REVIEW: I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)

iwasateenagewerewolf

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1957, Sunset Productions/American International Pictures

Director:
Gene Fowler Jr.
Producer:
Herman Cohen
Writer:
Ralph Thornton
Cinematography:
Joseph LaShelle
Editing:
George A. Gittens

Cast:
Michael Landon (Tony Rivers)
Yvonne Lime (Arlene Logan)
Whit Bissell (Dr. Alfred Brandon)
Tony Marshall (Jimmy)
Dawn Richard (Theresa)
Barney Phillips (Detective Donovan)
Ken Miller (Vic)
Cindy Robbins (Pearl)
Joseph Mell (Dr. Hugo Wagner)
Vladimir Sokoloff (Pepe)

This classic werewolf film will be forever known as the debut of television icon Michael Landon, who plays the titular “teenage werewolf”.

Tony Rivers is a teenager with major issues. He is always getting into trouble and into fights because of his very hot-tempered nature. The slightest little thing sets him off and even though he snaps at the wrong time to his girlfriend Arlene, she remains loyal to him. One night at a party, Tony finds himself the victim of a small prank by classmate Vic, forcing him to beat his friend up bad. Tony soon realizes that he does have a problem and looks to have it resolved for both Arlene and himself.

Under the advice of Detective Donovan, Tony goes to meet with Dr. Alfred Brandon, a local psychologist who finds Tony the perfect guinea pig for his new experiment. Injecting him with a serum, Brandon puts Tony in a trance to regress him to primitive instincts. Despite objections from his assistant, Brandon continues the experiments and tells Tony that he was once a werewolf. The instincts to come to ahead when Tony sees Theresa in the gym. When the school bell goes off, Tony transforms into a werewolf and kills Theresa. Tony soon learns the awful truth about what has happened and must turn to Brandon to help him once and for all. However, will it be too late?

This classic werewolf film is truly a delight to watch not only because it’s known as the film debut of Michael Landon, but the fact is has Michael Landon as a werewolf. Unlike other werewolf films where a bite is the cause of transformation, this one involves science and regression. Landon gives a really good debut performance as Tony, the teenager with major issues involving his temper. However, the use of a serum combined with the regression to primitive instincts may seem to help Tony but only leads to worse issues.

While Landon drives the film, Whit Bissell plays the psychologist who can be said to be like a mad scientist because he sees Tony as the perfect subject for his experiments. One would think “wouldn’t the psychologist think to use someone who has no issues to perform this type of experiment”? No, the mentality of this psychologist reveals that he thinks that the future of mankind is that mankind will return to being primitive and the fact he tells Tony he is a werewolf only triggers the eventual transformation.

Yvonne Lime doesn’t pull the damsel in distress but is the concerned girlfriend type while we ultimately see two victims of the werewolf’s rage, one unseen and one seen. The make-up effects of Landon’s werewolf is not bad. Actually, for the $82,000 budget they achieved, they are quite nice. The only complaint are the werewolf fangs, which look like a precursor to the fangs used nearly thirty years later in the Italian horror film Demons.

I Was a Teenage Werewolf is a classic teen horror film that is driven by the performance of Michael Landon and would be groundbreaking in combining high school angst with the monster movie.

WFG RATING: B+

VHS

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