The Howling (Collector’s Edition) is a film that declares its intentions immediately. The scene opens with TV news anchor Karen White (Dee Wallace) being stalked by rapist and serial murderer Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo). She’s working with the police and is wearing a wire and being tracked, but as she moves to confront Quist the fuzz lose her. The showdown takes place in a dirty porn theater peep booth, with Quist holding a knife to her throat and forcing her to watch a violent porn film as he prepares to murder her. At the last moment, the cops bust in and shoot Quist down. Before the word “werewolf” is even mentioned, we’ve already seen mankind at its worst in the form of Quist, a dark shadow acting upon his most primal urges. Within those opening moments we’ve also gotten a healthy dose of director Joe Dante’s pitch black humor, including a cameo from B-movie king Roger Corman. It’s the alternating currents of sleazy horror and grim comedy that make The Howling something special, and though Dante would later perfect the horror-comedy formula with his next flick Gremlins, it’s present here in a more raw and explicit fashion. The Howling is also notable because it successfully marries the slasher film aesthetic to the monster movie, giving us the (admittedly low budget) best of both worlds. These days, the werewolf in film is often treated as a supernatural powerhouse, lacking subtlety, a tank. Here we see the beast as an ideal implacable killer, stalking prey in tense cat-and-mouse pursuit while still capable of explosive acts of violence and aggression. And in the grand tradition of the slasher film, there’s plenty of tits and ass to go with the werewolves and grue. It’s all rounded out with tons of juicy practical creature effects courtesy of Rob Bottin (The Thing, Legend). By today’s CGI standards, the werewolf transformation scenes feel a bit drawn out, but thanks to a deft hand, Dante and editor Mark Goldblatt manage to retain the horrific tone of the painful transformations. These are pus-bubbling, skin-rending, bone-cracking metamorphoses. A centerpiece of the film, these scenes were considered the most shocking and graphic werewolf transformations seen on film to date. Unfortunately, The Howling would be overshadowed in this aspect by An American Werewolf in London, released a mere four months later. Regardless, The Howling remains a triumph of practical effects, and contrasts it’s competitor in that their final stage, The Howling’s werewolves are large bipedal and anthropomorphic; true monsters. It also differs in that we are treated to a potent scene involving a midway point, a weird mutant amalgam of human and wolf. A Love scene. And friends, I must tell you, it is a sight to behold. There are many reasons The Howling has endured as a cult classic for 30+ years; chief among them is the electric phrase “two werewolves fucking”. It’s the kind of gonzo move that distinguished the film from its predecessors and frankly, from those that came after. You may be able to find a more obscure film featuring werewolf eroticism, but The Howling was certainly the first relatively mainstream horror film to go there and it remains all the more memorable for it. This isn’t to say that The Howling is detached from werewolf history proper. The film is absolutely peppered with references, the most notable being a clip of The Wolf Man containing Curt Siodmak’s infamous “Even a man who is pure of heart….” verse. Two of the film’s characters visit an occult bookstore, where they are fed more of the classic legends and given an opportunity to buy silver bullets (with a cameo from Forrest J. Ackerman!). Several of the film’s characters are given names that reference horror film directors, many specific to the werewolf genre. More playful nods include clips from the animated Little Boy Blue short, product shots of Wolf brand chili, and a prominently featured copy of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”. It’s that wild blend of humor and horror permeating The Howling that has sustained it through the years, and Shout Factory has done an excellent job of showcasing the film with this release. The Blu-Ray looks fantastic, and I’m falling in love with the grain inherent in transferring film to digital. The images remain crisp, and it’s as though we’re looking back through time to 1981 with perfect clarity. I’ve intentionally not rehashed the plot here, if you’ve not seen the film there are a few twists I hesitate to reveal. Whether you’re new to the film or returning to it as a long-time fan, there’s plenty to love with this brilliant re-issue. Special Features and Extras Commentary with Joe Dante, Dee Wallace, Christopher Stone and Robert Picardo – not sure when this was recorded as Christopher Stone is no longer with us, but this commentary has obviously been salvaged from a previous release. Lots of fun stories and anecdotes. Dante is such an incredibly personable