Moon of the Wolf (1972)

No, Lon Chaney Jr. was not in this movie. I know that’s his kind of makeup in that terrible poster, but the actual werewolf is pretty much just a guy with a beard and black paint on his nose. Yeah, it’s gonna be one of those kinds of movies.

Two farmers discover the mauled body of a woman in the Louisiana bayou. Sheriff Whitaker arrives to investigate along with the town doctor, Dr. Druten, while the woman’s brother, Lawrence, shows up looking like a pale imitation of an inebriated Marlon Brando and yells at people. Dr. Druten determines that dogs chewed on the body, but only after the woman had been killed. Sheriff Whitaker investigates and meets with the rich locals, Andrew Rodanthe, and his sister Louise. Louise and the Sheriff had a thing for each other, but Andrew cuts it off. He learns through the course of his investigation that the woman was pregnant and confronts Dr. Druten to learn he was the father. Lawrence also finds out and attacks Dr. Druten, which gets him locked in jail. Something attacks the jail at night, rips the cell door off its hinges, and murders Lawrence and the deputy. Sheriff Whitaker takes Andrew to Lawrence’s father’s house, but as he’s a superstitious dying man, he put up stuff to stop werewolves, and Andrew passes out. Sheriff Whitaker then takes Louise to the same house, and Lawrence’s father reveals the werewolf will come after her next. Andrew turns into a werewolf and escapes the hospital. Sheriff Whitaker and Louise hide out at home, but Andrew attacks, and Louise burns a barn down on top of him and then eventually shoots him to stop his reign of terror. Peace returns to the bayou, except for the wild dogs, the crocodiles, the apparent malaria, so on and so forth.

Ok, we’re back in made-for-TV territory here, so yeah, the special effects are limited because the budget was probably somewhere between zero and nothing. The werewolf rarely shows up, and the attack at the jail is done partly in first person from the werewolf’s perspective. Now this movie is no Killdozer, so while it’s not bad for a low stakes werewolf movie, you’re not gonna get that same level of awesome that you would from an alien-possessed killer bulldozer. Still, what do you get? A bearded guy with hairy hands. Yeah, it’s not about the killer, it’s about the lead up, and that part actually isn’t so bad.

What Moon of the Wolf gets right is to try and concoct a believable character in Sheriff Whitaker, a guy who is trying to do the best he can for his area but also has an understanding of what his place is and what is proper in his society. He’s a voice of command for some folks but also has to kowtow to the rich remnants of the town’s founder…at least to the male one. Sheriff Whitaker and Louise are convincingly sweet on each other but separated by a class difference that he simply accepts. It proves pointless ultimately, but then nobody knew the male heir was a werewolf. Everyone just thought he had malaria. This might be because the whole film is based off a book, also called Moon of the Wolf, albeit adapted for modern day.

Does malaria make you act like a werewolf? I don’t think so, but then I’m not well versed in my tropical diseases.

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