Directed by Joe Dante (Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, Gremlins), The Howling is 1981 horror film written by John Sayles and Terence H. Winkless and features an original music score composed by Pino Donaggio.
Based on Gary Brandner’s 1977 novel, The Howling arrives on Blu-ray June 18, 2013 with a well-stocked selection of commentaries, interviews, featurettes, and deleted scenes. The film stars Dee Wallace (E.T., Critters, Cujo) as Karen White, a Los Angeles television news anchor who is being stalked by a serial murderer named Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo). In cooperation with the police, she takes part in a scheme to capture Eddie by agreeing to meet him in a sleazy porno shop.
There Eddie forces Karen to watch a video of a young woman being raped. Just as Eddie makes a move to replicate the video’s disturbing images with Karen, the police enter and shoot the stalker/rapist dead. Karen is safe, but has blocked the traumatic memories from her mind. Her therapist, Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee), decides to send her and her husband, Bill (Christopher Stone), to “The Colony,” a secluded resort in the countryside where he sends patients for treatment.
The Colony is filled with all kinds of strange characters, including a seductive nymphomaniac named Marsha (Elisabeth Brooks), who tries to seduce Bill. When he resists her less-than-subtle sexual advances, he is attacked and bitten by a wolf-like creature on the way back to his cabin.
He later returns to the forest only to find Marsha waiting for him. The two have sex by the campfire in the moonlight and, mid-coitus, the lovers shapeshift into goddamn werewolves. That’s right, you heard me, GODDAMN WEREWOLVES. When’s the last time you saw two werewolves gettin’ it on by a campfire? And I’m not talking about True Blood‘s version of werewolf sex a.k.a “Supernatural Dudes with Six Packs Layin’ it to Anna Paquin™,” I’m talking about full-on fangs and fur fucking here, guys.
Anyway, turns out the The Colony is a summer camp for werewolves and they plan on turning Karen into a snarling sex slave for Satan, or whatever werewolves do. It’s up to Karen’s colleagues back to the news station to discover the secrets of The Colony and stock up on silver bullets to take care of the GODDAMN WEREWOLF problem.
The Howling is filled with in-jokes for movie buffs and horror aficionados, including not-so-subtle references to wolves: The Big Bad Wolf from Ub Iwerks’ Little Boy Blue (1936) is seen on TV, Sheriff Newfield (Slim Pickens) is seen eating Wolf Brand chili and – maybe we’re stretching it here – a copy of the Allen Ginsberg’s Howl appears, and there’s a mention of disc jockey Wolfman Jack.
Many characters in the film are named after horror film directors who made other films that featured werewolves, including George Waggner, who directed The Wolf Man (1941) and R. William Neill who directed 1943’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.
Dick Miller‘s bookstore owner Walter Paisley gets his name from Miller’s character in the low-budget 1959 horror film A Bucket of Blood. And finally, maybe my favorite part of The Howling are the cameos. The film’s screenwriter John Sayles, B-movie producer Roger Corman and Famous Monsters of Filmland founder Forrest J. Ackerman all appear briefly in Dante’s film.
The Howling is remembered for Rob Bottin‘s impressive werewolf transformations, second only to Rick Baker’s amazing work in Jon Landis’ An American Werewolf in London, which came out the same year. After his work on The Howling, Bottin would go on to create the astounding effects for John Carpenter’s The Thing and later Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop.
The Howling‘s werewolves (not to mention Dee Wallace and Elisabeth Brooks) look incredible with Scream Factory’s immaculate Blu-ray restoration, which comes with hours of bonus materials detailing the making of the film and bottin’s effects. If you’re unfamiliar with Shout Factory’s sub-division of forgotten horror and science-fiction films, Scream Factory is like the Criterion Collection of low-budget slasher flicks and B-movies. These Blu-ray transfers are among the best you’ll find, and if you have even a passing interest in ’70s and ’80s genre pictures, check out Scream Factory’s already impressive catalog of films.
You can pre-order The Howling (Collector’s Edition) here.
* Audio Commentary with Author Gary Brandner
* Audio Commentary With Director Joe Dante And Actors Dee Wallace, Christopher Stone and Robert Picardo
* Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio Commentary from Director Joe Dante
* Unleashing the Beast: The Making Of The Howling Multi-part Documentary
* Making Of A Monster: Inside The Howling Documentary
* Horror’s Hallowed Grounds- A look at the film’s locations
* Interview with Stop-Motion Animator Dave Allen
* Interview with screenwriter Terence Winkless, Executive Producer Steven A. Lane and editor Mark Goldblatt
* Outtakes, Photo Gallery, Theatrical Trailers
* Reversible Cover with Original Theatrical Key Art