Doc Savage 8, 1973 “Werewolf’s Lair!”

Just for the record, I know virtually nothing about Doc Savage. That said, anytime you throw a classic monster in a comic book, I’m in! This wacky story reminds me of an episode of Johnny Quest (Werewolf of the Timberland) for several reasons. I wont get into them because it would spoil the issue, but you do get some good action, and some werewolf face-time as well. It’s part two of a story, so the circumstances leading up to this is lost on me, but that aside, it’s still very enjoyable. As the last issue in the series, you get the distinct impression it was cancelled abruptly because there’s no reference to cancellation at all.

As a whole, I like the work of Tony “The Tiger” Isabella (writer). He did some really cool horror stuff back in the early Bronze Age that’s worth looking up. The art team, led by “Riotous” Rich Buckler (cover pencils and interior layouts), are very solid. You get finishes and inks by “Terrific” Tom Palmer (Tomb of Dracula, The Avengers) and Jack Abel (GI Combat, Our Army at War) . Both men have had extensive careers in the industry, and proven themselves to be top-notch at their craft. Once again, the duo of “Titanic” Tom Orzechowski (letters) and “Genuine” George Roussos (colors), complete this list of comic book legends!

 

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Kull The Conqueror #2, 1983 “The Blood of Kings!”

You might be cool, but you’ll never be Kull fighting werewolves cool! Sorry to burst your bubble so early on, but it’s true! The story is great, and features Kull, trying to live the good life, and be with his woman, but of course, in typical hero fashion, evil is never far behind! When you mix fantasy and horror, you can get a great mix that spills out into something exceptional. This is definitely one of those times, and we have Robert E. Howard to thank for creating the awesomeness that is Kull the Conqueror!

The Bronze Age of comics gave us the beginnings of some incredible writers. One of those that doesn’t get as much air time as he should, is Doug Moench. If you look at just Werewolf by Night and Moon Knight, that in itself is something to admire. The wraparound cover and interior art is by John Bolton, and if you’ve never seen his work before, look up issues of Classic X-Men, where he and Chris Claremont did supplemental stories in the back pages of that series for a while. Joe Rosen on letters, Christie Scheele (along with Bolton) on colors, and Ralph Macchio editing, round out the creative team on this tale of the supernatural!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Werewolf (1956)

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Title: The Werewolf

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Writer: Robert E. Kent

Director:  Fred F. Sears

Producer:  Sam Katzman

Starring: Don Megowan, Joyce Holden, Steven Ritch, Harry Lauter

Released: July 1956

MPAA: Approved

 

 

OK, so, after a few weeks of giant bugs, then on to more of a classic theme, I’d like to take a look at something a little more off the beaten path this week. And so we shall see The Werewolf, from 1956. There’s a unique spin on this flick, that instead of a wolf bite changing the man, a lab experiment results in the ability to transform. No big stars in this one, so the film had to use the sci-fi/horror craze to try to entice audiences. An experienced crew behind the camera helped get this one off of the ground, and you can see that through the entire film. Alright, let’s get to the film!

 

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The film begins with a voice (Fred Sears), narrating. He tells the viewers about Lycanthropy, and its dangers! Next, we see a man, Duncan Marsh (Steven Ritch – image below) walking down the street, and then he ducks into a pub. He downs a few shots, then heads over to the fireplace to warm his hands. Another man sits at the bar with a creepy look on his face, and he seems to be taking quite an interest in the other man. The man leaves the bar, and the other gentleman goes after him. He stops him in the street and the two exchanges some words. The man who was at the bar first, asks him to buy a couple of drinks because he’s broke and saw the other man had some cash. He then tries to mug the guy and take his money. The scene shifts to the dark alley, and all we hear is some growling and screaming, and only one man exits the alley. An old woman is walking by and sees the man leave, she screams, and the people from the pub come to see what’s wrong. She claims two men were fighting in the alley but only a beast emerged. Deputy Clovey (Harry Lauter) heads in along with the others for a look. They see a dead man with his throat torn out.

 

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The men then head into the forest to hunt this wild animal, and get more than they bargained for when they set out. They see wolf tracks in the snow, and two of the men get scared. Deputy Clovey tells them to head back into town and get the sheriff. A short time later, the sheriff comes back to town with Clovey, and his shirt is ripped into pieces. He was attacked by a wolf, but Sheriff Haines showed up and scared the animal off with his gun. He takes him to the local doctor, and Dr. Gilchrist (Ken Christy – image below) administers some first aid. His niece, Amy Standish (Joyce Holden – image below), is his assistant, and she’s also coincidentally engaged to Sheriff Haines.

