For years now, Scream Factory has racked up a great number of quality Blu-ray releases, a number of them being “collector’s editions” of some of the most applauded genre items of the last few decades. But even more appreciated for many us is when they grab a title like THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF, an early 1970s American monster flick with a smaller but significant-enough following, and especially for the fact that it’s never before had a home video release, that is until this long-awaited Blu-ray.
After the recent divorce from his wife Sandy (Elaine Devry, DIARY OF A MADMAN), Robert Bridgestone (Kerwin Matthews, THE PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER) takes his young son Richie (Scott Sealey) to his secluded mountain cabin in the woods for some father and son bonding. Upon their arrival during a full moon, Richie is confronted outside the cabin by a werewolf (veteran stuntman Paul Baxley), with dad coming to the rescue and getting bit on his arm in the process. The beast goes over a cliff, but what is found dead is an impaled man. With it being very dark and everything happening so fast, Robert doesn’t believe his son’s claim that it was a werewolf that attacked him, and neither does the uncompromising sheriff (Robert J. Wilke, STRIPES). As little Richie is in therapy due to his parents’ separation, his therapist Dr. Marderosian (George Gaynes, later in the “Police Academy” movies and TV’s “Punky Brewster”) suggests that he go back to the cabin with dad to get over his “werewolf fixation”. But during their return visit, Richie witnesses dad Robert’s transformation into a werewolf, seeking shelter at the camper of nice young couple Jenny (Susan Foster, BILLY JACK) and Harry (Jack Lucas); the couple becomes fodder for the werewolf as he shakes their trailer furiously until it tumbles over a cliff. More victims are claimed and bodies are mutilated (including a severed head with the werewolf buries in the cabin for later eatin’), yet they still don’t believe Richie, that is until it’s far too late.
Universal Studios basically contrived the “sound era” of werewolf movies with 1935’s THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON and 1941’s THE WOLF MAN, with that film’s star, Lon Chaney, returning for a handful of popular sequels throughout the 1940s. Ironically, 1973’s THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF was also released by Universal and comes at a time when traditional Hollywood werewolf films were winding down (though Spain’s Paul Naschy, among others, would continue to keep this category of monster alive). This was some years before elaborate man-into-monster transformation effects took center-stage for hits like AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF OF LONDON and THE HOWLING, both which reinvented the werewolf genre for years to follow. In THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF, the transformation scenes use that old-fashioned go-to method of “frame by frame” still shots to illustrate Matthews turning into a beast, and this worked fine and still has a certain charm for those who read about the film in the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland and The Monster Times, along with the other-then recent theatrical releases from the likes of Hammer and AIP. Historically, the film was released the year before THE EXORCIST, after which the genre (including the end of the golden age of Hammer horrors) would drastically change and movies of this sort would mostly be relegated to late-night and Saturday afternoon television, or the occasional all night drive-in monster movie fests of titles that first played years ago.
Fast paced and with more werewolf action than any other film of its type, THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF was packaged and paired on the bottom of a PG-rated double bill with the far more celebrated and respected SSSSSSS (also available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, so you can recreate this double bill in HD in your own living room), and this quite possibly is the last duo of movies Universal released in such a fashion. Director Nathan Juran was mostly known for his television work and B movies, as well as some ambitious efforts which featured the stop motion effects of Ray Harryhausen, two of which also starred Matthews (THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD and THE THREE WORLDS OF GULLIVER); this would be Juran’s last feature film, as he retired right after finishing it. So in this third collaboration between director and actor, Matthews seems to be relishing the one role that constantly had his handsome features covered with make-up and yak hair, giving us a more animated and expressionistic werewolf than usual (Matthews too retired from movies right after this, although he did have a swashbuckler cameo in a “film within a film” segment of John Stanley’s NIGHTMARE IN BLOOD, released in 1978). The unusual werewolf makeup was created by Tom Burman, who would go on to work on the 1978 INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, PROPHECY and HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH, among others. With its more canine-look (long snout and extended mouth), the werewolf design is in the same league with the various creatures he would later design for 1977’s THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU). Even with its inconsistencies (the wild strands of white hair, a constantly exposed “human” neck), the werewolf makeup is still impressive.
With its tagline of “POSSIBLE IN THIS DAY AND AGE?” you have to wonder if THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF was being advertised as a “modern day” horror tale, even though filmgoers don’t think of werewolves as beings from a different century (unlike vampire films with early 1970s peers such as COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE and DRACULA A.D. 1972 as prime examples). But the screenplay by Bob Homel (his only screenwriting credit) adds to the mix a then-trendy caravan of God-loving, Bible-thumping hippies who set up in the woods near the general vicinity of the werewolf attacks (and they later confront the beast in one of the film’s more wild scenes). Unlike other horror films of the time that incorporate fanatical hippie cults inspired by the Manson clan, these peace-loving zealots are harmless and can be a quite amusing—if instantly dated—switch-out for traditional gypsies, with screenwriter Homel (HOW SWEET IT IS) cast as their very loud, longhaired and bearded leader, Brother Christopher (and he obviously gave his character some of the more over-the-top dialogue). Homel’s other smart ingredient to an otherwise average werewolf story, is having a child (Sealey) as the protagonist, as the many monster kids who saw this in the theater back in ‘73 could easily identify with the character (Sealey, who is actually quite likable in a role that could have been obnoxious, only has one other screen credit: a 1972 episode of “Emergency”). The music by Ted Stovall (his only credit) is somewhat similar to the style of Bob Cobert of “Dark Shadows” fame.
THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF never had a VHS or DVD release, and after its initial theatrical run, it played a lot on local TV (such WABC New York’s Channel 7, often on “The 4:30 Movie”) and more recently on AMC and MeTV’s “Svengoolie” program, where they deleted the entire opening credits). Scream Factory/Shout! Factory now debuts THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF on Blu-ray in a new high-definition transfer, presenting the film in 1080p in its original 1.85:1 theatrical ratio, and it looks fantastic. The image has excellent texture and depth, with lots of extra detail in the many outdoor nighttime scenes which were hard to make out during television broadcasts. Colors are bold and have nice punch, while grain is faint yet organic in appearance. Skin tones look natural and the black levels are deep, with only some scattered source blemishes popping up here and there. The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track has good fidelity and decent range, with no noticeable hiss or other distortion detectable. Optional English SDH subtitles are included. The extras are a full frame trailer (actually the combo trailer with SSSSSSS) and a still gallery. (George R. Reis)
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