1/12/07

809 I Was A Teenage Werewolf

(1957, Horror-Mad Scientist/Teen, b&w)

When I get a certain feeling I gotta…hurl dairy products.

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

A mad hypnotist turns a troubled teen into a murderous lycanthrope.

Summary:

Landon works on his Michael Jackson stare.Aggressive and oversensitive teen Tony (played by a very young Michael Landon) goes mano a mano with a fellow high school student more than twice his age, while a crowd of classmates urges them on. The assembly scatters when Detective Donovan arrives. He drags the combatants apart and forces them to apologize. Donovan dismisses the other student, but takes Tony aside to discuss his violent, milk-induced temper. He urges Tony to seek counseling. Tony refuses.

Tony goes on about his day. At home, he endures defeatist advice from his depressing father and throws a bottle of milk across the room. Out and about, he verbally abuses his longsuffering girlfriend and mouths off to her father. He seems to relax at the Halloween party, participates in the obligatory musical number, and even laughs at the various practical jokes, but when someone plays a joke on him he snaps and starts pummeling. He realizes what he’s doing, stops the beating, and hangs his head.

The next scene opens in the office of Dr. Alfred Brandon, who apparently only listens to patients who are under hypnosis. He gives Tony a sedative and heads into the back room, where some expository conversation with his broad-faced assistant reveals him to be a mad psychiatrist. Apparently, he’s hell-bent on proving some theory about past-life regression, which will reduce all humanity to its primitive, animalistic roots and thus (somehow) save the world. He gives Tony a shot of something we must assume to be werewolf juice, and commences “therapy.”

Tony gradually begins to behave himself in social settings, but is troubled by bad dreams. Most troubling is the one in which he leaves a party early, turns into a wolf, and then rips the throat out of his spastic loner classmate. When his spastic loner classmate is found dead that morning, he runs to Dr. Brandon for help. Dr. Brandon is secretly delighted and juices him further.

Later, the principal calls Tony in to congratulate him on his improved deportment and promise him a college recommendation if he continues to behave. A bell rings while he’s on his way out, triggering his latent wolfishness. The crepe-haired teen mauls a gymnast and flees the dumbfounded student population.

In the meantime, Detective Donovan has been ignoring his ethnic janitor’s lycanthropic pronouncements of doom to comb the countryside, canvassing carnivals and exotic animal farms for escapees. He starts to take the werewolf suggestions seriously when dozens of witnesses call in with tales of Tony’s transformation. Night falls, and Donovan gathers a posse to search the countryside with torches and hounds. Tony kills a dog, but otherwise eludes detection.

Morning comes, and Tony returns to human form. He wanders through town, ending up in Dr. Brandon’s office once more. For some reason he lets Brandon inject and hypnotize him again. Brandon coaxes the comatose Tony back into a wolfish state while his assistant takes pictures. (Apparently, the photographic record will assure his ascendance to scientific credibility). The phone rings during the session, waking the vengeful lycanthrope. Dr. Brandon and his assistant die swift but horrible deaths. Donovan and his uniformed cohorts arrive shortly thereafter. The bewolfed Tony turns on them and dies in a hail of bullets.

Introduction:

Can't Brain Guy just carry everything with his mind?Tom demands that Mike be removed as captain. Unbothered by the demotion, Mike asks who will replace him. Gypsy can’t; she has to actually run the satellite. Crow would, but he just put a batch of Creepy Crawlers™ in the Thingmaker™. Tom has prepared a speech, detailing the myriad reasons he is not fit to lead. Quoth he, “I am nary able to tell betwixt Shinola and that other stuff.” Mike resumes the burden of command.

Host Segment One:

Pearl and Observer (from this point on, he is simply referred to as Brain Guy) have found Bobo on the planet’s surface. Pearl decides to take them both camping, and loads up Brain Guy with such items as her chapstick and ping-pong ball, while Bobo is assigned to carry such items as her waterbed and vintage brass lamp. After a lengthy list of “necessities” she asks, “Now who’s going to carry me?” She powers down the satellite, leaving the SOL dwellers defenseless and unable to escape. An alien face-hugger clamps down over Tom’s bubble as soon as she’s gone.

