Goregirl’s Werewolf Project: I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957)
“Explosive! Amazing! Terrifying! You won’t believe your eyes!”
This is actually my second viewing of I Was a Teenage Werewolf. I seen it far too long ago to recall details. I remembered one thing clearly and that was the fact that the werewolf was a result of a serum not a bite from another werewolf. A concept at the time I thought was completely unique to I Was a Teenage Werewolf. Turns out the concept was not unique at all and was used in the 1942 film The Mad Monster! I Was a Teenage Werewolf was more flawed than I recalled but that said, it is certainly a charming campy 1950’s time capsule.
I Was a Teenage Werewolf opens with central character Tony Rivers fighting with a peer on the school grounds. We learn from the friendly police officer that he has had to break up several fights caused by Tony recently. Mr. Rivers has some serious anger management issues. It is recommended to Tony to see a doctor who specializes in hypno-therapy. Tony isn’t about to be pegged as a loon and refuses to hear any of it. At a party with his pals on Halloween night a friend blows a horn in his ear which causes him to go ballistic and punch his friend in the face. In this moment Tony comes to the realization that his anger is out of control. Unfortunately Dr. Alfred Brandon is no normal doctor! The douchebag doc has an ill-conceived notion that what Tony needs is regression therapy. This evil experiment inevitably turns Tony into the titular teenage werewolf!
The film’s first half is used to establish that Tony Rivers is a troubled teenager. The second half deals with Tony as the werewolf. I actually thought Tony was a bit of a jerk initially. After Tony punches his friend in the face at the party and the entire room goes silent; his friends staring at him aghast; I actually had empathy for him. Two seconds previous they were laughing at several practical jokes played on other friends in the group. Tony literally goes from friendly to angry at the snap of a finger. There is all manner of “hip” dialog from the period and there is even a little impromptu musical number performed during the Halloween party. The song’s lyrics about finding a rich girl to spend all her money and than leave her was hilariously awful! I sure did love the dance routine that went along with it. We don’t see much of his chums in the second half once Tony meets the good doctor. What was this doctor’s agenda anyway? I didn’t really get what the point of the experiment was frankly. Isn’t regression therapy used to explore past lives? Was Tony a werewolf in a past life? In any case part of the therapy involves the doctor injecting the troubled teen with a serum that for whatever reason turns him into a werewolf. Dr. Brandon’s assistant was constantly questioning his motives and in turn Dr. Brandon either threatened his assistant or insulted him. The doc played by Whit Bissell is an arrogant nutcase that was rather a source of amusement. Michael Landon was the highlight here and was actually pretty good playing the angsty teenager. The film gets a little clumsy at the end when the inept police force get involved. They make a really half-hearted attempt to find Tony before they give up. In one scene Tony has an extended battle with an angry, not to mention, noisy dog while two cops are just a few steps away. These guys are not swift! I Was a Teenage Werewolf certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome and almost seemed too short. The film looks decent enough and the werewolf makeup and effects are alright. I Was a Teenage Werewolf isn’t perfect, but it is definitely some campy fun. Recommended with warning.