 

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The next day, Marsh waking up out in the woods. He’s extremely disoriented, and in pain. For some reason his shoes are missing, and it’s very cold outside. He cries out in agony, as it seems he remembers what he did while he was “changed.” Back in town, the sheriff informs the townspeople that no one is allowed in the woods until further notice. This upsets all the local hunters, but he tells them too bad. Some reporters make their way from the big city to Mountaincrest after they heard about the murder. The sheriff initially keeps them out, but then decides to let them through to try to find the story. Over at the doctor’s house, Amy is startled by Marsh, who’s come to get some help with his amnesia. he goes inside, and tells the two of them that he can’t remember anything about his past except a car accident, and two doctors taking him in to a room. He then confesses to the murder from the night before. The doctor and Amy look puzzled, and then try to give him something to calm him down, but he slaps it away and runs off.

 

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Back in town, Amy and the doc tell the sheriff what happened. They ask him to not kill the guy because he’s out of his mind. The scene changes to a mad scientist-type laboratory. One man is working on a machine, and then another calls to him, and refers to him as “Morgan” (George Lynn). He and the other man, Emery (S. John Launer), read a newspaper and realize that the man they worked on has committed this murder. These two doctors have apparently been running experiments using a formula containing radiation. A ring at the door interrupts their conversation about what to do with Marsh. As Morgan answers the door, he’s greeted by Mrs. Marsh (Eleanore Tanin), and she’s wondering where her husband is since she hasn’t seen him since the car accident. Morgan lies and tells her that after they treated him, he took off and they haven’t seen him since.

 

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Out in the wilderness, the hunting party isn’t having any luck finding this ravenous beast or Marsh. Morgan and Emery set out to try to find him as well, and have better results because they think like an animal. Emery finds him, but once Marsh realizes they’re here to kill him, he wolfs out, and tries to kill them. The sheriff and his posse show up and shoot at the beast, and he runs away. They question the two doctors, and their story is kind of shady, but they allow them to stay. The sheriff and his men then head back to town, and then post guards around town to stop any more slayings. The werewolf then turns to killing sheep, and the sheriff warns all the local farmers to get into town as quickly as possible. Amy is still trying to convince the sheriff that Marsh needs help, and not to be killed.

 

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The sheriff and his men begin to set traps around the perimeter of town, in hopes of capturing the beast. Another problem arises when Mrs. Marsh and her son are on their way to Mountaincrest as well. Will the sheriff and his men be able to capture the beat or will they have to put him down…if they can!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

For a low-budget flick, this is a pretty solid film. Yeah, it’s mostly your standard fare from the 1950’s, but the angle of science creating the werewolf, and not a wolf bite was pretty cool. Having the two doctors get crazy and try to kill the werewolf was very different as well. Typically the doctors want to capture the beast, dissect it, and figure out how to do it better next time. Not here though. As far as the acting goes, most of the roles were pretty good, and even though none of the faces/names were familiar to me, I’m definitely going to seek out more from this crew! Well, definitely Joyce Holden (image below)!

The sets were OK, but nothing spectacular. The outdoor scenes were are alright, and the town settings were slightly better. The lighting was kind of low at a few points when they were filming indoors, but overall, it was nothing terrible. The music score didn’t do the film any favors, but had one or two high points. Producer/Director Sam Katzman has a list of credits a mile long, and when you look at it, his status in the industry is well deserved. Fred Sears (Director) is no slouch either, and made his mark in the film industry with some other solid movie credits. One note about the cast. The sheriff, Don Megowan, was also the Gill-Man in the third Creature from the Black Lagoon film!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Silver Bullet (1985)

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Title: Silver Bullet

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Writer: Stephen King

Director: Daniel Attias

Producer: Dino De Laurentiis

Starring: Gary Busey, Corey Haim, Megan Follows, Everett McGill

Released: October 11th, 1985

MPAA: R

 

An alcoholic Gary Busey, a pretentious Corey Haim, and a bloodthirsty werewolf…need I say more? Of course not, but I will anyway, when I present this classic film from the 1980’s, Silver Bullet! Back in the day, this film was scary, and had two big names to get people out to see it. It might not hold up as well now, but it’s still worth checking out and in my humble opinion, owning as well. Let’s get down to the plot!

The film opens with a drunken railroad worker, trying to finish a job one night. As he makes his way to the tracks that need clearing, a noise startles him, and before you know it, he’s beheaded by a beast. A howl is heard throughout the town, and everyone gets an icy chill up their spine.

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As we turn to the main character, Marty (Corey Haim- who’s playing a paraplegic), we see him and his friend, Brady (Joe Wright), as they concoct a plan to scare Marty’s sister, Jane (Megan Follows). They not only scare her, but the fright causes her to fall into a huge puddle, and ruins her new dress and pantyhose. Later on that night, Marty apologizes, and gives her the money for a new pair of stockings, that were also ruined. It’s here, that we see the typical relationship of siblings at this age, and it really cements the bond they share. That night, a local woman, who’s contemplating suicide, gets a visit from the same beast that killed the railroad worker. The beast violently kills the woman, and the sheriff, Joe Haller (Terry O’Quinn) has another death on his hands.

