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DVD Review: The Werewolf (1956)

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In the ‘50s, it was always radiation. What else could possibly cause a man to suddenly to turn into a vicious creature and begin killing people back then? The Werewolf is an obscure entry into to the genre with a few notables, though lackluster pacing and a dull presentation.

Obviously on a zero budget, The Werewolf stars Steven Rich as the title character. His transformation tosses out typical werewolf lore for a kitsch ‘50s scientific endeavor that involves the stereotypical radioactivity. Aside from some glaring day/night continuity issues, it’s a refreshing change to see a screenwriter not chained by full moons and silver bullets.

Most of the film is banter between the characters, either discussing how to deal with the man creature or filler to pass the running time. Director Fred Sears who would helm the classic Earth vs. the Flying Saucers the same year (which this film would be double billed with) pulls off some decent shots early on before taking a more static approach later.

The finale has a few thrills and decent body count (though all off screen given the standards of the day). Even at a short run time a little over an hour, it feels like far longer before reaching this point. The actors are fine, but take forever to get through repetitive dialogue, and the paranoid scientists that turned Rich into the creature are beyond campy in their reasoning.

Black and white photography is eerie at times, though there’s not enough done here to separate this from any other werewolf movie in terms of action. Make-up is fine, the transformation presented in the style of Universal’s classic The Wolf Man, and the actors are all par for the course. As an overall film, aside from the briefly mentioned radiation aspects, this has all been done before.

The print is in remarkable condition given the age of this film, and even more so given its obscurity. It’s dirty and grainy, though certainly within reason given the conditions. Some rather nasty bleeding of the whites is particularly evident late into the film, becoming a distraction during a chase before the finale. This is otherwise the best way to see the film, and actually, the only way. It’s never made it to home video before.

Audio is a standard Dolby mono presentation. It’s entirely unremarkable, though like the video, is in superb condition. Popping or other typical issues with older films are absent.

The Werewolf comes in four pack of films titled Icons of Horror Collection: Sam Katzman. The extras as such piggyback the other films. The extras specific to the disc the film is on include a funny little short Midnight Blunders from 1936. A Mr. Magoo cartoon has slight relevance to this collection at best, and a series of trailers, including some not in this set round off this disc.

Fans of ‘50s sci-fi will find the Katzman collection worth picking up. The Giant Claw is a hysterically awful giant monster movie, Zombies of Mora Tua is a grade Z schlock fest, and The Creature with the Atom Brain is a long lost semi-zombie movie starring Richard Denning. The set retails for $20.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • http://biteandsmile.blogspot.com Joe Janes

    Just watched this on Fear.net. I have to say, it’s better than you think it has any right to be. The acting is very good and the script is pretty smart, until the finale. I enjoyed it.