Cinema Sunday: Scream of the Wolf (1974)

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Title: Scream of the Wolf

Distributor: ABC Television

Writer: Richard Matheson

Director: Dan Curtis

Producers: Charles Fries & Robert Singer

Starring: Peter Graves, Clint Walker, Jo Ann Pflug, Philip Carey

Released: Jan. 1964

MPAA: PG

 

Sticking with the werewolf theme from last week, I thought I’d spotlight this little made for T.V. movie from 1974. Like most television movies, it doesn’t have the big budget that the Hollywood flicks do, but they do sometimes have a charm to them that those other movies don’t. It also helps when you get names like Matheson, and Curtis to be involved with the project.

Two of the actors in this film a good draw for that era as well (Graves & Walker), so that helped bring people in too, and they delivered solid performances. Alright, now let’s get to this ABC television classic from 1974!

 

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The film begins with headlights coming down a foggy road. The car starts to sputter, and the driver realizes that the car is out of gas. He decides to walk to a nearby house, but is startled by something moving in the brush. He sees something that terrifies him, and we hear the growling of a beast. The man runs back to his car, barely making it ahead of the beast. The beast begins to smash his windshield, windows, and tear through his convertible top.

As the credits roll, we see a massive search going on by the police near the scene of the murder. Sheriff Bell (Philip Carey – image below), is on the scene, talking to his men about any clues they may have found. He’s shocked by the remains of the victim, and at the shape the car is in as well. The sheriff then proceeds to the home of a local writer, John Wetherby (Peter Graves – image above), to ask for his help. You see, Wetherby was an avid hunter, and has a good knowledge about animals. The two men then check out the tracks that the animal left at the scene. Wetherby tells the sheriff that the attack sounds like something a leopard would do, but the tracks resemble that of a wolf of considerable size.

 

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The following day, Wetherby is heading over to a local store in his awesome Corvette, to visit Sandy Miller (Jo Ann Pflug), his girlfriend. After he convinces her to go out Friday night, the scene does an about-face, and we see another weary traveler heading down a dark road late at night. This guy is just walking though, and when he hears something stirring nearby, he investigates. He only lives about thirty seconds more to regret that stupidity. Again, the police arrive, and can’t figure out what would’ve done this. Wetherby is also there, and remarks that the man’s whole face is missing! He also follows the tracks of the beast, and sees that after it ran for a time on four legs, then changed to walking like a bipedal animal.

The sheriff drops off Wetherby at his home, and then Wetherby heads over to his buddy’s house. A local big game hunter named Byron Douglas (Clint Walker – image below), is his friend, and the two have been on hunting trips together. Wetherby practically begs Byron to help, but he tells him that he’s too busy. Wetherby is stunned that his old friend wont help, and the scene ends. Later that day, when the darkness falls, a couple are making out in a trailer, when they hear a noise. As they investigate, they are shocked when the beast bursts through the glass door, and devours both of them!

 

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Meanwhile, Wetherby and Sandy are having dinner at a local restaurant, and discussing the murders. Byron walks in, and stops over at their table for a quick hello. He asks Wetherby if the creature has killed again, and Wetherby tells him he was right, that it has killed more people (the couple in the trailer). Byron remarks that the creature is fascinating, and Sandy gets angry (the two are at opposite ends of this conversation). Byron smirks, then asks Wetherby if he’s heard the rumor around  town that people think it’s a werewolf. Wetherby laughs and Byron tells him not to scoff at the notion. He then recounts a time the two were on a hunting trip in Canada, and hunting an enormous wolf. How the Native Americans living in that area told them it wasn’t just any wolf, but a trapper that had been turned into a wolf.

Suddenly, a local man approaches Byron, and asks him what kind of pleasure he gets from killing innocent animals. Byron tells him he can’t explain it. He then stands up and approaches the man, getting right in his face. He tells him he can’t tell him, but he can show him. The dude looks like he’s ready to crap in his shorts, but then Wetherby intervenes and breaks up the confrontation. On the way home, Wetherby tells Sandy that on that very hunting trip that Byron talked about, they were hunting it from the trees, but they couldn’t take it down. So Byron got down on the ground and took it on hand to hand with a hunting knife. He was bitten very badly by the wolf, and almost didn’t survive.

