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Fred F. Sears
Steven Ritch, Don Megowan, Joyce Holden
Writing Credits:
Robert E. Kent, James B. Gordon

A werewolf stalks a northern California town.

Rated NA.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 79 min.
Price: $99.95
Release Date: 9/14/21
Available as Part of “Cold War Creatures” Four-Film Collection

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Lee Gambin
• Introduction by Film Historian Kim Newman
• “Beyond Window Dressing” Visual Essay
• Super 8 Version
• Trailer
• Image Gallery


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The Werewolf [Blu-Ray] (1956)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 12, 2021)

Although vampires and zombies tend to dominate horror films, we’ve gotten plenty of lycanthropic movies over the decades. Into this category falls 1956’s succinctly titled The Werewolf.

In remote Mountaincrest California, a bar patron (Steven Ritch) seems confused and unsure of his own identity. When another customer (Charles Horvath) tries to mug him, the man turns into a werewolf and brutally slaughters his assailant.

Unsurprisingly, this brings the involvement of law enforcement. Local Sheriff Jack Haines (Don Megowan) leads the attempts to find the wolfman before he kills again.

As mentioned at the start, Werewolf exists as part of an oft-visited genre. This means the crucial question revolves around whether it brings anything different to the table.

To a moderate degree, it does. Werewolf betrays its low-budget origins and fails to become anything spectacular, but it brings enough twists to create an intriguing take on the genre.

Possibly the freshest aspect of Werewolf relates to the nature of the title character. Usually wolfmen “earn” their status because of a curse or a bite from another infected person, but this flick finds a different path for its lead.

Because the movie keeps this a secret for much of its running time, I’ll not spill these beans so I can avoid spoilers. Suffice it to say that Werewolf deviates from the usual “origin story” in a creative – and era-appropriate – manner that gives it spark.

In addition, Werewolf offers a story that doesn’t overshoot its means. As mentioned, the movie clearly didn’t enjoy a large budget, and the film comes with modest scope.

Rather than have this turn into a problem, the filmmakers use the limited settings for a sense of claustrophobia and menace. The movie sticks close to its wooded locations and this becomes a nice way for the flick to maintain a concise focus.

Ritch offers a solid performance as the lead. He makes his human side tortured and distraught, factors that allow him to become a memorable character.

Werewolf finds real nuance in its horror and it delivers a pretty solid mix of horror and pathos. The film doesn’t turn into a classic, but it’s better than average for its genre and era.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B

The Werewolf appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became an inconsistent image but it largely reflected its source.

And to be fair, the movie usually looked good, as sharpness appeared nicely tight and distinctive most of the time. Any softness stemmed from the original photography, as some components – like poorly-executed process shots – caused some ill-defined material.

Despite those, most of the movie appeared pretty concise, and no issues with shimmering or jagged edges occurred. Even the film’s advanced age, source flaws were minor, so this was a clean presentation outside of occasional marks. A good layer of grain manifested, so I didn’t suspect significant noise reduction.

Contrast was strong, as the movie consistently maintained a nice silver tone. Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows were smooth and well-defined – other than during a few “day for night”” shots. Again, the original production created some lackluster elements, but most of the image seemed appealing.

In addition, the LPCM monaural soundtrack of Werewolf also worked fine. Speech seemed reasonably accurate and distinct, with no issues related to intelligibility or edginess.

Some of the lines showed lackluster looping, but they were still clear enough. Music came across as fairly bright and lively, though dynamic range seemed limited given the restrictions of the source.

Effects showed good clarity and accuracy within the confines of 65-year-old stems. This was a more than adequate auditory presentation for an older movie.

A few extras appear here, and we start with an audio commentary from film historian Lee Gambin. He provides a running, screen-specific look at story and characters, themes and genre topics, cast and crew.

Gambin gives us some basics about the production, but he devotes most of the chat to his interpretation of the film and its links to the werewolf realm of stories. At times Gambin offers good insights, but I wish he balanced the discussion more than he does.

I think Gambin devotes too much time to the film’s themes and related domains, mainly because Werewolf doesn’t provide the world’s deepest movie. Sure, it comes with subtext and acts as a reflection of its era, but it still places these topics close enough to the surface that we don’t need much “serious discussion”. This ends up as a perfectly listenable track in any case.

We can watch the movie with or without an introduction by film historian Kim Newman. It goes for 13 minutes, 55 seconds as Newman delivers some notes about the flick, its genre and its creators. Newman gives us a decent lead-in to the film.

A “visual essay” called Beyond Window Dressing runs 23 minutes, 35 seconds and features notes from author/critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. She discusses the use of females in the movies of producer Sam Katzman and makes this an informative overview.

Next comes a Super 8 Version of Werewolf. It spans seven minutes, 33 seconds and indeed provides an abbreviated cut of the film.

Obviously it loses a whole lot of movie, as it runs more than 70 minutes shorter than the finished product. To compensate, the Super 8 edition adds narration, but it still seems fairly incoherent.

Unsurprisingly, the print looks pretty terrible, too. Nonetheless, it becomes a cool historical curiosity.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we finish with an Image Gallery. It shows 14 shots that mix publicity stills and shots from the movie. It becomes a decent but kind of blah collection.

In a crowded genre, The Werewolf manages to give us a pretty good wolfman story. With a strong lead performance and a few intriguing twists, this turns into an engaging and memorable horror tale. The Blu-ray brings largely positive picture and audio as well as a mix of bonus materials. Werewolf fares nicely after 65 years.

Note that Werewolf comes only as part of a four-film package called “Cold War Creatures”. In addition to Werewolf, it brings three other movies from producer Sam Katzman: Creature With the Atom Brain, Zombies of Mora Tau and The Giant Claw

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 3
2 3:
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