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HISTORY


       Production notes from the AMPAS library reported that producers Alan King and Rupert Hitzig read the galleys of Whitley Strieber’s novel, optioned the project and secured a development deal at Orion Pictures. An item in the 27 Mar 1978 Publisher’s Weekly reported that Strieber received a $30,000 advance for the film “against $300,000 with possible escalations.”
       Although an item in the 9 Jan 1979 NYT reported that Wolfen would begin filming in April, the 24 Oct 1979 Var noted filming began on Monday, 22 Oct 1979. The film, which shot on location in New York City, had a “closed set.” The film’s "church lair" was created in the South Bronx and interiors were filmed on New York’s Astoria Studios.
       Director/screenwriter Michael Wadleigh and co-screenwriter David Eyre placed special emphasis on unusual point of view elements to demonstrate the creatures’ heightened senses. An article in the Nov 1981 AmCin reported the screenplay utilized the term “Alien Vision” that, according to production notes and the review in the 24 Jul 1981 NYT, was achieved through a mix of standard photography, electronic images, and “computerized optical processing.” A specially equipped Steadicam and a Louma, an electronically controlled camera crane, were also used to achieve the special point of view effect.
       An item in the 4 Sep 1979 HR reported that Orion would release Wolfen in the fall of 1980. However, the picture was not released until 24 Jul 1981. The delay was due, in part, to a lengthy arbitration with the Directors Guild of America (DGA) over Michael Wadleigh’s rights as ... More Less


       Production notes from the AMPAS library reported that producers Alan King and Rupert Hitzig read the galleys of Whitley Strieber’s novel, optioned the project and secured a development deal at Orion Pictures. An item in the 27 Mar 1978 Publisher’s Weekly reported that Strieber received a $30,000 advance for the film “against $300,000 with possible escalations.”
       Although an item in the 9 Jan 1979 NYT reported that Wolfen would begin filming in April, the 24 Oct 1979 Var noted filming began on Monday, 22 Oct 1979. The film, which shot on location in New York City, had a “closed set.” The film’s "church lair" was created in the South Bronx and interiors were filmed on New York’s Astoria Studios.
       Director/screenwriter Michael Wadleigh and co-screenwriter David Eyre placed special emphasis on unusual point of view elements to demonstrate the creatures’ heightened senses. An article in the Nov 1981 AmCin reported the screenplay utilized the term “Alien Vision” that, according to production notes and the review in the 24 Jul 1981 NYT, was achieved through a mix of standard photography, electronic images, and “computerized optical processing.” A specially equipped Steadicam and a Louma, an electronically controlled camera crane, were also used to achieve the special point of view effect.
       An item in the 4 Sep 1979 HR reported that Orion would release Wolfen in the fall of 1980. However, the picture was not released until 24 Jul 1981. The delay was due, in part, to a lengthy arbitration with the Directors Guild of America (DGA) over Michael Wadleigh’s rights as director. According to an article in the 4 Aug 1981 NYT, the twenty-one day hearing was the longest in the DGA’s history to that time. An article in the 12 Jun 1981 HR reported the central issue was the right of Orion and King-Hitzig to terminate Wadleigh after completion of principal photography versus Wadleigh’s rights to participate in post-production. The NYT article noted the producers’ contention that Wadleigh could not produce the film on time and on budget, while Wadleigh claimed that he did not see a budget and that he had been clear with the producers that the schedule was too tight to effectively complete “the alien vision” special effects. Another point of contention centered on scenes that Wadleigh claimed were still to be filmed, while Orion claimed that Wadleigh had finished filming and that the referenced scenes had been cut from the script. Wadleigh’s first cut, on 25 Jul 1980, came in at approximately four hours. By Sep 1980, Wadleigh had cut the film to two hours, twenty-nine minutes. According to the NYT article, an agreement was reached to have the film’s editor, Richard Chew, cut the movie for length and to let Wadleigh complete the final seven to ten days of filming. After he finished filming, Wadleigh was let go, and Richard Chew is not one of the four editors listed on the film’s credits. The final cut of the film was one hour, fifty-five minutes. The arbitrator, Edward Mosk, ruled that Wadleigh received his director’s cut and therefore his DGA rights were not violated. While Wadleigh held that a preview of the film was included in his rights, Mosk disagreed that the wording of the 1978 DGA agreement guaranteed a preview. Mosk’s ruling had an immediate effect on the language regarding previews in the new contract the DGA negotiated with producers. Mosk also ruled that Orion could not fire Wadleigh “for cause” for being over schedule and over budget. He concluded that Wadleigh had not seen a budget and that a post-production schedule to complete Wadleigh’s vision of the film had not been agreed upon. Mosk, however, additionally ruled that Orion did not need cause to dismiss Wadleigh, but, since the company had not followed the required “hot line” procedures, they were required to pay $20,000 each to Wadleigh and to the DGA. Wadleigh wanted Orion to remove the credit: “A Michael Wadleigh Film,” but Mosk ruled in favor of Orion’s decision to retain that credit. An item in the 25 Feb 1981 Var reported that director John Hancock was hired to supervise the final ADR sessions on the film.
