Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Christopher Stone, Dennis Dugan, Belinda Balaski, Kevin McCarthy, John Carradine, Dick Miller and Robert Picardo

Joe Dante

Running Time:
91 mins

Out to buy on DVD 18/10/04

"Join the Colony"

News anchorwoman Karen White (Wallace) hopes to get the scoop of a lifetime when Eddie Quist (Picardo), a wanted serial killer, agrees to meet her. When the meeting goes disastrously wrong and Karen is almost killed by the maniac, she becomes completely traumatised by the incident. Her therapist Dr. George Waggner (Macnee) suggests that she should stay at his retreat on the coast to recover but when Karen gets there she finds that her fellow patients have a secret that links them to the serial killer she is trying to forget.

In the 1980s horror in Hollywood went through a bit of a renaissance and it was low budget fright fests that were leading the way. Franchises were born and horror would never be the same.

Along with all the masked serial killers, vampires and Things from outer space, the werewolf came back hungry for its piece of flesh. Alongside 'An American Werewolf in London', The Howling reinvented the legend of the lycanthrope and introduced the movie going public to amazingly realistic transformations.

The work Rick Baker and Rob Bottin pioneered for American Werewolf… and The Howling set the standard and has still to be bettered, even with all the advances in special effects and computer generated imagery. These transformations are realistic and terrifying, using pioneering makeup techniques to transform man into wolf. We watch, in horror, as the wolf comes from within the man to consume his humanity and release the beast. Before our eyes we see claws appear from the ends of fingers, fangs appear in rapidly protruding snouts and hair covers the victim's body in graphic and horrific detail. The transformation of Eddie Quist is brutal and awe-inspiring as the werewolf engulfs Robert Picardo. Rob Bottin make up effects are equally, if not better than the work that Rick Baker did for American Werewolf and he deserves just as many plaudits.

These amazing visual effects are backed up by performances that are better than you'd equate with a movie with such a limited budget. This was the role that got Dee Wallace noticed and kick-started career (she got the part in E.T. because of this movie). As Karen White she plays the traumatised survivor of Eddie Quist with a realistic gusto and you never question her fear or terror at what she is experiencing. Robert Picardo is exceptional as the twisted Eddie Quist. This is a character actor who, after this performance, became a stalwart for every Joe Dante film playing a host of loveable and memorable characters in his films. He also played one of the best characters to grace the modern Star Trek Universe, the Doctor in Voyager. So it is hard to believe that his breakout role was one of a crazed psychopath who becomes a werewolf. Patrick Macnee is as good as ever in a role that he could play in his sleep but there is a twist to his character. The supporting cast is also good with another Joe Dante stalwart Dick Miller injecting a bit of comedy into the piece.

When you take into account the very limited budget and the technology available in 1981, The Howling is an achievement. Conveying a real sense of terror, especially in the transformation scene, that berates its B-Movie looks and slightly limited storyline, the movie is easily more memorable than many a modern Hollywood horror fright flick.


Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, this digitally remastered transfer is very good. Bearing in mind that the movie was made on a very low budget in 1981, the picture quality is extremely good. The same can be said about the sound, with the remastered 5.1 mix making the transformation all the more powerful.


Documentary: Welcome to Werewolfland (49.10 mins)
Director Joe Dante, director of photography John Hora, producer Michael Finnell and stars Dee Wallace, Belinda Balaski, Robert Picardo and Dick Miller reminisce about shooting The Howling. With behind the scenes footage from the twenty-eight day 1981 shoot, the documentary charts the start of many of the principles involvement in film and the first big break in all of their careers. We find out how the small budget of $1.5 million dictated the changes in werewolf lore from those established in the classic Wolfman series but lead to originality in the screenplay. Robert Picardo discusses the lengthy makeup process he had to go through to release the wolf within. Director Joe Dante talks about his love of horror and reveals the in jokes and references that riddle the film. This is a very good documentary that allows the filmmakers and stars to hark back to the beginning of their careers and how they changed the Hollywood horror genre forever.

Deleted scenes (10.14 mins)
These sixteen deleted scenes show more of the interaction within the colony and reveal more about Karen White's trauma. Without a commentary track or an introduction however we don't know why these scenes were removed from the final print.

Outtakes (12.22 mins)
A montage of gaffs and goofs as the cast reveals problems with the werewolf teeth, makeup effects and Dick Miller constantly getting his lines wrong. Photo Gallery A collection of promo and behind the scenes from The Howling

Theatrical Trailer (1.25 mins)
The full trailer used to promote the film on its release in 1981

Teaser Trailer (0.23 mins)
The original 1981 teaser trailer that announced the movie to cinemagoers


The presentation of the movie and the documentary are first rate making this a good special edition re-release of an 80s horror classic. The omission of the commentary track that accompanied the US release is a strange decision however as this would have made the package even better. Fans of the movie will be disappointed with this but it should not but them off seeing this classic horror remastered on DVD for the first time.

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