Longread, TV/Film Review, werewolves

Werewolf Films: 1970-1979 Part II

This is the longest section: crime/thriller horror films intended as straight horror, some of which were police procedurals too, and some were based on real life serial killers.

I also cover exploitation films here too, but CW for… everything, from on-camera real life rodent torture/death to sexual assault and torment of a disabled person.

Links in this post are to other blog posts, reviews, Wikipedia, IMDB, and some of the full features where available on Dailymotion and YouTube.

Crime/Thriller Horror

El Bosque del Lobo (1970) is a Spanish drama/horror film based on the novel by Carlos Martínez-Barbeito, itself partially based on real-life Spanish serial killer Manuel Blanco Romasanta, who claimed he was a werewolf. The film is a consideration of the social outcast and the impact of superstition and ostracism on vulnerable members of society. It tells the story of epileptic peddler Benito Freire, who wanders through Galician towns but is subjected to superstitious misunderstanding regarding his condition. As rumours about him spread – such as, that he is a werewolf – Benito descends into madness. You can read more about real-life Romasanta ‘the werewolf of Allariz’ here, and here.

The Brazilian film, O Homem Lobo (1971), was a horror directed by Raffaele Rossi, a colourful character in Brazilian cinema history. Toni Cardi’s interview for Vice (in Portuguese) gives some context for Rossi, but I’m including this horror here because it too has elements of social commentary. The film again considers the impact of ostracism, but this time the effect of fractured family relationships upon a vulnerable minor. In it, a young boy whose mother died in childbirth on Christmas Night (a common time for werewolves to be born!) is sent to a distant boarding school by his father. The professor character, who knew the boy from birth, wanted to visit him but was prevented by his wife, who is jealous of the boy. When the professor does visit, he discovers that the boy is actually a werewolf who terrorises the country villages under the full moon, and has to stop him.

This film could have gone under ‘Folklore and Religion’, a section in Part III (coming soon!) but because the themes of the film are more about the isolation of the boy and the dissolution of his family, the trauma of his upbringing and the jealousy of his father-figure’s wife, overshadow the folkloric reason for his transformation. In fact, it’s arguable that the familial tragedies are more the cause of his wildness and violence, placing this film as another example of the werewolf representing social anxieties. The full film (black and white, in Portuguese) is available at the time of posting on YouTube.

Moon of the Wolf (1972) is also potentially one for the Folklore and Religion section, so it might get covered again there. This is a police procedural made-for-TV movie that is also a Southern Gothic crime thriller, in which a sheriff of a small town in Louisiana suspects that the series of animal-attack deaths are the work of a loup-garou, a werewolf. This one is full of Southern Gothic elements, though, which potentially overshadow the loup-garou lore, or rather the loup-garou is a part of the Gothic Horror rather than the only element.

You can watch the full film here on YouTube (at the time of posting).

The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973) is also more a ‘straight’ horror film, in which a father takes his son to (guess) a cabin the woods (you win!) and is attacked by (guess) a werewolf! (Yay go you!) GUESS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT yes, that’s right, the boy tries to tell people about the werewolf attack and no one listens to him because it’s plainly untrue. Who gets attacked by monsters in cabin in the woods, for heaven’s sake? Well, the werewolf attacks a hippie commune at one point, and is not the only werewolf to do so: this is also the plot of Werewolf of Woodstock (1975) which I’ve refused to place anywhere except under the Horror Comedies.

This is also a film about fractured family, though, and the troubled relationship between the son, his father, and the will they/won’t they get back together thing going on between the two parents. The mother doesn’t believe her son, either, when he returns from the trip and tells her he doesn’t want to be alone with his dad anymore because the man is a monster.

While this is literally the case, and the film itself is not really meant to be a metaphor for anything, it’s also got a lot of resonance with childhood trauma where the monstrosity can be viewed as metaphorical. If you do view this kind of thing in this way, then the ending is problematic (but of the time): SPOILER: the boy gets bitten and his mother sees the bite mark on him, slowly realising that this means he is going to become a werewolf too. The propensity for monstrosity – for violence, for killing, for brutality – has been passed down. The myth that abused children grow up to be abusive adults has been debunked, but it still leaves a deep psychological scar.

The full film is available here on YouTube (at the time of posting).

Calvin Lockhart stars in THE BEAST MUST DIE (1974)

On a lighter note, The Beast Must Die (1974) is a fun horror-mystery, starring Calvin Lockhart, Peter Cushing and Charles Grey (best known [to me] not just for The Devil Rides Out but also for his roles in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and the lesser-known cult sequel Shock Treatment (1981) where he had a thing with a younger Ruby Wax). Anyway, I digress.

The whole point of this is to guess who the werewolf is based on the clues scattered throughout the film, and there was a ‘werewolf break’ for the audience to have a go at guessing before it was revealed. You have a selection of characters to choose from, all of whom have been gathered in a remote country house for this purpose – because one of them is the Beast, and the Beast must Die. But can you guess who it is?

Scream of the Wolf (1974), directed by none other than Dan “Dark Shadows” Curtis, was another made-for-TV movie featuring a big game hunter called out of retirement to help solve a series of grisly murders that may have been committed by a werewolf. The hunter character is an interesting foil for the mysterious, murderous Beast: when explicitly challenged by a local man re: why he enjoys killing innocent animals, the hunter gets in his face and says he can’t explain why he enjoys it, but he can show the challenger why. There’s an interesting parallel here – a man does not need to be, or outwardly present as, a Beast in order to do Beastly things (either to animals, or to people).

