I want to dislike this film for a number of reasons. First its a Werewolf film, second its poorly acted. Though neither of the points deter me from finding a small (slightly above average) amount of enjoyment from this film. But not for the excellent storytelling, but for all the reasons I should have disliked it. I Was a Teenage Werewolf’s success as a drive in feature spawned a couple of “spin-off’s”, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and Blood of Dracula. Both of which I plan to view in the near…ish future.
I Was a Teenage Werewolf opens with a fist fight between two teens, one of which Tony Rivers (Micheal Landon). A teenager with a bit of an anger issue, coupled with a strong dislike of authority. His brawl with Jimmy (Charles Wilcox) is broken up when the police arrive, Officer Detective Donovan (Barney Phillips) has the two shake hands and part ways on more or less, amicable terms. Tony’s father, Charles (Malcolm Atterbury), try’s to import advice that pans out about as much one would imagine it would. A few nights later at a Halloween party Tony looses his temper again attacking another party goer and after viewing the shocked gazes of his friends and girlfriend Arlene Logan (Yvonne Lime) decides that he does need help. Help he finds with Dr. Alfred Brandon (Whit Bissell), a hypnotist who uses his abilities along with an experimental serum to try to return Tony and by proxy all of man back to his primitive roots. An experiment in which is more or less a success, as Tony becomes a Werewolf. The first time he turns is after a party with his girlfriend and friends at “The Haunted House”, an abandoned house that they hang out in, kills one of his friends. Tony tries to seek the aid of his doctor, but is further manipulated and given the drug again. Shortly thereafter he transforms again at school, set off by the sound of a bell and kills another girl, Theresa (Dawn Richard). But is seen in the act by a number of students, who recognize his cloths. Which starts a manhunt for Tony, leaving Tony with only his Doctor to turn to.
As awkwardly entertaining as this film is, how it performed so well is beyond me. A sizable portion of the magic of this film had to have been lost since it was filmed with the drive in mind and I viewed on my TV with a six-pack. Also the 50’s were a very different time with the idea of a teenager being the victim and the monster being something new and frightening. Which by today’s standards is more than a little old hat.
While the acting left a lot to be desired, the effects were actually OK. The werewolf transformation is simple, yet effective. As is its characterization. The lore around the Werewolf is kept to a minimum, allowing the film to feel separate yet part of the werewolf mythos. Though I do wish Tony spent more time as a werewolf and less time as an angst filled teen.
Final thoughts, I have to call this standard drive-in fare. Originally part of a double feature, seeing this alone and not in a car with either a significant other or at the very least a semi rowdy group of friends changes the dynamic of the film. Either way, I Was a Teenage Werewolf needs to be viewed with someone else. If for no other reason than to make fun of and point out the sillier moments of film with. Honestly, the film did start to lose my interest about halfway in, but then Dawn Richard’s graced the screen and serves her role as another victim amicably. So, while it does have its up, I Was a Teenage Werewolf also has its downs and I can’t really recommend this film, unless you’re a fan of drive-camp. In which case, dig in. 7/10