The Howling (1981)

R | 90 mins | Horror | 1981

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HISTORY

       According to an article in the 12 Apr 1981 LAHExam, producer Jack Conrad initially purchased film rights to Gary Brandner’s novel The Howling with the intent of writing and directing the film. Conrad and his producing partner, executive producer Steven A. Lane, brought the project to executive producer Daniel H. Blatt who, in turn, brought producer Michael Finnell to the project, and then took the film to Robert Rehme, president of Avco Embassy Pictures. Conrad did not end up writing or directing The Howling. As Rehme had previously worked with director Joe Dante at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, Dante was hired to direct the project. Terence H. Winkless was hired to write the screenplay, and production notes in AMPAS library files reported this was his first screenwriting credit. John Sayles was subsequently hired to rewrite the script, and shared screenwriting credit with Winkless. Sayles, also a Corman alumnus, had previously worked with Dante on Piranha (1978, see entry).
       The 13 Mar 1981 NYT review noted that Corman appears in an uncredited cameo as a man standing outside a phone booth while the character “Karen White” makes a telephone call. The 15 Apr 1981 LAT reported that Sayles appears in the film as a morgue attendant. Jonathan Kaplan, a film director, has an uncredited cameo as a gas station attendant, and Forrest J. Ackerman, publisher of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland also has a cameo as bookstore customer who happens to be holding a copy of the magazine.
       Several of the film’s characters ... More Less

       According to an article in the 12 Apr 1981 LAHExam, producer Jack Conrad initially purchased film rights to Gary Brandner’s novel The Howling with the intent of writing and directing the film. Conrad and his producing partner, executive producer Steven A. Lane, brought the project to executive producer Daniel H. Blatt who, in turn, brought producer Michael Finnell to the project, and then took the film to Robert Rehme, president of Avco Embassy Pictures. Conrad did not end up writing or directing The Howling. As Rehme had previously worked with director Joe Dante at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, Dante was hired to direct the project. Terence H. Winkless was hired to write the screenplay, and production notes in AMPAS library files reported this was his first screenwriting credit. John Sayles was subsequently hired to rewrite the script, and shared screenwriting credit with Winkless. Sayles, also a Corman alumnus, had previously worked with Dante on Piranha (1978, see entry).
       The 13 Mar 1981 NYT review noted that Corman appears in an uncredited cameo as a man standing outside a phone booth while the character “Karen White” makes a telephone call. The 15 Apr 1981 LAT reported that Sayles appears in the film as a morgue attendant. Jonathan Kaplan, a film director, has an uncredited cameo as a gas station attendant, and Forrest J. Ackerman, publisher of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland also has a cameo as bookstore customer who happens to be holding a copy of the magazine.
       Several of the film’s characters are named after directors whose horror films have featured werewolves: Patrick Macnee plays “Dr. George Waggner,” named after George Waggner the director of The Wolf Man (1941, see entry); Christopher Stone portrays “R. William (Bill) Neill” and R. William Neill directed Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943, see entry); Belinda Balaski’s character “Terry Fisher” is an homage to Terence Fisher who directed The Curse of the Werewolf (1961, see entry); Kevin McCarthy is “Fred Francis,” named after Freddie Francis who directed the British film Legend of the Werewolf (1975); John Carradine plays the character named “Erle Kenton” and Carradine also appeared in director Erle C. Kenton’s film House of Dracula (1945, see entry); Slim Pickens’ character “Sam Newfield” is based on Sigmund Neufeld, aka Sam Newfield, who directed The Mad Monster (1942, see entry); Noble Willingham’s character “Charlie Barton” is a nod to Charles T. Barton, director of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948, see entry); Jim McKrell’s character “Lew Landers” is named after the director of The Return of the Vampire (1943, see entry); and Ivan Saric’s character “Jack Molina” is a nod to Jacinto Molina, aka Paul Naschy, a Spanish director-actor-writer whose work often featured werewolves.
       Twenty-one-year-old special effects expert, Rob Bottin, was hired to create the werewolf special effects. The 12 Apr 1981 LAHExam reported that Bottin’s “revolutionary werewolf” was based on vintage woodcut images. An item in the 12 Feb 1980 DV noted that Bottin had a staff of twenty employees working on the film in his El Monte, CA, studio.
       The 12 Apr 1981 LAHExam reported that filming took place in the redwood forests of Mendocino, CA, Lake Sherwood, CA, and locations in the Los Angeles, CA, area. Items in the 27 Jun 1980 HR and the 16 Jul 1980 Var noted that principal photography was completed, and that the filmmakers had maintained secrecy during the shoot to protect the special effects. The 6 Aug 1980 Var reported that, for post-production “looping” (ADR – Automated Dialogue Replacement) purposes only, DHB Prods. signed an interim agreement with the Screen Actors Guild to acquire an exemption from any strike related shut-down.
       The 8 Jan 1981 HR reported that The Howling was chosen to compete at the 1981 Festival International d’Avoriaz in France, 14--19 Jan 1981. It was a Critics’ Award winner at the Festival.
       According to the 12 Mar 1981 HR, The Howling opened on 13 Mar 1981 in New York City, Philadelphia, PA, and Washington, D.C. The film opened nationally on 10 Apr 1981.
       An item in the 17 Mar 1981 DV reported the film grossed $1,160,172 in its first weekend of release. The 24 Mar 1981 HR noted the film grossed $2,352,211 in its first ten days. According to the 16 Apr 1981 HR, The Howling grossed $3,058,772 in the first weekend of national distribution, which brought the film’s domestic gross to $7,152,687.
       Although the film was released in 1981, it won the 1980 Saturn award for Best Horror Film from The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.
       Elisabeth Brooks made her feature film debut as a credited actor in The Howling.
       An item in the May 1984 Box reported that The Howling II would film in Los Angeles, CA, with Fritz Kiersh directing a screenplay by Gary Brandner and Robert Sarno. Steven Lane and Graham Henderson would produce with John Daly and Derek Gibson as executive producers. The Howling II… Your Sister is a Werewolf premiered in 1985 (see entry), with a U.S. release in Jan 1986. Several additional sequels were made, although most of them went straight to video: The Australian production The Howling III: The Marsupials was theatrically released in the U.S. in 1987; Howling IV was a video release in 1988; Howling V: The Rebirth came out on video in 1989; Howling VI: The Freaks was a 1991 video release; and Howling: New Moon Rising went straight to video in 1995. An article in the 23 Nov 2009 DV announced that independent producers were re-launching The Howling franchise with The Howling: Reborn. That film was released on DVD in 2011.

