Director: Fred F. Sears
Writers: Robert E. Kent and James B. Gordon
Cast: Don Megowan, Joyce Holden, Eleanore Tanin, Kim Charney, Harry Lauter, Larry J. Blake, Ken Christy, James Gavin, S. John Launer, George M. Lynn, George Cisar, and Steven Ritch
Composer: Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Release Date: 7/1/1956
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Stumbling upon the scene of a car accident, scientists Emory Forrest (S. John Launer) and Morgan Chambers (George M. Lynn) inject Duncan Marsh (Steven Ritch)—a loving husband and father—with an experimental serum, turning him into a werewolf. Aware of Duncan’s predicament, Sheriff Jack Haines (Don Megowan) and his girlfriend, Amy Standish (Joyce Holden), attempt to locate and capture the werewolf without killing him.
Similar to I Was a Teenage Werewolf starring Michael Landon, this film offers a sci-fi twist on the werewolf legend. Creature feature fans and science fiction enthusiasts may thus enjoy The Werewolf, B movie tropes notwithstanding.
Don Megowan (known to Universal Monster buffs for playing the Gill Man in The Creature Walks Among Us) deserves praise for his portrayal of Jack Haines, a small-town sheriff who, being a man of conscience, hesitates to kill Duncan Marsh despite the terrible danger he poses to the community—possibly the earliest example of a horror movie character, protagonist or otherwise, who considers the ethical ramifications of slaughtering a werewolf.
This film should also be commended for depicting the title creature in a tragic—and therefore sympathetic—manner. Specifically worth noting is the pathos conveyed by Steven Ritch, who, as if channeling the emotional torment of Larry Talbot, compels the viewer to feel extraordinary compassion for Duncan—a victim of human experimentation.
The Werewolf is marred by the typical shortcomings of a low-budget sci-fi/horror production: unconvincing make-up effects, cheesy transformation sequences, and occasionally weak performances from supporting cast members.
Made during the Atomic Age, The Werewolf features a mad scientist who, while determining the effects of radioactive fallout on living organisms, transforms a human being into a savage beast—a unique origin story for the werewolf creature, and one that ties into a relevant Cold War theme.
The Werewolf is a clever, modern take on one of the most popular concepts in supernatural horror fiction. There are instances, however, when low production values hamper an otherwise exceptional effort from Fred F. Sears—frequent collaborator with producer Sam Katzman.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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