Moon of the Wolf


Year 1972

David Janssen as   Sheriff Aaron Whitaker  
Barbara Rush as Louise Rodanthe
Bradford Dillman   as Andrew Rodanthe
Geoffrey Lewis as  Lawrence
Royal Dano as Tom Sr.
John Chandler as Tom Jr.
 
Director - Daniel Petrie
Teleplay - Alvin Sapinsley

Considering the title Moon of the Wolf I hope that I'm giving nothing away by saying the movie concerns a special type of wolf when the moon is right. That's right! It's a werewolf.

In the movie, they never call it that at least not in English. They'll use the French word "loup-garou" often enough, but no one will be able to understand the word. From watching Johnny Quest in the 60s, I knew that loup-garou meant werewolf. But it's almost like the word werewolf is taboo. It's as if saying werewolf would cheapen the movie. So, the characters say "loupe-garruck" to, you know, disguise it and talk about things like lycanthropy.

The plot is this. For some reason, a girl is killed by "wild dogs" in a Louisiana swamp on Marsh Island. The Sheriff decides it's a murder and he needs to solve it. Of course, he's hunting a werewolf.

This movie isn't bad considering it was made for TV with about tree-fiddy given to the special effects. Don't expect any transformation screens. One minute, there's a normal guy and the next time you see him, Poof! he's hairy. The beast shows up twice in the movie and both times he looks different. The first time, he's got dark brown fur and a puppy dog nose. The second time, he's got light brown fur and a black smudge on his human nose. Barf from Space Balls looked more like a werewolf.

The best part of this movie, and I almost put it in the Torn and Frayed category for this reason, is the cast. David Janssen of the original The Fugitive fame grumbles his lines like he always did. I always liked David Janssen with his never look at anything but the ground with your shirt opened to your waist to show your hairy chest approach to acting. (Wait. Who's the werewolf again?)

Bradford Dillman is no slouch either. He's told by Eastwood in The Enforcer that his "mouthwash ain't makin' it."

Then there're the supporting actors. There's Royal Dano who always seems to play a country bumpkin, usually a nasty one. There's also big toothed, straight haired John Chandler of Mad Dog Coll fame. And last, but not least, there's Geoffrey Lewis of High Plains Drifter fame. He's the guy who yells at Eastwood, "Who are you?"

For every bit of good acting, there're equal parts Barbara Rush. She's supposed to be Janssen's love interest and she's cute enough to be able to sell it. But she seems to be forgetting her lines constantly. I know her character's supposed to be a bit dotty, but I half expected her to ask, "What's that in the road? A head?"

I had to wonder if some of this was played for laughs. For example, in the middle of the night, there's a murder and the police are called. In the next scene, it's mid-morning and the Sheriff arrives. People are already there and the Sheriff asks how they got there before him. It took him six hours and he wondered how people got there before him? Was that supposed to be a joke?

Or having fresh ice cubes bobbing in a pitcher of lemonade on a table in the middle of summer in Louisiana just because the characters eventually needed to have an excuse to sit. Or the doctor offering the Sheriff a drink and then only having one glass which he, the doctor, uses. Or Lawrence (Lewis) saying of the first person murdered, "I could read her like I can read a newspaper," even though his character's literacy is questionable.

Or a nurse asking Lawrence, "If I tell you something, will you promise to keep your head on your neck?" Uh, your neck? That's a new expression. It's right up there with, "He's got a good head on his neck," and "He's head and neck better than everybody else."

Or a barn burning in the nightime that doesn't light up the sky for a mile around? Or someone escaping this burning barn after a few minutes of rotisserie action without a hair or article of clothing singed?

As far as made-for-TV movies go, this is par for the course in the early 70s with the requisite dumb revelation at the end. But I have to say this for the scriptwriter. There's a plausible explanation for why the murders suddenly started. That reason is the medication that the werewolf was taking quit working. (I didn't say it was clever or good, just plausible.) There, however, is no explanation for four consecutive nights of a full moon.

No nudity and no blasphemy or profanity. Only see it if you're a big Geoffrey Lewis fan. (I kind of am. His Orville Boggs in Any Which Way You Can and his Alfred Fellig in the Tithonus episode of the X-Files made me like the man's style.)


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