       An article in the 10 Oct 1980 HR reported that Orion changed the release date from 12 Jun 1981 to 24 Jul 1981 due to an actors’ strike that caused production delays.
       Although reviews were generally favorable, Wolfen made the list in a Dec 1981 Rolling Stone article titled “Big Bucks/Big Losers – 24 films that bombed in 1981.” Films had to meet one of two criteria to make the list: Either “domestic rentals,” a distributor’s share of boxoffice in the United States and Canada, were less than half the film’s budget, or the difference between the budget (not including marketing) and domestic rentals was $4 million or more. Wolfen made the list with a production budget of $19 million and domestic rentals of $4 million.
       Wolfen was Diane Venora’s feature film debut. Director Michael Wadleigh was a documentarian, known for Woodstock (see entry), and Wolfen was his dramatic feature film debut.

             End credits include the following written statement: "With grateful acknowledgement for their co-operation – Astoria Motion Picture and Television Center Astoria, New York; Community Board #3 South Bronx, New York; New York State Office Motion Pictures and Television Development; New York Mayor’s Office Motion Pictures and Television; the people of New York City."

              End credits list the character names of "Christopher Vander Veer" and "Pauline Vander Veer." In the film, a memorial plaque and building signage use the spelling Vander Veer, however, information on the case at the police station uses the spelling Van der Veer. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Nov 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Oct 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 1981
p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
26 Jul 1981
p. 29.
New York Times
9 Jan 1979.
---
New York Times
24 Jul 1981
p. 6.
New York Times
4 Aug 1981.
---
Publishers Weekly
27 Mar 1978.
---
Rolling Stone
Dec 1981.
---
Variety
24 Oct 1979.
---
Variety
25 Feb 1981.
---
Variety
22 Jul 1981
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An Orion Pictures Release
Thru Warner Bros., A Warner Communications Company
A King-Hitzig Production
A Michael Wadleigh Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
Asst prod mgr
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Scr story and scr
Scr story and scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Steadicam photog
Cam op
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Const grip
Elec
Stillman
Insert photog
Insert photog
DIr of photog, New York
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Addl steadicam op
Addl steadicam op
Louma op
Courtesy of
Louma crane
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir for spec props
FILM EDITORS
New York ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed, New York
Asst ed, New York
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed, New York
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Negative ed
Negative ed
Negative processing
Negative processing
SET DECORATORS
Master scenics
Master scenics
Set dec
Set dresser
Prop master
Prop asst
Prop asst
Chief carpenter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus ed
Mus score mixer
SOUND
Sd eff supv and des
Sd eff supv and des
Foley sd supv and des
Foley sd supv and des
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Boom op
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed, Wallaworks
Sd eff ed, Wallaworks
Sd eff ed, Wallaworks
Sd eff ed, Wallaworks
Sd eff ed, Wallaworks
Sd eff ed, Wallaworks
Sd eff ed, Wallaworks
Asst sd eff ed, Wallaworks
Asst sd eff ed, Wallaworks
Foley sd ed
Foley sd ed, Blue Light Sound
Foley sd ed, Blue Light Sound
Dial ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Opt supv
Opt supv, Praxis
Visual eff group, Praxis
Visual eff group, Praxis
Visual eff group, Praxis
Visual eff group, Praxis
Visual eff group, Praxis
Visual eff group, Praxis
Visual eff group, Praxis
Visual eff group, Praxis
MAKEUP
Spec eff makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Post-prod exec
Animals, tech supv
Loc unit mgr
Scr supv
Extra casting
Prod accountant
Unit pub
Research
Asst to Mr. Wadleigh
Asst to prod
Asst to prod
Asst loc coord
Asst to Cis Corman
Photo researcher
Asst prod coord
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Teamster capt
Post prod coord
Post prod coord
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Communication equip
Spec insert equip
Computer equip
Computer equip
Computer equip
Computer equip
Computer equip
Computer equip
Computer equip
Sd sculptures
(Loaned by Staempfli Gallery, N.Y.)
