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Friday, January 27, 2012

Werewolf of Washington



1973
Milton Moses Ginsberg

Werewolf of Washington is a horror film that makes an attempt at political satire, or maybe it's a political satire film that uses trappings of horror.  I was confused while watching it, and I think the movie is confused on this point as well. Where it fails at being scary or pointed about Washington D.C.  politics, it manages to succeed in being bizarre, by throwing moments of utter strangeness on the screen. The whole thing seems to go from a dread filled slog to a cartoony nightmare over the course of ninety minutes.

Jack Whittier (Dean Stockwell) is a reporter for the White House press corps, who just happens to be seeing the President’s daughter, Marion (Jane House) without the President’s knowledge.  Not wanting to incur the wrath of the President (Biff McGuire), he breaks up with her and takes a job reporting in Budapest.  The President calls him back to D.C. to make him a press aide, unaware of his liaisons with Marion. Before he can return though, he and his current girlfriend, Giselle (Katalin Kallay) run afoul of a werewolf and Jack gets mauled.  Not heeding a gypsy warning, he heads back to Washington, and before long he’s trying to find a way to not murder people as a werewolf, and reconnect with his former girlfriend now engaged to a Navy officer.

Werewolf of Washington makes some overt stabs at commenting on Nixon, race relations and Vietnam, but it is only marginally successful. One of the more satirical moments involves the police looking to blame an African American couple for a werewolf attack despite there being no evidence they had anything to do with it. The President is a disconnected boob. Everyone in D.C. seems oblivious to the world around them, and are only able to act when there is an immediate threat, such as say... a werewolf chasing them. Jack is not a particularly sympathetic character, in fact he’s an opportunistic jackass. He doesn’t even really start taking measures to stop himself from killing until the final third of the movie.

What Werewolf of Washington does have are some truly bizzaro moments, including having Jack escape into a weird industrial complex that exists underneath the White House.  The basement is home to a miniature scientist and a Frankenstein(ish)monster. There is a strange scene that involves the President becoming obsessive about trying to open a locked bathroom door to the point where it becomes embarrassing to everyone around him, one of the few laugh out loud moments in the whole movie.

The prints circulating around right now are grainy and ugly and with some very muddled sound. I’d be curious to see what it would look like cleaned up, especially with so many night scenes and the lurid red of the White House interior. The film does exist in the public domain so there are several places to view it online.  If you’re looking for some free entertainment, want to see a time capsule of the 1970’s or are just a Dean Stockwell fan, give it go. Otherwise you can probably find something more worth your time.

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