A Howling Double Bill … Moon of the Wolf (1972) and Scream of the Wolf (1974)
Television horrors ruled many movies of the week presentations during the 1970’s and thankfully offered work to countless familiar faces of the past and to those on the rise.
Moon of the Wolf opens with good old Royal Dano along with John Davis Chandler finding the body of a young woman on a Louisiana bayou. She’s been torn apart by what is first assumed to be a pack of wild dogs. It won’t be long afterwards that local sheriff David Janssen realizes he has a murder in his county and plenty of suspects. Included on his list is the girls brother Geoffrey Lewis. Lewis and the dead girl lived in the poorer side of town. A town that is controlled historically by a wealthy family that currently has Bradford Dillman at the head of the clan.
Janssen continues to poke around uncovering a few skeletons along the way and meeting Dillman’s sister Barbara Rush who has just returned from living in New York. She’s a bit flighty but offers Janssen a romantic interest. Something Dillman isn’t in favor of.
Using the classic point of view shot, it’s time for a werewolf attack. It takes place in Janssen’s jail house leaving two people dead and the cell bars torn from their hinges. Thanks to an old man speaking of werewolves in French, Janssen is starting to wonder just what he’s up against.
At about the half way point of this 74 minute telefilm, all will be revealed as to the werewolf’s identity. Now it’s just a matter of who fires the silver bullet and what the makeup job is going to look like on our poor character who suffers from lycanthropy. It turns out to be a long way from Jack Pierce’s job on Lon way back in the early forties.
Director Daniel Petrie keeps our werewolf in the distance using plenty of long shots to keep us from having too close a look at the poorly constructed rubber mask. Petrie spent most of his directing career in television though he periodically helmed some above average features like Fort Apache: The Bronx in 1981.
While this may be far from classic television, I’m still a sucker for this era/genre of TV movies. Actors like Janssen, Dillman and Lewis only add to the nostalgia of it all.
Next up is another 74 minute feature from the prolific Dan Curtis. While Dan does the producing and directing duties, noted Richard Matheson is responsible for the script. Both names I would consider to be highly respected among genre fans and beyond.
A foggy night, musical score by Curtis regular Bob Cobert and a car running out of gas leaving a man on foot. The only thing left is a point of view chase and the sounds of a wolf growling while tearing the poor stranded individual to pieces. As the credits roll, local sheriff Philip Carey is on site at a loss as to how the tracks around the victim go from a set of four paws to two to none at all. Time to call in one of two top trackers that live close by, Mr. Peter Graves.
Before the movie is a half hour old, we have four victims falling to our supposed killer or werewolf depending on who one believes. Graves girlfriend Jo Ann Pflug who narrowly escaped certain death already is convinced it’s a werewolf and she thinks she knows who the man is that can transform himself into a beast.
It’s the communities other big game hunter, Clint Walker. Walker’s a first class heel as a hunter who refuses to help Carey and Graves track the beast that has increased it’s kill count to five. He would much prefer to sit back and see people so scared that it’s giving them a sense of life on the edge. Like the time he and Graves tracked a wolf in the wilds of Canada when Walker would only have one bullet in the chamber of his rifle vs. the wolf that nearly killed him.
“When is a man more alive then when on his way to the gallows.” Walker would like nothing better then to test Graves’ manhood and patience with masculine games like arm wrestling and prefers to speak in riddles.
Hint Hint? Or perhaps a red herring. Either way, Walker’s unlikable character is either the werewolf or going down nearer the end when he finally agrees to help Graves track the unseen beast.
Anything of the horror variety from Dan Curtis is worth a look for those of us who have fond memories of late night TV and reruns of Kolchak or the pilot films, The Night Stalker or The Night Strangler. Though this effort isn’t as good as those or his theatrical release Burnt Offerings it’s still stamped with the Curtis style making it a welcome addition to my library of Curtis flicks that also includes the excellent Jack Palance version of Dracula.
All that’s really missing here is Kolchak himself, Darren McGavin.