Sd sculptures
(Loaned by Staempfli Gallery, N.Y.)
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Wolfen by Whitley Strieber (New York, 1978).
DETAILS
Release Date:
24 July 1981
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 24 July 1981
Production Date:
began 22 October 1979
Copyright Claimant:
Orion Pictures Company
Copyright Date:
30 September 1981
Copyright Number:
PA116042
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Dolby Stereo®
Color
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed in Panavision®
Prints
Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
115
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26425
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Two Indians stand atop a bridge overlooking the New York City skyline. In the South Bronx, a building is demolished in a dilapidated neighborhood and, from an abandoned church, an unseen creature watches through a surreal point of view as developer Christopher Vander Veer breaks ground for a new development. After leaving a party, Vander Veer’s limo drives across a bridge and Eddie Holt, one of the Indians, throws a bottle at the limo, then runs off. Vander Veer and his wife decide to stop at Battery Park to notify their security company, Executive Surveillance Systems (ESS), of their change in plans. A creature with the unusual point of view stalks the Vander Veers through the park and brutally murders the couple and their limo driver. Brilliant, but alcoholic, former detective Dewey Wilson is called back to work on this high profile case by his boss, Warren. The Police Commissioner and Mayor also bring in Jonathan Ross, bureau chief of ESS, to assist. Dewey and Whittington, the coroner, examine the crime scene and note Vander Veer’s missing brain, the driver’s severed hand and the wife’s nearly severed head. At the morgue, Whittington is surprised to discover no evidence of any metallic weapon involved in the murders. While Dewey, Warren and the cops discuss possible killers, Ross’s high tech ESS team focuses on terrorism and discovers that the Vander Veer’s niece, Cicely Rensselaer, might be part of a terrorist group. ESS also brings in Rebecca Neff, a psychologist and expert on terrorist groups, and Warren teams her with Dewey. Rebecca interrogates Cicely in a high tech room at ESS where ... +


Two Indians stand atop a bridge overlooking the New York City skyline. In the South Bronx, a building is demolished in a dilapidated neighborhood and, from an abandoned church, an unseen creature watches through a surreal point of view as developer Christopher Vander Veer breaks ground for a new development. After leaving a party, Vander Veer’s limo drives across a bridge and Eddie Holt, one of the Indians, throws a bottle at the limo, then runs off. Vander Veer and his wife decide to stop at Battery Park to notify their security company, Executive Surveillance Systems (ESS), of their change in plans. A creature with the unusual point of view stalks the Vander Veers through the park and brutally murders the couple and their limo driver. Brilliant, but alcoholic, former detective Dewey Wilson is called back to work on this high profile case by his boss, Warren. The Police Commissioner and Mayor also bring in Jonathan Ross, bureau chief of ESS, to assist. Dewey and Whittington, the coroner, examine the crime scene and note Vander Veer’s missing brain, the driver’s severed hand and the wife’s nearly severed head. At the morgue, Whittington is surprised to discover no evidence of any metallic weapon involved in the murders. While Dewey, Warren and the cops discuss possible killers, Ross’s high tech ESS team focuses on terrorism and discovers that the Vander Veer’s niece, Cicely Rensselaer, might be part of a terrorist group. ESS also brings in Rebecca Neff, a psychologist and expert on terrorist groups, and Warren teams her with Dewey. Rebecca interrogates Cicely in a high tech room at ESS where it is determined that Cicely is not involved. Dewey does not believe it was a terrorist attack since no one has claimed credit. Meanwhile, in the South Bronx, a drug addict crawls through ruins near the vacant church, and is murdered by one of the creatures. Later, as one of the creatures sneaks into its church lair, a construction crew discovers the body in the rubble. Dewey and Rebecca visit Vander Veer’s penthouse suite, find an elaborate model of Vander Veer’s real estate project for the South Bronx and learn the groundbreaking was last Saturday. They join Whittington at the morgue and learn that non-human hairs on the South Bronx victim’s kidney match hairs found on Mrs. Vander Veer’s body. Dewey and Rebecca go to the construction site and are drawn into the church by something that sounds like a baby crying. They are watched by one