In 1983 Stephen King released a short novel called “Cycle of the Werewolf” which was about a boy who believed there was a werewolf in his community while others decidedly did not, and this book was later turned into a film called Silver Bullet, and while that premise may be familiar to many fans of horror very few realize that a decade earlier Nathan H. Juran had directed a movie with a similar werewolf themed story, sadly, he wasn’t working off of something written by the Master of Horror, instead, he had a script that belonged in the made-for-television arena and that’s if we’re being generous.
The movie opens with Robert Bridgestone (Kerwin Mathews), a divorced father, taking his son Richie (Scott Sealey) to the family mountain cabin where during a moonlit hike through the woods they are attacked by a werewolf and during the struggle, Robert is bitten, but the monster falls backwards into a ravine and is impaled on a wooden fence, causing him to revert back to his human form, this allows Robert to go into full-on denial as to what he had encountered and this attitude is the basic thrust for the rest of the film. Poor Richie will exclaim to anyone within earshot that his father is a werewolf – though it does take him a surprisingly long time to figure out the werewolf in his dad’s clothes is actually his father – and of course, no one believes him, but what is really odd is that upon returning home to his mother, Sandy Bridgestone (Elaine Devry), she not only blows off his accusations she sends Robert to see Richie’s psychiatrist, Doctor Marderosian (George Gaynes), who is the one who suggests that Robert should take his son back to the cabin, predicting that when Richie returned to the scene of the crime, claiming this will cause Richie to lose interest in werewolves.
Instead of losing interest, the poor kid is witness to several brutal murders, but when the penny finally drops that his dad is the killer he immediately helps hide this fact from the police, which is all kinds of messed up as the werewolf had been repeatedly trying to kill him. Even more off-putting is that when the once again human Robert drops Richie off at his mother’s the kid cries to his mom “I don’t want to be with him anymore. I’m scared of dad” and sure, this wouldn’t make the average mother assume that their ex was now a werewolf but that’s still a big red flag that possible child abuse was going on, but her solution is for the three of them to return to the cabin together. Yeah, nothing heals wounds like returning to the scene of the crime. Unsurprisingly, the moon rises and good ole Robert goes on an animalistic rampage, and Sandy continues to prove that denial is not just a river in Egypt as she not only refuses to believe that her ex is a werewolf but that there is a werewolf at all.
The bulk of the film deals with Richie trying to get anyone to believe him but everyone, including the prerequisite useless Sheriff (Robert J. Wilke), insists that this is all the work of his overactive imagination, and this railing at the heavens gets old pretty fast as there is enough evidence that all the “strange killings” are not done being committed by some rogue wolf or bear, not unless bears are known for running cars off roads and pushing campers down hills. The only people who seem attuned to the evil surrounding these events are a group of hippie Jesus freaks who have set up a half-assed commune in the woods, whose wild-eyed leader (Bob Homel) makes a prayer circle into a pentagram that somehow becomes a werewolf barrier, but prayers are not enough to stop this ravenous monster and they are only spared destruction by the rays of the morning sun.
There have been quite a variety of werewolves over the years, from the two-legged Lon Chaney Jr. Wolf Man type to the four-legged variation found in An American Werewolf in London, but in most depictions, a person is transformed into a mindless ravenous monster but Robert’s “wolf man” is a very unique werewolf as not only does it taking home body parts as doggy treats, even using a shovel to bury them for later, and while he has no memory of his acts as a werewolf the wolf half clearly has memories of what happens during the day as he murders Dr. Marderosian, who pretty much accused Robert as being marked by evil earlier in the day, and that kind of forethought is definitely not something routinely exhibited by a person afflicted with lycanthropy.
• This movie could have been called “Werewolf by Day for Night” what with all the scenes supposedly taking place at night that clearly shot during the day.
• It’s never explained why Robert is in complete denial over the fact that he was attacked by something not completely human, and those day-for-night shots certainly didn’t help hide that the dude was obviously hairy and fanged.
• Before being bitten by a werewolf Robert was a different kind of animal, one of the chauvinistic pig varieties, angry at his ex-wife and sounding off with such wonderful bon mots as “That’s why you’re my ex-wife “Women of the World unite” and all that garbage” so yeah, he’s a real class act.
• While discussing Richie’s werewolf delusions Dr. Marderosian holds up a pre-Columbian fertility statue, which has nothing whatsoever to do with lycanthropy or the myths surrounding native shapeshifters. I’m betting his degree in psychology was from a correspondence course he found in a comic book.
• As werewolves go Robert’s lycanthropic other half is strangely into vehicular manslaughter as his first victims involve him causing two vehicles to crash and later him pushing a trailer down a hill.
• The werewolf takes the head of one of his victims from the scene of the crime, using a leather satchel to carry it away, presumably to eat later, which makes this the ultimate Doggy Bag.
• A note to future filmmakers, if your werewolf looks “family-friendly” enough to appear on an episode of The Addams Family you’ve made a tactical mistake.
I should point out that while the title of this movie is clever, an obvious take on the Aesop fable The Boy Who Cried Wolf, it’s also a bit disingenuous because in that fable the kid lied about there being a wolf which led to the villagers ignoring him when an actual wolf did show up, but in this movie, our young protagonist is not lying and is ignored simply because people don’t tend to believe kids when they go on an on about werewolves, basically, the moral of this story is that adults are jerks and deserve to be eaten by werewolves. While it was nice to see director Nathan H. Juran once again teaming up with Kerwin Matthews, having worked with him earlier in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jack the Giant Killer, the film rests on the tiny shoulders of Scott Sealey and he is, most definitely, not up to the task and the movie suffers greatly because of this, not that Elaine Devry as his mother is much better but it’s crucial for the film’s protagonist to be solid and identifiable for us to become invested in his fate and young Sealey isn’t that.
Note: When the film ends with the implication that the kid may have been infected with lycanthropy, we can only pray a sequel never happens.
This is far from the worst werewolf film out there, several of the Howling sequels have a far better claim to that title, but the script to The Boy Who Cried Werewolf is rather lazy and unengaging, with the characters ranging from unbelievably stupid to the outright annoying, and the screenplay was certainly not aided by a very weak looking werewolf that relied on lap-dissolves of a still photograph to pull off the transformation sequences. This was Nathan H. Juran’s last movie and while it’s better than his Attack of the 50ft Woman it’s also not as memorably bad as that offering, thus it is a hard one to recommend to anyone other than the werewolf movie completists.
The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973)
Movie Rank - 5/10
With a very lame werewolf and a less than engaging child actor The Boy Who Cried Werewolf is one of the weaker entries in the horror genre but, at least, we did eventually get Stephen King’s “Boy vs. Werewolf” story a decade later so that’s something.