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Default Howling, The: Special Edition




Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: August 9, 2003

Released by: MGM
Release date: 8/26/2001
MSRP: $19.98
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes | P&S: Yes



Ouch! Yet another laserdisc rendered obsolete thanks to DVD? It seems so. MGM has at last released their special edition DVD of The Howling - easily one of the greatest werewolf movies ever made. Not only does it contain extras from the special edition laserdisc, MGM created some new ones as well. The full moon has risen! So lets take a closer look at this special edition and see how it is.

The Story

inline Image Karen White (Dee Wallace Stone) is a TV newswoman who has been contacted by a serial killer by the name of Eddie (Robert Picardo). Karen agrees to meet Eddie at a public location - a pornography store in the middle of the city. Little does Eddie know that Karen has teamed up with the police, who are planning on using the opportunity to catch Eddie. But before police can determine where the meeting is going to take place, they lose Karen's signal. Karen goes in thinking the police will be there soon after, but the police only have a general idea of the area she's in. She enters one of the sex rooms as the back of the store; waiting inside is Eddie. Eventually he starts to attack her. Before he can do much the police arrive just in time and shoot Eddie dead. Karen has survived the ordeal and heads home with her husband Bill (Christopher Stone).

inline Image The nightmare may be over for the police in regards to Eddie, but for Karen it has just begun. She's haunted with visions of the attack to such an extent that she can't even make love to her husband or work in front of the camera. Karen begins therapy with Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee), who suggests she take some time off and go recharge her batteries at his relaxation colony up in the woods. She takes his advice and heads up to the colony with Bill. Meanwhile, Christopher (Dennis Dugan) and Terry (Belinda Balaski) - two friends of Karen's that are fellow news reporters for the station - begin investigating the trail Eddie left behind.

inline Image Karen and Bill arrive at the colony and start off their r&r by attending a barbecue the residents of the colony are having on the beach. Bill isn't much for barbecues since he's a vegetarian, but it gives them a chance to introduce themselves. The next day the two begin to enjoy themselves - Karen plays tennis with a friend and Bill soon goes hunting with the boys and catches himself a rabbit. He has Marsha (Elisabeth Brooks), a resident at the colony, cook up the rabbit for him. When she makes a move on him he quickly pushes her away and heads back to his cabin. On his way back he's attacked by a wolf. He survives the attack but is left with some deep wounds on his arm. Between the attack and some noises she's been hearing out in the woods, Karen is freaked out. She calls home to Chris and Terry, who promise to come up and stay with her. Chris and Terry found many drawings wolf-like drawings in Eddie's apartment. During their investigation they visited a book store where they find lots of information on werewolf folklore. Terry ends up going alone while Chris tries to pitch a special on the life of Eddie to their boss.

inline Image Terry arrives at the colony and later that night she hears lots of howling wolves. As she begins investigating areas of the colony the next morning, she's attacked by a werewolf. She manages to escape into a nearby building, and has just enough time to call Chris and tell him what's happening. But before long the werewolf shows up and takes care of her for good. When Karen stumbles across Terry's body, she begins to discover the truth about the colony and many of its inhabitants. Now that she knows, can she make it out of the colony alive? Her only hope is Chris, who is on his way up with a pocket full of silver bullets. Will that be enough to stop a mob of bloodthirsty werewolves?


inline Image Director Joe Dante did an incredible job creating a very dark, scary and unique werewolf movie with The Howling. Though I do prefer An American Werewolf in London, The Howling takes a very close second place. Certainly The Howling is much, much darker and scarier than Werewolf in London, but I loved Werewolf in London's wonderful story, special effects and the character development that really makes you care about the characters. While many characters are likable in The Howling, I didn't find myself caring for them as much. Overall the effects in An American Werewolf in London are superior, but I think The Howling has the best transformation scene. The Howling also lets you see more of the werewolf throughout

