else to do at this point in the film. After some initial chit chat, they head into the family library and spend some time studying up on werewolves and "lycanthropic-like diseases." Whitaker poo-poos the whole notion of witchcraft and shape changers even though Andrew just attacked 10 people while in wolf form! (WHAT?!)

Right on cue, a wolf’s howl shatters the silence. Whitaker locks the doors and windows as Louise astutely reminds him that Andrew recently tore a jail cell door off its hinges.

"He was born and raised here…maybe he’ll show more respect," Whitaker says. (Huh?))

Doing the typical bone-headed thing, Whitaker decides to go out all by his lonesome to capture Andrew before the locals can find and kill him. (Just how he’s planning on doing that is not explained.) So, our good Sheriff tells Louise to lock the doors as he goes outside to look for Andrew. And I mean, seriously Whitaker, you idiot: stay in the house, dude.

But he doesn’t. So after locking up, Louise goes back to her "Werewolves for Dummies" book and discovers that werewolves can be killed in only 2 ways: Death by burning or death by being shot with "blessed" bullets! (Actually, both of those methods are news to me, but whatever.)

Anyway, about 10 seconds after Whitaker goes outside, Andrew busts through the front door, and boy, made-for-tv or not, this is one sad looking "werewolf"…he’s still wearing his Docker’s jeans from cripes’ sake!

Wolf

Now that’s one nicely dressed werewolf.

So, Andrew chases Louise out into the night and it’s super scary, you betcha. After taking refuge in the barn, Louise lights an old oil lamp only to see that Andrew is waiting at the top of the loft. Just how he got inside the barn before Louise through the barn’s only door when he was behind her the entire time is not clear and I doubt that anybody cared at this point. Anyway, with no other choice, Louise tosses the lamp into the hay and immolates her brother.

WolfBurning

I waited 70 minutes for this?!

Meanwhile, Sheriff Dumbass is still running around the swamp looking for Andrew even though Louise has already disposed of him…or has she?!

SHOCK ENDING!

Andrew actually didn’t burn up in the flames, even though we just saw him lying in flames burning up. Well, I guess the director wanted more of an action ending so he just ignored the fact this was actually one of the ways to kill a werewolf..

Back in the house, Louise hears a howl coming from her closet and grabs a gun as Andrew, completely unsinged from the fire only moments before, smashes through the door.

Shot

Oooooowww! That stings!

Louise pulls the trigger, firing a bullet which mortally wounds her brother. (As you can see from the screenshot about, the bullet struck him about 1 inch from the left side, hardly what I would consider a fatal wound…then again, the bullet was "blessed" so who knows.) OK, never mind, she shoots him a couple of more times, and now the blood spots on his shirt are shown in completely different places…so, whatever, he’s dead.

Moon of the Wolf…awwwwwooooooooooo!

"He knew," Louise sobs as Whitaker finally arrives on the scene. "He must have had the bullets blessed…"

Seriously, he what? Andrew had the bullets blessed, then placed them in a pistol in Louise’s room, then hid in a closet, then scared the shit out of his sister so that she would have to shoot him and live with the guilt for the rest of her life? Great plan, Andrew. Why didn’t he just shoot himself and save everybody the trouble?

As werewolves seem to always do when they die, Andrew transforms back into his "normal" form. I’m not sure what the paperwork is going to say about all this, but Whitaker doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass. He just takes Louise by the arm and they walk out into the night leaving Andrew’s body laying on the carpet.

Ugh. This one hurt.

Dennis Grisbeck (December 2010)

Afterthoughts

Despite the full cadre of veteran actors, this movie was extremely dull…and THAT was the werewolf? That was the payoff for sitting through 70 minutes of watching Whitaker parking his car? ARRRGGGH!

Read more about Moon of the Wolf at

IMDB

12 comments to Moon of the Wolf (1972)

  • Guts3d

    “He must have had the bullets blessed…”
    Where does one go for this service? I’ll bet that the local clergy won’t have a lot of experience with this one…

    Nice review, Dennis! this one looked like it hurt big time. I guess the prop department wanted to get a lot of “mileage” out of the parking scenes.

  • Sean

    Bad TV movies from the 70’s are so dull they give off an aura of dispair. Hats off to you for reviewing this forgotten gem! And poor Barbara Rush. I think this is the 2nd time she’s been featured on this site. Why don’t you send her a trophy? Oh, and don’t forget to include your return address, so she can respond with a thank you card/letter bomb.

  • I have to agree with Sean — bad 70’s TV movies are almost too bad to watch. With a lot of the 50’s and 60’s bad sf movies, at least the producers CARED about what they were doing, or at least thought they did. In the 70’s, you could just never tell if anyone gave a loup garou’s ass about what they were doing.

    I love ol’ Bradford Dilman, though. He’s always something… LOL These days, iirc, he’s like a scout for an NFL team.

  • I agree with all of you…this movie was extremely dull as we watch Sheriff Whitaker trudge through the script to the film’s inevitable ending. Ack. The only scene that had any sort of intensity to it (imho) is when the werewolf was walking toward the jail cell with poor Lawrence trapped inside…man, that would suck to go out like that. But still….how scary could a werewolf in Dockers ever really be?

    And yeah, the whole “blessed bullets” thing…where in the hell did they come up with that?! How were werewolves killed before there were bullets? Oh…they were burned to death. right.

  • guts3d

    “I saw a werewolf drinking a Pina Colada at Trader Vics… And his hair was perfect!” I guess Warren Zevon knew what he was talking about.

  • I’ve never seen “blessed” bullets. Silver bullets, yes. So the Lone Ranger would’ve been the perfect foil for the wolfman.

  • And why necessarily “bullets”…can’t it be any type of blessed projectile? spears, arrows, rocks…?

  • Guts3d

    A blessed paper cut might not be enough, though.

  • I dunno; I’ve had some paper cuts would make Godzilla wince.

  • Guts3d

    Also that Old Man Hughes sent her to town to buy some sulfur because … wait for it … it keeps away wolves!

    Most small rural towns have a Wal-mart, a convenience store, and of course, a sulphur shop to foil ever present were-wolves. This review gets better each time I read it!

  • Joe

    This isn’t half-bad. The Wolf Man changes clothes everytime he turns.

  • Great review of a really great (i.e., really bad) movie. Here’s a little bit more about Ms. Rush’s B movie career:

    http://bmoviebabes.blogspot.com/2015/05/72-barbara-rush.html

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