Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Werewolf (1996) - MST3K Review


Summary:
An archeological team lead by Noel (Richard Lynch) discovers the bones of a native American werewolf. After an sudden bout of fisticuffs, one of the diggers scratches himself on the bones and becomes a werewolf. Yuri (George Rivero), one of the other workers on the dig starts seeing dollar signs. He goes out of his way to create another werewolf in order to gain fame and fortune. 

This leads to him infecting Paul Niles (Fred Cavalli) a writer who is interested in giving money to the research. Now Paul is transforming all over the place, and the only one who can help him is Natalie Burke (Adrianna Miles) another archeologist involved with the dig. Can the combined forces of Joe Estevez, mutating hair pieces, a grubby looking grounds keeper, a woman with no pants and a champagne swilling security guard save the city of Flagstaff from an assault of bizarre accents and a rampaging Werewolf?

Review:
Beware the were-bat-dog-bear-wolf... um... thingie.
This movie really is a mess: poorly acted, poorly written and poorly directed, there really isn’t anything effective in the final product at all. But let’s take it apart and see what we have.

The story is constructed very badly, with a good 15 to 20 minutes of the film not even involving the main character Paul, which you could argue is a good thing, but I digress. Instead time is used to set up the dig, discovery of the bones, establishing our scientists and the legend of the native American lycanthrope. Viewers begin to think that maybe Yuri is our leading man, which is alarming because he is a real jerk.

No this is not one of the cheap werewolf effects, it is
only Sam the groundskeeper.
When Paul shows up in Werewolf it seems like he’s in a wacky sitcom, arriving at a new home, and meeting the bizarre groundskeeper Sam (R.C. Bates) who is channelling his inner "old coot" right from the first second you see him. You begin to wonder if you’re watching a totally different film, one about the hi-larous adventures of a young writer and his off the wall friends in beautiful downtown Flagstaff. Finally Paul interacts with the scientific trio during a party scene (that seems to come out of no where) and the stories connect in a barely coherent way.

Still some things never make any sense. How does the native American werewolf work? Lots of shots are given to the full moon, but the movie happens over the course of several days – is it always full? Paul just seems to transform whenever the mood strikes him. He attacks randomly, and not for food or defending himself, just because he’s bored or something. He claims to be out of control at one point, and yet Sam and Natalie are able to calm him. Just what’s going on here?

Paul suddenly realizes that the blinds are out acting him.
Combined the unclear script you’ve got unclear direction and bad acting on top of it. Werewolf doesn't stand a chance. Based on the way the story is constructed, it seems like the audience is supposed to feel bad for Paul at the end of the film, but no effort was made to make us care about him. The most we know  is that he’s a writer who is never seen writing. Yuri is a jerk because… um, he’s a jerk. And then there’s Natalie, who is one of the least convincing scientists I’ve seen since Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough. Some scenes attempt to create tension and suspense but only serve to make things a lot sillier.

Adding to the haphazard nature of the script is the thoroughly bad and inconsistent werewolf effects. At times the werewolf is only a hairy man. Sometimes he’s more of the Lon Chaney Jr. Wolf Man variety. Then other times he’s a bat headed looking puppet. And then you’ve got the bear suit with a sorry looking wolf mask on top of it. All of these are used without any reason or rhyme, it just seems to fall on how the director wanted the thing to look at that moment. The scenes are then jumbled during the editing creating entire scenes where the werewolf looks completely different over a three minute sequence. For a movie called Werewolf you expect something a little more consistent.

Yuri holds the head while Noel makes the mouth work.
The three leads deliver various bad performances. The best is George Rivero as Yuri. He’s a real jerk from the first scene you see him in. He rants and raves and growls. The first scene he is in involves him getting into a fight for basically no reason. This "character trait" is repeated throughout the movie. In many ways he’s more intimidating and unpredictable than the actual werewolf (something the director really could have worked with). Unfortunately there is his hair, which seems to change in just about every scene he’s in. Was it a series of wigs or just bad continuity? We’ll never know, but it’s very distracting. Then you have his accent, which is pretty thick at times and ends up making his lines hard to follow.

Fred Cavalli as Paul has a slightly less noticeable accent, but his acting is less convincing. He is bland. You never believe that he is much peril because he seems pretty nonchalant about the whole thing.  I would think transforming into a flesh tearing monster would be at least a little frightening. But what do I know? Without that element we never connect with Paul and you just end up wondering how goofy his werewolf effect is going to look in the next shot.

"Rack 'em" "Why do people always say 'rack' around me?"
I’ve saved the best for last. No way to sidestep around this. Adriana Miles as Natalie is really bad. Her accent is thick, her performance is wooden. Her chief assists are under the tight shirts she wears. As a scientist she’s completely unconvincing. You really get the feeling that half the time she doesn't know what she is saying, doesn't really follow the script - or maybe just doesn't care and is there to pick up a paycheck.  As a woman who’s grasp of English is very slight, she’s very convincing. I understand she spends most of the love scene topless and I think that is the real reason she was hired. But with the MST3K version of Werewolf, we get an edited love scene, so we just have to make due with her performance. Lucky us!