inline Image The Howling doesn't go to the level of humor found in Werewolf in London, and as I said it is a much darker movie, but don't let get you into thinking The Howling is humorless. Not the case at all - there's a few spots of humor to be seen throughout the movie. One I enjoyed quite a bit is when Terry is being attached by the werewolf and she calls Chris on the phone. When the movie cuts to Chris you see that he's watching a big bad wolf cartoon playing on his TV. So here you have this tense moment in the movie when Terry is being stalked by a werewolf, yet at the same time a dose of humor is injected when you see this big bad wolf cartoon playing on the TV. It works nicely; it gets you to let your guard down slightly, which may weaken your defenses for what's to come. There's other humorous scenes too, but part of the enjoyment is finding them on your own. I can see where many people might enjoy The Howling as it mostly sticks to a straight horror movie, except for a few small jokes thrown in occasionally that are often not even noticeable. If you goal is to get scared or to scare someone else, I think The Howling does a better job with the scaring aspect.

inline Image I also like how Dante dealt with the characters personalities in terms of knowing that they were a werewolf. In most werewolf movies the characters don't want to be a werewolf and their only desire is to end the curse. These people weren't upset about it and they didn't feel like it was a curse - they act as if it's a blessing to be a werewolf. What it boils down to is that they're evil people that are shapeshifters. They enjoy hunting, killing and eating humans, just as many humans enjoy hunting, killing, and eating deer. The rules are slightly different here too. They don't only change when the moon is full. These werewolves will change whenever they damn well please - middle of the day or the middle of the night, it's no matter to them. All of these elements combined - wonderful effects, good acting, a good plot, and its uniqueness - make The Howling the classic werewolf movie that it is.

inline Image From what I hear most of The Howling sequels are quite bad. I've only seen the New Moon Rising sequel, which I imagine is the worst sequel ever created in the history of sequels. I may checkout the other sequels though because I've always heard mixed opinions on them, plus it's always best to judge for yourself. But make no mistake, the two best werewolf films ever created were made in the early 80's - An American Werewolf in London and The Howling. If you haven't seen them, crawl out of the hole you're been living in and go buy them today! VHS, DVD or laserdisc - whatever it takes to see them.

Image Quality

This transfer is a slight improvement over MGM's previous DVD. Initially I believed they were the same transfer, but upon closer look I'm confident they are not. This transfer is slightly sharper and contains noticeably less print blemishes. Besides that, the transfers are still pretty close. There are still a few soft scenes, but overall the transfer is more sharper. Colors remain fairly vibrant and grain is minimal throughout. There are lots of nighttime scenes in The Howling and they all look beautiful here - no signs of MPEG artifacts, even during the fog scenes. MGM's old DVD scored a B, whereas this one gets a B+.

Sound

MGM sprung for a nice new Dolby Digital 5.1 remix to be included. Their older DVD had the original mono track. Surrounds get nearly no activity, and even LFE only has some occasional activity. The original mono track is included here as well.

Supplemental Material

inline Image First up is the commentary track with director Joe Dante and stars Dee Wallace Stone, Christopher Stone and Robert Picardo. Joe does most of the talking, which is probably expected given he's the director. Dee falls in second place while Chris and Robert are tied for last - they hardly talk at all during the commentary. Overall this is a great commentary with lots of useful and useless information on the movie and filmmaking process discussed. There's very few gaps of silence and Joe does a great job keeping you interested. There's lots of laughing and joking that goes on as well, leaving me with the impression that they're all friends in real life. On a sad note, Christopher Stone passed away just a few months after the commentary track was recorded back in 1995. After doing some research on the Internet Movie Database, I discovered that Elisabeth Brooks (Marsha - the main female werewolf) passed away in September 1997. Both died at relatively young ages, so it's quite unfortunate.

