Monday, May 9, 2011

'Moon of the Wolf' is okay, but not spectacular

Moon of the Wolf (1972)
Starring: David Janssen, Barbara Rush, Bradford Dillman, and Geoffrey Lewis
Director: Daniel Petrie
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A small Louisanna town is terrorized by a string of brutal, savage murders. Sheriff Whitaker (Janssen) gradually comes to the realization that the murderer isn't quite human, and the trail leads to the front door of the town's leading citizens, Louise and Andrew Rodanthe (Rush and Dillman). But can such a thing as a werewolf really exist?

"Moon of the Wolf" is a pretty straight-forward werewolf movie, complete with the skeptic initially saying "there isn't such a thing as werewolves", the fortune teller who sees doom for the next victims, the wealthy family with a history of strange illnesses, and a list of possible candidates for who the werewolf might be, thus lending a "who-dunnit" aspect to the film until the creature is revealed.

Given that this is a made-for-TV movie that dates from the 1970s, it perhaps goes without saying that the werewolf (when is finally revealed) is in a less than impressive costume--but at least the director seemed to have realized this, and he tries to dwell on it as little of as he can, and he doesn't foolishly attempt any on-screen transformations that his budget doesn't allow for. So, the somewhat underwhelming werewolf doesn't harm the movie any.

Where this film does stand out, however, is that it doesn't take the usual movie route and portray the smalltown Southerners as a bunch of moronic bigots, nor are the wealthy people shown as exploitive racists. Instead, it shows a community where everyone works together... and interracial relationships happen and are accepted. In other words, the film gives a truer portrayal of a small town in the late 20th century than most movies bother to give us. And that keeps the movie in the "Fresh" category. The film also offers an interesting little tidbit: In the world of this movie, lycanthropy can be controlled with the right sort of medication, if taken in the right, timely doses. This is a small (but crucial) part of the plot, and it's the one semi-original thing that the movie brought to the table.

"Moon of the Wolf" has a solid cast that give good performances, and a decent script that brings a couple of minor variations to what we're used to from this sort of movie. I believe lovers or werewolf films will probably enjoy it, but it's not a "must-see.

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