You can watch the full feature on YouTube at the time of posting.

I’m going to put Legend of the Werewolf (1975) here too, which is another sort-of adaptation of the 1933 Endore novel, but this time set in 19th-century Russia and starring Peter Cushing. In this film, the main character was a boy born on Christmas Eve (the use of this superstition as an origin story again could put it under my ‘Folklore and Religion’ section in Part III) and is bereaved and raised by wolves. A travelling circus adopt the feral child until he grows out of his ‘wolf boy’ feral state – but when he’s all grown up he does actually transform into a wolfman, and kills one of the troupe. He goes on the run and soon becomes a Russian werewolf in Paris, where he falls for a sex worker who won’t marry him as she feels their relationship won’t work. He transforms at the full moon and takes it out on the brothel clientele. Professor Paul Cataflanque, a skilled forensic pathologist, deduces the attack was made by a wolf, and he and Inspector Gerard are drawn into the story as the net tightens around our protagonist Etoile.

I’ve included it here instead of Part III because again, the crime/thriller plot is the driving force and it’s more interesting to look at it through this lens since it’s one of a number of films based on the Endore novel that use the Christmas Eve birth (this time without the sexual assault of the mother as an added bonus) as an origin for lycanthropy in the child. While the novel makes use of the folklore, the films are more following the novel rather than making use of or doing anything interesting with the folklore itself.

The full movie is on Dailymotion and YouTube (at the time of posting).

Exploitation Cinema

An American Grindhouse exploitation flick that blended the outlaw biker gang genre with the traditional horror film is the brilliantly named Werewolves on Wheels (1971). If you want to get deep with it (why not), it played with tensions surrounding subcultures, the nature of “freedom” and the rejection of Christocentric norms. Or it was a violent Grindhouse flick with a low budget that wanted to turn a bunch of bikers into werewolves. Whatever.

It’s about an outlaw biker gang who fall foul of some satanic monks worshiping the devil in the Arizona desert (as you do). The cult transform the lead biker’s girlfriend Helen, who infects her boyfriend. Helen is introduced as the doomed Bad Girl, fascinated by death – including her own. In the first few minutes, after we establish the gang are volatile, violent and all-round good chaps, she asks a tarot reader to read her cards and tell her how she dies: she is told she will die “in the tower, struck by lightning”.

The alpha couple then kill off their own gang until they are stopped and the gang return to the church for revenge on the cult – but stop when they see themselves in the cult procession. Of course you want to see it. Here’s the full film on YouTube (at the time of posting).

Andy Milligan made some cult films back in the day, and there are not one but two of his on this list. The first is The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972). “Man-eating rodents are only playthings for a 19th-century family who have a unique problem with the full moon” reads the brief synopsis, but in fact, the werewolves only appear at the very end of the film in the final minutes. This film dials down Milligan’s trademark sex and violence and amps up the verbal abuse, with the main action revolving around the vicious arguments that the family members have. There is a lot of physical and verbal abuse of the brother, who has learning difficulties. There is on-camera live rodent torture (it was the 70s… rodents were harmed during the making of this film). There is a lot of “suspense” as the family await the full moon (oh no, the audience gasp, whatever is about to happen? What was the title of this film again?) and it’s… it’s not great. If you want to watch it, I can’t stop you. It’s embedded from YouTube here at the end of this review.

Milligan’s misogyny, obsession with incest and general batshittery comes out even more in Blood! (1973). This one apparently features blood-drinking plants, a mad scientist with a vampire bride, lycanthropic infidelity, incestuous infidelity, vampiric infidelity, gratuitous everything, was largely filmed in his own house, and was billed as a “traditional Gothic Horror”. Alright love, calm down. The reviews are probably just as disturbing as the film, mainly because if you’re reviewing an Andy Milligan film, you’re having to mention the plot at some stage. Here’s the Dominion of Scum review. Trash Film Guru’s review has the film embedded (from YouTube). So does this one, via These Girls on Film. Good luck.

Finally, we end with the Italian sexploitation sleazefest of a film, apparently intended to be a serious film about lycanthropy as a psychological condition, La Lupa mannara (1976). The protagonist, Daniella Neseri (played by Annik Borel), a survivor of childhood rape, has nightmares about a werewolf ancestor who appears to her in waking visions. Under the delusion that she is a werewolf, she seduces and murders men by tearing their throats out with her teeth, including her own sister’s boyfriend. She is committed to an asylum where she attacks and kills a (female) nymphomaniac who tries to seduce her, and escapes. She meets a compassionate stuntman with whom she falls in love, and this temporarily ‘cures’ her. However, the couple are attacked by a group of men and he is killed while she is raped. Daniella resumes her murderous rampage in revenge. She is eventually captured in the woods where she is found, nearly feral and dancing behind a wall of flame, by the authorities. She is re-committed while her father kills himself.

The promotional material and final credits claim that this was based on a true story – and while she doesn’t change into a werewolf except in her head, this gets included here as a ‘werewolf’ film anyway. Here’s a review where the trailer, and full film, are embedded at the end. The soundtrack is meant to be good.


NEXT TIME:

Part III, horror comedies and folklore/religion, coming on Wednesday!

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