Unleashing The Beast is a new documentary created specifically for this DVD. It's broken up into several short featurettes, though you have the option to 'Play All'. The featurettes are: A Brief History of Werewolves, A Company of Werewolves, How to Make a Werewolf Picture, I Was a Latex Werewolf, and Requiem for a Werewolf. This documentary is terrific. It contains new interviews with director Joe Dante, producer Mike Finnell, screenwriter John Sayles, director of photography John Hora, actors Dee Wallace Stone, Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, Belinda Balaski. There is tons covered here. Obviously there is lots about the making of the film, the script and what got dropped from the book, how Joe became director, and a focus on the werewolf effects. On top of that, both Joe and all of the actors share some experiences and memories they have from the filming of Howling, their respective roles, and a whole lot more. There's a brief mention of all the sequels, but it's obvious Joe has zero interest in them. If you like documentaries, you'll love this one as it's in-depth and fast paced.




inline Image inline Image inline Image inline Image



Next up is Making a Monster Movie: Inside the Howling. This is essentially made up of older interviews with director Joe Dante, special effects guru Rob Bottin, and actor Patrick Macnee. Nothing all too interesting here. Each person briefly discusses their role or job in The Howling.



inline Image inline Image inline Image



This is a great special edition with lots of enjoyable features. It's nice to finally see the laserdisc commentary hit DVD. Unfortunately, like nearly ever laserdisc special edition that makes its way over to DVD, there are some extras that didn't make it to the DVD and remain exclusive to the laserdisc. Here's a quick rundown of what's missing:
  • The deleted scenes on the laserdisc contain commentary by director Joe Dante. Sadly, that commentary isn't present on this DVD. And yes, I did try switching the audio track manually!
  • Also missing is an 8-minute interview with stop-motion animator David Allen. He created several stop-motion werewolf sequences for The Howling which were ultimately not used (minus one fade-away shot toward the end of the movie). The interview itself isn't that great, but the stop-motion werewolf sequences are shown during the interview. Those are really quite interesting and I was sad to see they weren't included. One thing to note: A few of those stop-motion scenes are shown on this DVD during the Unleashing the Beast documentary, but the majority are missing.
  • One of the deleted scenes on this DVD is missing some footage that was present on the laserdisc. The hot tub sequence is missing the opening moments where both Karen (Dee Wallace) and another lady from the colony are both in the hot tub. The other lady gets out and there's some brief nudity. On the DVD, all we see is Karen (this is after the other lady has left) and then her reaction as she's surprised by the hunters.
  • The complete script to The Howling is on the laserdisc and is not on this DVD. I'm not much of a script person, but there were dozens of drawings included as well - those were interesting.
  • Pino Donaggio's isolated score is present on the laserdisc.
  • The laserdisc has some liner notes on the 'Film World of Joe Dante'




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I don't mean to detract from the enjoyment of this special edition. It is simply my desire to point out what's present on the laserdisc that didn't make it over to this DVD. It's certainly possible some of these extras are on the DVD, but are just hidden easter eggs. And lets not forget this DVD contains a nice new documentary and a shorter, older featurette - both exclusive to the DVD. I'm very happy with the supplements on this DVD, but as a big fan of The Howling, I'll be holding onto my laserdisc as well.

Final Thoughts

The Howling is werewolves at their finest! It's a must see for all horror fans. MGM has done The Howling justice, providing fans with a great DVD that boats a nice transfer, a good sound mix, and some great supplements. Die-hard fans may be disappointed by some of the missing laserdisc supplements, but most will be more than content with what's on the DVD now. With a low MSRP of $19.98, this disc is simply a must own.

Rating

Movie - A-
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B+
Supplements - A-

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English, French, and Spanish subtitles

Supplements
  • Commentary by director Joe Dante and stars Dee Wallace Stone, Christopher Stone and Robert Picardo
  • Unleashing The Beast: Making The Howling
  • Making A Monster Movie: Inside The Howling
  • Deleted scenes
  • Outtake reel
  • Production and publicity stills
  • Theatrical trailers

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