Tuesday, April 24, 2018

I Was A Teenage Werewolf

AIP released this excellent teen horror movie done no favors by its ten-cent title. After leading man Michael Landon became a big star on BONANZA and LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, he gently mocked I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF on talk shows, but he also wasn’t embarrassed by it, nor should he have been. He even parodied it on HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN.

Landon, then 20 years old and a Method actor (he learned to loosen up as Little Joe), is quite good in his first starring role as a troubled teen who gets into a lot of fights. Landon plays him as a pretty good kid, but with serious anger management issues. To hopefully cure him of his violent tendencies, sympathetic cop Barney Phillips (THE SAND PEBBLES) and Landon’s girlfriend Yvonne Lime (DRAGSTRIP RIOT) suggest he see a shrink. Unfortunately, said shrink is played by Whit Bissell (THE TIME MACHINE), a mad scientist who turns Landon into a werewolf. Landon wears the makeup in every scene and does all his stunts.

Film editor Gene Fowler Jr. made his directing debut and delivers plenty of verve and style for a picture allegedly shot in six days on an $80,000 budget (TEENAGE WEREWOLF probably grossed 100 times its budget). The screenplay by producer Herman Cohen (KONGA) and Aben Kandel (TROG) not only gives Landon a strong character to play, but also Lime as a good girl who genuinely cares for Landon and ace character actor Malcolm Atterbury (THE BIRDS) as Landon’s widowed father who tries to teach his son to control his temper.

While the film’s view of teenagers is strictly from the perspective of the middle-aged director and writers, I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF is intelligent and suspenseful. It also led to AIP follow-ups, including HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER and the inevitable I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN, in which Bissell played basically the same character.

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