MARCH 2, 2009
If there’s one thing I never quite expect in one of my budget packs, it’s witty writing. Not that the movies are all “so bad it’s good” affairs like Cathy’s Curse, but they are all by and large rather generic filler (hence why they are available for forty cents a piece in a flimsy DVD boxed set). So I was surprised to find that The Werewolf Of Washington contained a healthy dose of wit and satirical writing. Being that it’s 37 years old, it obviously pales in comparison to what the Onion or Colbert come up with on a daily basis, but still, it beats the shit out of another inheritance scam movie.
The funny thing about the movie is how blatantly it rips off The Wolf Man setup, right down to the silver handled cane being used against a Gypsy guy. The twist is, our Larry Talbot standin (Dean Stockwell!) is convinced that the Gypsy (actually Hungarian, but for all intents and purposes it’s the same character) is a spy, so he asks his interpreter to “find out who she’s working for!” Then when the subject of pentagrams come up, he hears it as “Pentagon”. Heh. Once he gets back to Washington (actually Long Island) it’s more original, with lots of Watergate jokes (he's not supposed to be Nixon though, at least I don't think - they don't give him a name) and jabs at the President’s general cluelessness taking center stage.
What I dug about the movie was the general quirkiness of the whole thing. There’s a bald guy with sunglasses just standing in the background of several scenes (in one he keeps taking quick photos) but unless I missed it, he never talks, nor does anyone say what his job is. Then there’s a part where the president has to keep repeating “Chopper” over and over (and finishes with “Helichopper”). And then there’s this:
I mean, come on, the movie might have a lot of faults, but you can’t see a screenshot like that and still deny its intentional entertainment value.
One of those faults is the werewolf getup. Maybe they didn’t have enough money to tear the suit, or maybe it’s supposed to be a sight gag, but Stockwell simply looks like a guy wearing a werewolf mask. His nice suit never gets torn or even disheveled, making it hard to swallow. I don’t need a full blown transformation, but at least glue some hair on his chest and rip the shirt a little. Come on guys. Incidentally, the creepiest moment involving the werewolf is actually offscreen entirely. During the end credits, the President is giving a “My fellow Americans” speech, and he suddenly trails off, starts repeating himself, and then becomes a werewolf himself. It’s pretty awesome, and sets up a sequel that, far as I know, does not exist.
There’s also a scene in which two men engage in a rather tense scene in an in-home bowling alley. I can’t help but wonder if Paul Thomas Anderson watched the film before writing There Will Be Blood. I would like to think so. No one drinks a milk shake though, that was all PTA.
Like just about all of these movies, there is apparently no decent transfer available. Even on its own DVD, it’s a full frame VHS transfer, making the Tales of Terror version more enticing since you get 49 other movies with it for a few dollars more. But given the setup and occasionally (OK, usually) crude technical merits of the film, I would put this on the top of the “THIS should be remade” list. Surely you could modernize the film in every conceivable way: do a great Bush parody while delivering a decent werewolf movie at the same time. I know a few screenwriters/filmmakers read HMAD now - let’s write this bitch and live as kings! Also I’ll play the sunglasses guy.
What say you?
And now, Horror Movie A Day and Happy Hour Comics would like to present the 3rd in an ongoing series of HMAD-inspired comic strips. I hope you enjoy!! (Click to enlarge)