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The Howling

Team Jacob?!? Try Team Dante.

Rod Lott May 31st, 2013

One of at least four werewolf films to be released in 1981, The Howling remains a distant second to John Landis' An American Werewolf in London, but only because Joe Dante wasn't able to enjoy the competition's deep coffers. Sacrilege alert: I find Dante's to be the better movie.


Reunited with his Piranha screenwriter John Sayles, Dante spins a suspenseful, spooky and spoofy tale of TV anchorman Karen White (E.T. mom Dee Wallace in her best role), ordered by her psychiatrist (Patrick Macnee, TV's The Avengers) to take some time off following a traumatic, near-death experience that has left her with amnesia.

Said sojourn is to take place at The Colony, his own out-of-the-way place in the mountains where strange howling noises can be heard at night. The source of such audio will surprise no one; it's the very reason viewers continue to watch the film, and Rob Bottin's hairy effects prove an old-school, in-camera delight. Simultaneously poking fun at the self-help/New Age movement of the era, Dante delivers a lycanthropic mini-epic strewn with his usual in-jokes and cameos.

As with the other flicks in its Scream Factory line, Shout! Factory has packed The Howling's Blu-ray debut with a load of extras, many of them from MGM's Special Edition of a decade prior, including commentaries (recorded before co-star Christopher Stone's passing) and a feature-length documentary.

Among the notable new material are a commentary with Howling novelist Gary Brandner, who's quite a character, and an 18-minute sit-down with executive producer Steven A. Lane, who addresses the project's abortive start with another director and runs down the six sequels he's shepherded to screen since, from 1985's Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf to 2011's The Howling: Reborn. On the former, Lane lets spill the culprit behind Sybil Danning's topless shot being repeated 17 times in the closing credits — this, ladies and gentlemen, is why home-video bonus content exists. —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
The Burning Blu-ray review
• Halloween II / Halloween III: Season of the Witch Blu-ray reviews  
The Howling: Reborn Blu-ray review    
Piranha DVD review  

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