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Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Tony Rivers (Michael Landon): Poster child for anger management.

High-schooler Tony Rivers (a pre-BONANZA Michael Landon) is plagued with a volatile temper that ignites at the slightest provocation, making him notorious in his school and landing him in trouble with the authorities. After an unwarranted violent confrontation with a classmate brings him a warning from an understanding police officer, followed by an equally un-called-for assault on a friend at a party, Tony takes the cop's suggestion and seeks therapy with hypnotherapist Dr. Alfred Brandon (Whit Bissell). Unfortunately for Tony, Dr. Brandon is the type of mad medical professional common to 1950's sci-fi and horror yarns, and the doc uses Tony as an unwitting guinea pig in drug and hypnotherapy treatments intended to regress the lad to his most primitive instincts. For no adequately explained reason, Dr. Brandon is convinced that his regression therapy technique will eventually save humanity from itself (???) and somehow he thinks it would be a good idea to suggest to the hypnotized, drugged-up Tony that he was a werewolf in one of his past lives. (How a werewolf fits into mankind’s evolutionary tree I won’t even begin to theorize.) Of course Tony turns into a slavering lycanthrope and savagely murders a couple of people before the police twig to the fact that they're on the trail of a creature straight out of legend, and it's only a matter of time until his fateful final encounter with Dr. Brandon and inevitable tragic demise.

A couple of lapses into hokey 1950's "teen" movie territory (where the teenagers are all played by people who are obviously in their twenties) notwithstanding, I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF offers up a fun and mildly creepy metaphor for the horrors and pains of adolescence and wouldn't be the last lycanthropy flick to tackle that theme. That said, the film is mostly remembered these days for its classic title, early performance by future TV royalty Michael Landon, and its overbite-sporting werewolf clad in a varsity jacket, but it does contain one of the most effective werewolf-on-the-hunt moments in film, a moment of primal terror that permanently burned this, the first werewolf movie I ever saw (I was six years old at the time), into my consciousness. Just after a meeting with his school's principal, in which he's told that Dr. Brandon has had some very good things to say about his improving attitude, Tony's curse is triggered by a ringing school bell.

At that time, Tony is in the school's gym, observing a toothsome girl (May 1957 Playboy Playmate Dawn Richard) practicing moves on the uneven parallel bars. As she executes a move that inverts her visual perspective, she comes face-to-face, upside-down, with the slavering monster.

One of the most memorable P.O.V. looks at approaching death in cinema history.

Terrified, she falls to the floor and attempts to flee, but there is no escape.

Physical fitness is no match for a werewolf on the hunt.

If you see this movie for no other reason, don't miss that sequence. It's the film's one true moment of outright horror and as such it's a doozy.

Poster from the original theatrical release.

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