Not even the power of an Estevez can save this movie!
Supporting cast is surprisingly good. Joe Estevez does his best with a very small part as the digger Joel. He reacts with real horror to what is going on in the film (must have seen the finished product). Sure he had a juicer role in Soultaker but it's nice to see him in this one. Richard Lynch is a veteran of low budget films and television, and he knows how to actually bring some seriousness to his parts. His scenes of explaining the legends of the werewolf actually contain the best acting in the film. Too bad they stuck in him some truly stupid looking outfits. Then there’s the completely random role of Sam the groundskeeper. Bates looks like Castro, talks like Yosemite Sam and is a breath of fresh air in the stale film. His character serves no purpose other than comic relief, and even if he isn’t that funny, he goes for the part with gusto.

Looked at as a whole, Werwolf doesn’t scare, doesn’t thrill and really doesn’t make sense. It sounds like a perfect candidate for Mike and the bots.

MST3K Review:

And then the werewolf savagely kills Bob Villa!
By this time in the show’s run, Mystery Science Theater hadn’t tackled too many werewolf films. There was Mad Monster back in Season 1, and I Was a Teeneage Werewolf in Season Eight. But other than those they hadn’t really been delving into the lycanthrope scene. Well it seemed right to jump from a Puma Man to a Werewolf, because – well give equal time to all animals. On top of that, this is the most recent movie they had done up to this point, with Werewolf being released in 1996, and this show first airing in 1998. It ended up becoming one of the funniest episodes of season nine.

Werewolf, or warwelf, or vilvulf or who the hell knows!
There’s a lot to like about his episode. The riffing is spot on, with all kinds of things providing laughs and sources for running jokes. Yuri’s constantly changing hair provokes the bots to figure out who he’s trying to look like in this scene. 

The transformation scenes in Werewolf are a random mess of the victim flopping around interspersed with shots of the full moon and the werewolf skeleton found at the opening of the film. Mike and the bots start wonder about lunar cycles in Flagstaff (where the movie is supposed to take place). The film takes place over several days (and possibly weeks). Yet there is always a full moon. No some werewolf mythologies don't tie into the moon at all, but the director keeps showing it, as if it has some significance. The constant cutting to the bones, with the skull's jaws flapped open leads Tom to sing Ave Maria every time it is on the screen.

The werewolf driving the car cracks me up every time.
And then the boys riff on it, and it is even funnier.
But it is poor Natalie who just opens the door for all kinds of comedic lines. Her bad line readings, thick accent and pointless actions are the real goldmine for the show and they run with it. Her line, “Diss ees obsoluely fusscinating,” becomes a running joke in the film and crops up when you least expect it. Added to that is that not a single of our foreign friends can pronounce the word “werewolf” correctly or the same from scene to scene.

There are a few slow spots here and there, mostly because Werewolf is so aimless and there is a lot of reuse of random footage (the moon again, the bones again, Paul flopping around on his bed again), that they begin to run out of creative lines for the redundant scenes. Aside from that, it’s a very good riffing session.

They actually nail the 1950 girl group ballad style, even
dressed like this.
The host segments aren’t bad either. It starts with Mike channeling James Lipton from Inside the actors studio and then attempting to escape from the Satellite of love via a very long ladder – it doesn’t work out so well. Then they run through what famous siblings they would want in their werewolf film (inspired by Joe Estevez). The third segment has Mike and bots dressed as a 50’s girl group and singing about their main squeeze who happens to be a werewolf. When Mike stumbles on Crow while leaving the theater, he begins to transform into a were-crow: silliness ensues. The last segment has the Crow, Were-crow and Tom (now turning into a Were-Mike) chatting with Pearl as she attempts to create her own werewolf. But Bobo botches it all by brining a cute cocker spaniel instead of a wolf. I’d love to see a were-cocker!

Werewolf is one of my favorite episodes of season nine. I give it four full moons out of five. Just hope I don’t turn into a wurwelf, or werewulf, or warwilf – or however you say it.

This episode is available in the MST3K 20th Anniversary box set.

And now, the many hair styles of Yuri...

Yuri Mark 1 - Ernest Scientist hair

Yuri Mark 2 - Puffed up Prick hair

Yuri Mark 3 - Dr. Chad Feelgood hair

Yuri Mark 4 - Sleek and Sneaky hair

Yuri Mark 5 - Agressive Pool Player hair

Yuri Mark Dead - Now my hair can be free in the wild

6 comments:

  1. Nice write-up!

    Love this episode. The bit in the movie where they keep cutting to the open-mouthed skull and Crow sings: "Laaaaaa!" is hilarious!

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  2. Yeah this is a favorite of mine too. Just revisited it and found the entire werewolf in the car scene especially hilarious. Not sure what the director was thinking there.

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  3. This is the kind of movie for which MST3K was invented. I prefer the "so bad it's good" movies without any riff track other than my own, but the "so bad it's bad" can be transmuted into gold reliably only on the space station .

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    1. Yeah this one would be pure pain without Mike and the bots to help out. The endless transformation sequences ends up slowing the film down way too much.

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  4. One of their best..It ranks up there with other classic episodes from previous seasons...A+++

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    1. It is really one of my favorites from Season 9 and was a hilarious one two punch with "Pumaman". This is one of the worst horror flicks they ever tackled, and I'm so glad they took a crack at it. Thanks for commenting!

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