of the creatures as Rebecca climbs the decrepit tower stairs to investigate. Dewey hears an animal howl and rushes her outside. He drops Rebecca off at her apartment. Later, she thinks she hears someone outside, but no one is there. The next day, Dewey and Rebecca meet with Ferguson, an anthropologist, who determines that the hair is from a wolf, but claims there are no wild wolves in New York. There used to be millions of wolves, but now they are an endangered species with only a few left in the Rockies. Ferguson looks at pictures of the victims and insists wolves are too smart to have killed them. He likens wolves to Indians, saying both are tribal, look out for their own, and are superb hunters. Dewey takes Rebecca to meet Eddie Holt, a local Indian militant, who’s been out of jail for six months and might be involved. Like many Indians, Eddie works the "high steel" of bridges that Dewey has to climb to the top to talk to him. Eddie admits to having the ability to “shape shift” into other animals, including wolves. Eddie, who is not harnessed to the bridge, goes back to work, as Dewey, safely harnessed, heads back down. Dewey learns that Eddie works for ESS on the bridges and, on the night of the Vander Veer murders, he showed up at the bridge, probably drunk, and sat alone up on the bridge. The guards, using night viewing devices, never saw him leave. Dewey wonders if Eddie left, but they did not recognize him. At the morgue, Whittington shows Dewey some body parts that have been found around the city. The parts have matching striation marks from sharp teeth. Whittington thinks something is eating people and leaving diseased organs behind. Ferguson joins them and admits animals might be involved. Dewey wonders aloud about shape-shifters, then heads off to follow Eddie from a bar. Eddie goes to a beach, strips and takes on a wolf-like persona. He rushes at Dewey, growling and ready to attack, then suddenly stops and says, “I told you, it’s all in the head.” At Ferguson’s office, the anthropologist sadly watches footage of wolves being hunted by helicopters and senses one of the creatures is nearby. Ferguson calls in a fire alarm, then rushes outside and rides his motorbike to a nearby park path. The animal howls as the fire trucks approach. At first, Ferguson is excited but quickly realizes he is in danger. He takes off on his motorbike, but is killed by the creature. Dewey stands guard outside Rebecca’s apartment, thinks he sees a wolf and rushes inside. When no intruder is evident, Dewey and Rebecca make love while one of the creatures watches from outside. The next morning, Whittington is excited to tell Dewey that wolf hairs have been found on diseased body parts in other cities. Whittington theorizes that creatures, possibly a type of wolf, are eating the people who go missing each year. Warren informs them that ESS has discovered a terrorist group that might be responsible for Vander Veer’s death, but Dewey and Whittington remain convinced it is tied to the animal hairs and dead derelicts. They grab sound gear and night vision rifles before going to the South Bronx to take separate vantage points overlooking the church lair. Later that night, Dewey suspects the creatures are in the church and investigates. As Dewey searches the tower, a wolf kills Whittington. Meanwhile, at ESS, Rebecca and Ross monitor the capture of the terrorist group. Dewey meets with Eddie and his Indian friends at a bar and learns the story of the “wolfen.” The wolves and the Indians were once great hunting nations, but were slaughtered. The wolfen were the smartest ones. They went underground to the slum areas and have survived by killing the sick, the abandoned, and those who will not be missed. Dewey goes to Vander Veer’s penthouse to ponder the case and realizes Vander Veer was killed because his real estate project would have destroyed the wolfen’s hunting grounds. Warren and Rebecca arrive to tell him the case is finished with their arrest of a terrorist group whose motto was: “The end of the world by wolves.” They leave the building and are suddenly surrounded by wolfen. Dewey warns Warren not to pull his gun, but Warren panics and is killed. Dewey shoots the car’s gas tank and, as it explodes, he and Rebecca rush back to the penthouse. Two wolfen burst in through the windows. Dewey puts down his gun, Rebecca follows suit and they raise their hands in supplication. Dewey backs up to Vander Veer’s real estate model and destroys it. The wolfen look at him for a moment, then howl and vanish. Police swarm inside, but the wolfen are gone. The pack races back to their lair as the Indians watch the city from their perch atop the bridge. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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