The Best and Worst Werewolf Transformations
From The Howling to the howlingly awful, we pick the hits and the hairballs...
I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957)
It's one of the most vivid B-movie titles ever devised, and is actually a well-made and performed little schlocker, but there's no denying that young Michael Landon's transition from teen rebel to adolescent lycanthrope -- skip to the 7-minute mark -- ain't exactly convincing. Achieved with a shimmering series of dissolves, this is actually a step backwards from where the man-to-monster make-ups were at in the 1940s. Still, the upside-down angle as he stalks into the gym is a nice touch. Not so sure about keeping his letterman's jacket on, though.
Curse of the Queerwolf (1988)
Low-to-zero budget parodist Mark Pirro -- who you may remember from such films as Rectuma and Nudist Colony of the Dead -- followed up his spoof A Polish Vampire In Burbank with this alleged satire of male sexual hang ups. The gay gist is that our hero Larry Smallbut (pronounced "Small butt"... and his friend's name is Dick Cheese) is bitten on his ass by a queerwolf (also known, no kidding, as a "dickenthrope") and thereafter when the moon is full he turns into howlingly cliched homosexual transvestite. As the movie's mantra warns, "Even a wrist that is strong and firm and holds up straight by day may become limp when the moon is full and the Queerwolf comes your way". Like Pirro's other movies, its cheesy appeal is it knows how stoooopid it is, which makes the extreme bad taste feel kinda harmless. Kinda.
Like Benicio Del Toro, you take one look at Jack Nicholson and instantly think, 'That dude's a werewolf in real life'. So it was disappointing that Mike Nichols' big budget flick didn't quite capitalize on its star and concept. The earlier scenes in which Jack comes to grips with his new lycanthropic senses and instincts are delicious, but it's when we get to the transformations that the movie seems a bit half-hearted, as if it doesn't know whether it's okay to switch into horror mode. What it results in is us looking at Wolfman Jack with his bed hair and wondering whether this might not be how he looks on a particularly hung-over morning.
Teen Wolf Too (1987)
That the 1985 original, which starred Michael J. Fox, was a box-office hit was all the justification that was needed to produce this dreadful sequel. Fox stayed away, politely saying that he'd rather not endure the make-up process again. Into his breeches stepped newbie Jason Bateman. The transformations are awful -- his claws aren't too far off queerwolf's -- but they're possibly the least offensive thing about a comedy that appears to have been scripted without any thought about actually trying to make anyone laugh. What is odd is that, just as I Was A Teenage Werewolf marked Michael Landon's film debut, this was the first big-screen appearance from Bateman -- who had made his TV debut playing a kid adopted by Landon in Little House on the Prairie. Strange also that his sister, Justine, was back then starring opposite Fox in Family Ties.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)
Michael Sheen has transformed amazingly during his career, most notably into David Frost in Frost/Nixon and Tony Blair in The Queen. But along with those critically lauded flicks, the British thespian has also scampered across screens as lycan Lucien in the increasingly unliked Underworld flicks. The third and last one (so far) wields CG even more clunkily than the first two and Van Helsing and Cursed, which is no mean feat. Directors, production designers, please take heed: man-to-monster sequences need to be done with physical effects if the eye is to be deceived! As if he's trying to obscure the shoddiness of the effects, director Patrick Tatapoulos appears to have had the entire film shot through an oil slick. Underworld? Underlit, more like it.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)
Regardless of where you stand on Twilight (from "OMG! Best thing ever!" to "*&*^& Worst movies ever made!"), it's hard to make an argument that the transformations of the werewolves -- sorry, shapeshifters! -- are in any way realistic. In this pivotal scene, the first hunk-to-howler moment just passes muster, although the eyes recognize the weightless of the digital wolf. But Taylor Lautner's mid-air transformation makes us howl with laughter. No doubt the majority of the audience would have only thought the scene could be improved by Jacob doing his lycanthropic leap shirtless.
Finally, a bonus scene: Yeah, we couldn't resist another Oscar moment from The Howling III. Enjoy...