Director: Gene Fowler Jr.
Writer: Ralph Thornton
Cast: Michael Landon, Yvonne Lime, Whit Bissell, Tony Marshall, Dawn Richard, Barney Phillips, Ken Miller, Cindy Robbins, Michael Rougas, Robert Griffin, Joseph Mell, Malcolm Atterbury, Eddie Marr, Vladimir Sokoloff, Louise Lewis, John Launer, Guy Williams, and Dorothy Crehan
Composer: Paul Dunlap
Release Date: 6/19/1957
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
After numerous confrontations with his high school peers, troubled teenager Tony Rivers (Michael Landon) seeks assistance from hypnotherapist Alfred Brandon (Whit Bissell). In spite of his trustworthy veneer, Dr. Brandon—intent on returning the human race to a primitive state—transforms Tony into a bloodthirsty werewolf.
I Was a Teenage Werewolf deserves praise for the performances of Michael Landon, Whit Bissell, and Guy Williams—known to science fiction fans for playing John Robinson in the original Lost in Space. Werewolf enthusiasts may, however, criticize the second-rate makeup effects and transformation scenes featured in this film.
Famous for Bonanza, Highway to Heaven, and Little House on the Prairie, Landon—still a young and relatively unknown actor in the late 1950s—should be commended for capturing the angst, instability, and feelings of isolation that typically characterize an emotionally disturbed male teenager. (Nevertheless, it should be noted that Tony—despite his quickness to anger and disrespect toward authority figures—comes across as a sympathetic and conflicted young man, showing great remorse for the crimes of his bestial counterpart.)
Due to its dated production elements (e.g., 1950s jive talk, clothing styles, and musical numbers), I Was a Teenage Werewolf may fail to resonate with modern audiences—excepting those with a special interest in teen culture of the Elvis Presley era.
Viewers may also take issue with this film for combining a werewolf premise with a mad scientist theme, which, though a clever and original idea, benefits from a superior execution in Fred F. Sears’ The Werewolf. Specifically problematic is that Alfred Brandon, an insane and callous doctor, never bothers to explain how turning people into werewolves (described as a form of “regression therapy”) will accomplish his goal of preserving the human race—supposedly on the brink of self-destruction.
Exploring the werewolf concept as a metaphor for emotional volatility, this offering demonstrates how failing to curtail one’s rage—especially during the developmental stages of life—can lead to terrible consequences in the long term.
Providing a scientific twist on a supernatural legend, I Was a Teenage Werewolf may appeal to B-movie buffs and fans of the sci-fi/horror crossover genre. Worth highlighting in particular is Landon’s portrayal of Tony Rivers—a victim of both his own shortcomings and the experiments of a deranged mad doctor.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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