 

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After Wetherby drops Sandy off at her house, he heads home for the night. Sand y showers then gets ready for bed, but hears some noises outside her window. She then heads into the kitchen for some coffee, but sees something skulking in the shadows. She rushes into the other room and calls Wetherby. She tells him that someone is creeping around her house. She begs him to come over, and he tells her he’s on his way. Something then breaks into her home and she screams. She then runs into her bedroom, and locks the door. A beast of some kind begins to break the door down, but then the police arrive, and scare it off. Wetherby arrives minutes later, and tells Sandy she’ll be staying at his house for a while. The sheriff and Wetherby look around the house and see that whatever it was made Swiss cheese out of her door. They investigate outside and the tracks lead to the water, and a dead-end.

Wetherby goes out that next night, with a rifle in hand, to try to hunt the beast. He doesn’t make it very far though, when he’s surprised by the sheriff. The sheriff put a curfew on, and tells Wetherby that he must abide by it as well. The next day Sandy admits to calling the sheriff and ratting out Wetherby out of fear. Sandy then tells Wetherby that she thinks it’s Byron behind the killings. Wetherby dismisses her, and then the sheriff interrupts them. The sheriff then convinces Wetherby to go out to Byron’s house for a visit later on. They do, and Byron still refuses to help. He also puts himself under suspicion with the sheriff. As the sheriff storms out, Byron warns Wetherby about going out after this creature. He tells him that…”the prey will always do the unexpected.”

 

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That night, the sheriff is watching Byron’s house. His deputy shows up to relieve him, and sees some movement near the house. As he moves in to see what it was, he heads into the basement. The corridors are dimly lit, and his flashlight can barely pierce the darkness. Without warning, something snarls at him, and charges. He gets off two shots, but is overtaken by the beast. Out in the woods, Wetherby is also hunting the creature, and hears a wolf howl. He then listens closely and can hear footsteps nearby. As he investigates, he finds the deputy in his car, sliced to ribbons.

The next day, the sheriff and local government officials hold a press conference and try to calm the public down. It backfires though, and then they are told the national Guard is being brought in to stop the killings. One of the reporters exclaims that people think it’s a werewolf, and the crowd erupts. Outside, Byron is waiting to talk to Wetherby about the killings. He tells him that the sheriff had questioned him all morning. Byron leaves, and Wetherby goes to his house immediately. Wetherby demands that Byron help him, but again he refuses. Byron then tells Wetherby that he’ll help, but only if Wetherby can hold his own in an arm wrestling contest for one minute. The two engage in the contest, but Byron easily defeats him. He tells Wetherby to forget about the animal, that it would kill him.

 

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Later, Byron shows up, and tells Wetherby that he’s changed his mind about helping. Sandy is creeped out by Byron, and thinks it’s a trap. Once they arrive Byron asks Wetherby about the possibility of it being a werewolf. Wetherby still won’t believe it’s a werewolf, and the two are about to separate, when Byron tells him again that “a hunter isn’t sure of anything, except that the prey will do the unexpected.” Minutes into the excursion, a shot is fired off, and Wetherby hears Byron struggling with some animal. By the time he finds the location, he sees blood covering the jacket of Byron, lying face down. He then hears a wolf howl in the distance.

 

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That’s where I’ll stop, because the last ten minutes are all spoilers and would ruin the ending. Just keep in mind that things are not always what they seem!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

Alright, first off all, don’t miss out on this one due to it being a TV movie. It has a good production value to it, and also has some solid performances from Graves and Walker. Nothing Oscar worthy, but solid performances nonetheless. Walker is actually pretty creepy in this film, and sets a very ominous tone for the film. Graves plays a writer, and seems to be a little uncomfortable with the role. He never really talks about it or even is seen writing. Only chasing after Jo Ann Pflug, talking with the cops, and also arm wrestling Walker. The scenes where he’s acting like a hunter though, are quite good. Speaking of Jo Ann Pflug, she does a good job of being the “damsel in distress”, but doesn’t offer much else.

The sets were good, but not great. Specifically, the outdoor shots were the good part, but the interiors left something to be desired. The “villain” is a bit disappointing, kind of in the same vein of my thoughts on another “wolf”, in The Beast Must Die. OK, I know so far my thoughts sound pretty grim, but trust me, for a TV movie this one has a good story, two good lead role players, and a good ending. I also love the sound track as well. I’m a sucker for 1970’s music, and that’s a fact! I’m pretty sure that this flick is public domain, so I’ll post the link and you can give it a watch!

Check out the movie here!

 

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2 comments on “Cinema Sunday: Scream of the Wolf (1974)

  1. TV films from that era had a unique charm. I don’t recall ever coming across this particular movie before, which doesn’t happen very often with horror films. Thanks for the write up.

    Like

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