“With great power comes great responsibility” everyone knows from Spider-Man. However, a variation of that line originated in this 1985 werewolf film co-created by the current head of Marvel Television.
Scott Howard is your typical teenager. He’s a member of the basketball team and he’s not that good. He works at his father’s hardware store. He has a crush on the most popular girl at school, who is dating the star player from a rival team. Scott is tired of being normal. Fortunately, or rather unfortunately for Scott, his wish is about to come through as one fateful night changes his life forever. Slowly going through some changes, after a high school party, Scott has discovered what he has become: a werewolf.
Scott has learned the werewolf gene is hereditary as his father is also a werewolf. At first, Scott tries to hide his lycanthropy, only revealing the secret to his best friend Stiles. However, during a basketball game, Scott is forced to become the wolf and learns that he has become now a skilled player, beginning a winning streak for his team. Scott’s popularity grows but with that popularity grows an ego that even proves to be too much for Scott. It is now up to Scott to learn for himself is being average isn’t so bad as he must learn that with great power does in fact, come with great responsibility.
This family friendly werewolf film was actually filmed in 1984, just prior to Michael J. Fox’s big-screen star making turn as Marty McFly in Back to the Future. Fox was already a television star with his hilarious portrayal of Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties. To capitalize on Fox’s turn in Back to the Future, Paramount finally decided to release this film, which can be hailed as a family cult classic now thanks in part to this film spawning a cartoon series the following year and a remade, darker TV series which ran from 2011 with the sixth season being the final season. Upon its opening weekend, the film was number two with Back to the Future being number one, making Michael J. Fox a huge box office star. The film was co-written by Jeph Loeb, who is the current president of Marvel Television and it is clear he brings some of his influence of comics in the film.
Fox actually pulls it off nicely as Scott, our “Teen Wolf” here. Playing someone who goes from ordinary to extraordinary when he learns that he is a werewolf. The transition starts out slowly, from Scott having a single hair on his chest to glowing red eyes when confronted by a liquor store owner. The final stamp comes in the full transformation, in which kudos goes out to the Burman group for the special effects make up. The only thing they could have touched upon a little better is the Harold werewolf, who looks more like Santa Claus with a big nose rather than an actual werewolf.
Speaking of Harold, veteran actor James Hampton does well as Scott’s father, who is reminiscent of Uncle Ben Parker in Spider-Man, without the death aspect of course. He tries to help Scott in terms of deflating his ego when necessary. However, let’s face it. Scott is a teenager so when Harold tries to talk Scott into his powers, Scott lets a bit of his angst out at times, in human mode of course. Jerry Levine truly is hilarious as Stiles, Scott’s best friend who capitalizes on his buddy’s werewolf powers by marketing anything wolf, all the more inflating both his own and Scott’s ego. Of course, it must be noted that Fox was doubled for both the basketball and a dance sequence in the film, but that doesn’t hinder anything in terms of the overall film.
Teen Wolf can be described as a film with a lesson that precedes that of that particular wall-crawler, driven by great performances by Michael J. Fox and James Hampton. If you like werewolf films and family films, this is one for you must-see list.
WFG RATING: A-
Atlantic Releasing Corporation presents a Wolfkill production. Director: Rod Daniel. Producers: Mark Levinson and Scott Rosenfelt. Writers: Jeph Loeb and Matthew Weisman. Cinematography: Tim Suhrstedt. Editing: Lois Freeman-Fox.
Cast: Michael J. Fox, James Hampton, Jerry Levine, Susan Ursitti, Jim MacKrell, Lorie Griffin, Mark Arnold, Matt Adler, Mark Holton, Jay Tarses, Scott Paulin.