1970s television belonged to Dan Curtis. He was the mastermind behind the beloved vampire soap opera, DARK SHADOWS (1966-1971). Between producing and directing, he was responsible for some of the best monster movies created for the small screen, including THE NIGHT STALKER (1972), THE NIGHT STRANGLER (1973), and NORLISS TAPES (1973). He was the master of TV horror, and 1974’s SCREAM OF THE WOLF was sure to satisfy his devoted cult following.
The movie centers around a series of brutal killings. All the victims appear to have been mangled by some unknown animal. The sheriff contacts a local adventure writer/retired hunter (Peter Graves) to help identify and track the mysterious animal. He, too, has trouble figuring out what vicious beast can run on both four and two legs, then seem to disappear into the night. So he turns to his old hunting buddy (Clint Walker) for help. His buddy doesn’t want to help at first, but slowly warms up to the idea, especially when he sees it reinvigorate the lust for the hunt in his old partner. He tries to talk the writer’s girlfriend away from the notion that the killer is a werewolf because, well, they don’t exist.
Oh, did I mention that Walker’s character had been bitten by a wolf a few years prior?
While every expectation goes one direction, I’ll simply say it’s worth the ride all the way to the end.
Yes, it’s still a cheesy made-for-TV movie. No, it’s not nearly to the level of Curtis’ later TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975). But it’s still a heck of a ride, thanks in no small part to the veteran actors playing the leads. It also owes a great deal to Richard Matheson who wrote the script. Matheson is the writer of the landmark vampire/zombie novel I AM LEGEND, as well as many of the key TWILIGHT ZONE episodes. He knows when to play into the tropes, and when to subvert them. Lastly, but far from least, is Curtis’ sense of style. No one could build suspense and a growing sense of dread the way he could, and very few have since.
If you want a fun flick for your Friday night, here you go:
Question of the night: what’s your favorite made-for-TV movie?