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July 15, 2013

Movie Review: The Howling (Collector's Edition Blu-ray, 1981)

Werewolves have always had a soft spot in my heart since I was a youngster taking in creature features on Sunday afternoons. The first couple films to really give me that burst of lycanthrope excitement were, John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London and Joe Dante’s The Howling.  There have been others like, The WolfmanThe Company of Wolves, Silver Bullet and even the more recent Dog Soldiers but nothing came close to the grand scale of those two classics. Scream Factory has thankfully taken the time to give Joe Dante’s film a loaded Blu-ray release for fans to salivate over, much like our canine friends. I recently got a chance to sink my teeth into it and, well, it doesn’t disappoint.

Dee Wallace Stone plays news reporter Karen White, a brave gal who helps the authorities by attempting to trap a serial killer. Things don’t over particularly after the cops gun down the killer as our heroine is severely traumatized by the whole situation. This incident calls for  some serious R & R for her, so she, along with her hubbie, William (the late Christopher Stone) take a journey into the woods to a colony of fairly friendly folks who are as hospitable as can be for the couple.

The couple starts to see that things are exactly what they seem, and that while they may be away from the carnage of the serial killer they could be somewhere worse – in the middle of a colony of ferocious, horny and very hungry werewolves.

The Howling produces several enjoyable performances aside from Wallace and Stone – we also get to see cult film veterans Kevin McCarthy, John Carradine and Dick Miller in top form. The real star here is without a doubt the FX work by Rob Bottin (The Thing, Total Recall). Bottin’s werewolf transformations are show-stopping and to this day are as stomach-churningly real in beautiful HD. A true master, that’s right up there with Rick Baker and Dick Smith.

An excellent audio commentary, previously on the MGM disc is thankfully provided by Director Joe Dante and Actors Dee Wallace, Christopher Stone, and Robert Picardo. The Blu-ray also includes the multi-part "Unleashing the Beast: The Making of 'The Howling'" and "Making of a Monster: Inside 'The Howling'" documentaries. These have some very archival footage a Dante interview and even a very young Rob Bottin giving some insight on his involvement. There is also another installment of "Horror's Hallowed Grounds."  Deleted scenes and outtakes are here in abundance (right from Dante’s garage!) along with a photo gallery and theatrical trailers.

Also here among the supplements are some additional interviews that include writer Terence Winkless, who talks about his writing collaboration with John Sayles and Dante.Winkless has talks about how while this may not have initially payed like his job at Colombia, it did open up many more doors for writing and directing. He has some cool stories.  According to Winkless, some of the names (like Terrence Fisher) were purposely used because Dante wanted some nods to some of the great werewolf films from years past.

The transfer is pretty gorgeous -- with the dark scenes and the blues crucial to the look and the mood popping like never before. Scream Factory has outdone themselves with this transfer, blowing away the MGM DVD from early 2000. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray of the The Howling gives this classic the red carpet treatment and needs to be in the collection of all horror fans. Highly Recommended.

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