guy and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves laughing and reminiscing about the shoot. Less of a panel-discussion and more of a gathering of old friends. Commentary with Gary Brandner and Michael Felsher – This track was produced specifically for the reissue. I haven’t read Bradner’s novel on which the film was based, and was hoping this track would focus on the differences between his work and the film adaptation, but it mostly focuses on Brandner’s career as a horror novelist. It was interesting to learn that he wrote a trilogy of novels in The Howling series, and that only the first was used to adapt to film, and to learn that he worked on some of the script for the first sequel film. Felsher is an amiable host, and the commentary serves as kind of a long-form interview. Howlings Eternal – This feature focuses primarily on Producer Steven A. Lane, who has produced seven of the eight films included in The Howling franchise. Lane has never met a Howling film he didn’t love, though he does grudgingly admit that Howling: New Moon Rising (the seventh film in the series and coincidentally the only one he did not produce) is perhaps not quite as good as previous or later efforts. (side note: it is truly awful by almost any standard) Hearing him profess his admiration for some of the more redolent cheese in the franchise answers that long-burning question all of us cinema lovers have asked at one point – “How the hell did a piece of shit like this even get made?” But aside from his blind passion for these films, we are also treated to the story of how he became a producer, and it’s an interesting tale. Lane began as a theater owner, and saw The Howling as just the kind of titillating cocktail of sex, gore, creatures and stalkers that his patrons would go nuts for. Cut to Shreds – Editor Mark Goldblatt discusses the editing process, revealing how to make the most of the creature effects and retain tension while not allowing the whole thing to collapse into unintentional goofiness. Given the raw look of the werewolf effects, proper cuts were essential to keeping things horrific and Goldblatt delivers, all of which contributed to making this film more than the sum of its parts. Interview with Co-writer Terence H. Winkless – Winkless comes off a bit pretentious here for a guy who co-scripted a scene involving mutant werewolves boning each other. But we are granted some insight into how Gary Brandner’s novel morphed into the script for The Howling. Horror’s Hallowed Ground: A Look at the Film’s Locations – Present-day location tours are a concept that recur in some of Shout Factory’s re-issues as a special feature. While it was intriguing to see, I can’t say that I found this as interesting as the tour of locations for Day of the Dead. Making a Monster Movie: Inside The Howling – this vintage making-of is a time capsule treat. A brief but fascinating behind-the-scenes look. Interview with Stop Motion Animator David Allen – Fans of old school special effects appreciate stop-motion’s place in the evolution of movie magic, and The Howling is a great example of how effects-makers bridged the gap between fantasy and reality with this technique. Current generations may scoff at the lack of fluidity, but I will always remember how impressed I was upon first viewing how stop-motion brought The Howling’s werewolves to life. Unleashing the Beast – The Making of The Howling – hardcore Howling fans may already be familiar with this piece, originally packaged with a DVD special edition released in 2003. Composed of separate sections, the sum totals nearly 50 minutes, ranging from discussion of the film to the history of werewolves. Kudos to Shout Factory for including it, insuring that their release is the definitive Howling package. Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary – nothing particularly essential here, though fans who may have already seen some of this material will appreciate the added commentary. Outtakes – sometimes it’s just good to know that in the midst of all the grim sleaziness everybody was still having a good time. Theatrical Trailer Photo Gallery And as is often the case, Shout Factory has commissioned special artwork for this reissue again featuring the work of Nathan Thomas Milliner. It’s a stunning piece, proving why Milliner has become their go-to guy for new cover art. The cover is reversible as well, so that the original poster image can be displayed should you choose to do so. See larger image The Howling (Collector’s Edition) [Blu-ray] New From: $19.78 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response ABCs of Horror 2016 Day 29: W is for Dee Wallace - Psycho Drive-In October 29, 2016 […] knew it was a classic horror movie from the 1980s that I added to my Halloween view list one year. The movie is based on the 1977 novel by the same name written by Gary Brandner. Like most movies based on […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.