Host Segment Two:

While Mike and Tom play Mousetrap™, Crow has purchased a proximity detector to ferret out the aliens on the Satellite of Love. It shows aliens everywhere, provoking panic…until Crow realizes he has it set to detect humidity. Try as he might, he can’t figure out how to make it detect aliens.

Host Segment Three:

The alien has let go of Tom’s bubble and scampered into the darkest recesses of the satellite. Tom dresses in commando gear to hunt it down. “How long before you come back crying?” Mike asks him. Tom’s reply is mildly vulgar. He wedges himself into the ventilation system, gets stuck, and cries.

Host Segment Four:

The alien has filled the satellite with enormous eggs. Mike and the ‘Bots decide to eat them all before they can hatch into further extraterrestrial invaders. Tom keeps watch for the alien mother, Mike gets out a giant frying pan, and Crow pretends to be a restaurant critic. Crow’s review turns scathing after Mike drapes a giant omelette over him.

Host Segment Five:

The alien has grown enormous and attached itself to the outer hull, where it feeds on the Satellite’s power. Mike reverses the polarity (whatever that means) to no great effect. Driven to madness and despair, Mike becomes Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, provoking tears from his fellow satellite dwellers. The alien is repelled by the impersonation and leaves. Pearl, et al. return to tell vague but scary ghost stories.

Stinger:

Quoth Detective Donovan, “People bug me too!”

Thoughts:

He's almost got that stare down pat.While three out of the last four episodes have featured some form of past-life regression, they disagree on many key points. I Was A Teenage Werewolf postulates that humanity’s earliest ancestors were lycanthropes, whereas The She Creature seems to think we’re all descended from giant, ethereal crayfish. The Undead would have us believe that hypnosis can cause teleportation and time travel. So which is it? Maybe they’re all right. Maybe boys are descended from wolves, girls from crustaceans, and time-traveling Satanist hookers are descended from… Never mind. If you want an intelligent discussion on evolution, you’re better off watching Inherit the Wind.

For a low budget B-Movie horror, this one isn’t half bad. It hits most of the right notes and doesn’t drag. Nascent cowboy/angel/prairie dad Michael Landon gives a decent performance as Tony. He’s an unrelenting jerk at the beginning (in his defense, he has the second most depressing dad in the MST3K canon, edged out only by Marv’s suicidal paterfamilias in High School Big Shot), but he pulls off a likeable desperation towards the end. You may wonder why his girlfriend likes him. I wonder that too, but having asked myself that question about numerous real-life acquaintances, it doesn’t really bother me that much. Dr. Brandon does bother me, though. Everyone expects a mad scientist to perform unspeakable acts for less than lucid reasons. We also expect those reasons to make sense from the mad doctor’s point of view, even if it’s all in pursuit of some sweepingly maniacal goal, like “exacting revenge on my peers” or “taking over the world.” Brandon wants to save humanity from their animal natures by…reverting everyone back to their animal natures. Excuse me? Did I miss something?

The host segments have a camping/Alien motif. The segments that take place on the planet’s surface introduce a dynamic that will last for the rest of the show. Pearl is, of course, in charge. Brain Guy merits special treatment for being both extremely intelligent and extremely gullible. This leaves poor, stupid Bobo to cheerfully take the brunt of every mishap. The segments on the satellite are only a chest-bursting parasite and a Sigourney Weaver appearance away from being Ridley Scott’s Alien. My favorite bit is Tom’s lengthy speech about his own incompetence. The rest are decent enough that I don’t really have a least favorite. Do you think the Satellite crew would burn me in effigy if I admitted to liking Counting Crows?

The film segments work decently well. Much is made of Tony’s penchant for throwing milk. During his father’s depressing advice, Crow urges him, “Give in to despair.” After he takes his girlfriend home from another verbal abuse-drenched date, Tom says, “I’m sorry I made you yell at me.” Upon glimpsing the crepe-haired lycanthrope through the bushes, Mike says, “Looks like Paddington on a bender.” Both the film and host segments are decent, well worth at least one viewing.