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Later, school is over for the summer, and Marty’s Uncle Red (Gary Busey), has come for a visit. Marty’s mom isn’t too happy with him, as he’s a bit of a drinker, and getting his third divorce. He and Marty share a bond though, and Uncle Red then has an argument with Marty’s mom about his drinking around Marty. That night, a neighbor ( a few miles away) is getting drunk, but hears some noise out in his greenhouse. The man thinks it’s kids busting up his property, so he goes out there to teach them a lesson. The lesson is taught to him though, and he gets ripped apart. With another murder, the townspeople begin to panic, and things are getting tense.

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Marty and his friend Brady decide to go to the park and fly kites. The day grows old, and Jane is sent out by her parents to find Marty. He and Jane then make a quick exit for home, and asks Brady if he’s coming too. Brady tells him he’s staying for a while, and Marty can sense something is wrong. He leaves his best friend there, and it will be the last time we see him alive. At the local bar, Andy Fairton (Bill Smitrovich), a local business owner and exuberant gun owner, tells the crowd that the local sheriff isn’t getting the job done, and that they should take matters into their own hands. Just as he and the Deputy are about to get into a fist fight, Brady’s father walks in, and asks if anyone has seen his son.

At Brady’s funeral, Marty is having a tough time dealing with all of this craziness. Reverend Lowe (Everett McGill), tries his best to calm down the townspeople, but it’s having little effect. Back at the bar, Fairton is riling up the crowd again, and this time, they intend on going after the “guy”, who’s doing all the killing. Reverend Lowe attempts to stop them, but they drive right past him.

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The vigilantes split into groups, and start combing the area. In a thick patch of forest, it’s very foggy. So much so, that you can barely see in front of your own face. As they creep through the wooded area, they begin to hear some animal-like noises. The mood turns to pure fear, and the beast grabs its first victim, ripping half of his face off! Two more men meet their maker this night, and that about wraps up the vigilante idea. We then see Reverend Lowe, once again telling the people  all will be OK, but something different happens. Suddenly, the congregation begins to turn into werewolves, and then Lowe wakes up from a nightmare.

As the Fourth of July approaches, Marty is mad that the local fireworks have been cancelled, and the carnival as well. Uncle Red won’t let Marty down though, so buys some illegal fireworks, and gives them to Marty on his way out-of-town. Later that evening, Marty climbs down the lattice, and into his motorized wheelchair. He heads over to a pond nearby, and begins setting off the fireworks from Uncle Red. Some motion in the wooded area nearby spooks Marty for a second, and the next thing you know, the beast jumps out from the woods, and makes a mad dash for Marty! Marty quickly grabs a bottle rocket, lights it, and aims it at the beasts head. It fires off, and hits the creature in the right eye, stunning it long enough for Marty to get out of there, and back home.

Marty immediately calls Uncle Red, but he’s still half drunk, and sleeping, so he blows him off. Marty tells Jane the next day, because he realizes that no adults will believe his story. Jane then combs the town looking for a person missing their right eye. She’s collecting recyclable items for a charitable organization, and hits up everyone she can, all the while searching for this person missing an eye. She ends up seeing nothing out of the ordinary, and then takes her cart of bottles and cans to Reverend Lowe’s parsonage.

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I’m going to stop here for those who haven’t seen this film yet, but rest assured that the secret will be over at this point about who the killer is. The part that keeps you in suspense for the rest of the movie is the fact that you know at some point, the killer is coming for Marty!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

As I said above, this film is still pretty cool after all these years, and only the werewolf scenes (up close) seem cheesy now. Gary Busey gets a lot of flack, but he was right on the  money in this film. Corey Haim did a good job as well, and really was convincing playing a paraplegic. I can’t imagine how tough that would be literally and from an acting standpoint either.

The music score was quite good too, as well as the cinematography. There were a couple of darker scenes that could’ve used more lighting,  but that’s more of a nit-pick than anything. These more old school horror flicks do something newer films don’t understand. When it comes to death scenes, the phrase “less is more’ is absolutely true. Most viewers imaginations can cook up something just as visceral if not more than what’s usually shown, and even if it cannot, sometimes people get turned off by some of the explicit scenes too.

Overall, I still give this film pretty high marks even almost thirty years later. The performances and the scenes with the creepy build-up to the werewolf appearances are still solid. It helps when the film has Stephen King attached to it as well. You see, he wrote the novella “Cycle of the werewolf”, and King also wrote the screenplay. The dude knows how to make a scary movie! Definitely add this one to your collection, or at bare minimum rent or stream it some night and enjoy!

Click here for the trailer!