      End credits include the following written statements: “Promotional consideration provided by: Associated Film Promotions, BMW of North America, Chrysler Corporation, Head Sportswear, Mazda Motors of America, Minolta Camera Company, Olympia Brewing Company, Quasar Electronics Company, Royal Crown Cola Company; Television material provided by: American Films, Ltd., Frank Gomon, Quaker State Oil, Stokely Van Camp-Gatorade, United Van Lines, Universal Pictures”; and “Special thanks to: Forrest J. Ackerman, Jane Alsobrook, Jamie Anderson, Paul Bartel, Michael Chapman, City of Hope, Roger Corman, Mick Garris, Gary Graver, Jonathan Kaplan, Sylvia Neil.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
May 1984.
---
Daily Variety
12 Feb 1980.
---
Daily Variety
17 Mar 1981.
---
Daily Variety
23 Nov 2009.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jan 1981
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Apr 1981.
---
LAHExam
12 Apr 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Apr 1981
p. 4.
New York Times
13 Mar 1981
p. 10.
Variety
16 Jul 1980.
---
Variety
6 Aug 1980.
---
Variety
28 Jan 1981
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An Avco Embassy Film
Avco Embassy Pictures, International Film Investors and Wescom Productions Present
A Daniel H. Blatt Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
2d unit mgr
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Based on the novel by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Lighting gaffer
Best boy elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Grip/elec
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d unit cam
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art asst
Prod illustrator
Prod illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Assoc film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
MUSIC
Mus coord
Band at beach party
SOUND
Prod mixer
Boom op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec makeup eff created by
Spec makeup eff consultant
Eff unit line prod
Eff unit line prod
Addl makeup eff
Spec mechanical eff
Stop motion anim
Love scene and main title anim
Love scene and main title anim
Creative contact lens eff
Contact lens tech
1st makeup eff asst
2d makeup eff asst
Makeup eff studio artist
Makeup eff studio artist
MAKEUP
Makeup/Hair
Asst Makeup/Hair
Wigs and spec hair work
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Loc/Unit mgr
Scr supv
Asst to the prod
Prod accountant
Prod assoc
Television tech adv
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Extras
Insurance
STAND INS
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Howling by Gary Brandner (publication date undetermined).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Howling Chicken" by Rick Fienhage and Joyce Fienhage
"Rocky Mountain Waltz" by Chris Carney.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1981
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 13 March 1981
Los Angeles opening: 10 April 1981
Copyright Claimant:
Avco Embassy Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
25 March 1981
Copyright Number:
PA97614
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
90
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26208
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Television reporter Karen White agrees to help catch “Eddie,” a mysterious caller who might be a serial killer. At the television station, Karen’s husband, R. William “Bill” Neill, and her co-workers monitor Eddie’s call to Karen in a phone booth in a seedy part of Los Angeles, California. For the police, unbeknownst to Karen, the signal is lost as she leaves the phone booth. As the police search for her, Karen follows Eddie’s instructions to enter a pornographic bookstore and go into a video booth in the store, but Eddie will not let her look at him; however, as two policemen arrive, Eddie orders her to turn around. The policemen hear Karen’s screams and a young cop shoots at the booth, killing Eddie. Afterward, Karen is traumatized and cannot remember what happened. Her co-workers, Terry Fisher and Chris, go to Eddie’s apartment and find drawings of Karen, wolf-like creatures and a seascape, all signed by Eddie Quist. Terry and Chris approach the station’s resident psychiatrist, Dr. George Waggner, about airing a show on Eddie’s psychological profile. Meanwhile, Karen has partial flashbacks, but is frustrated that she cannot remember all the details, and it puts stress on her relationship with Bill. Station manager Fred Francis convinces her to report the story, but Karen freezes on camera and Waggner recommends that she go to his coastal retreat, “The Colony,” for therapy. On their first night at the Colony, Karen and Bill attend a beach barbecue and meet Jerry Warren and his wife, Donna, wild woman Marsha and her brother, T. C., Charlie Barton, and elderly Erle Kenton. Erle is distraught ... +


Television reporter Karen White agrees to help catch “Eddie,” a mysterious caller who might be a serial killer. At the television station, Karen’s husband, R. William “Bill” Neill, and her co-workers monitor Eddie’s call to Karen in a phone booth in a seedy part of Los Angeles, California. For the police, unbeknownst to Karen, the signal is lost as she leaves the phone booth. As the police search for her, Karen follows Eddie’s instructions to enter a pornographic bookstore and go into a video booth in the store, but Eddie will not let her look at him; however, as two policemen arrive, Eddie orders her to turn around. The policemen hear Karen’s screams and a young cop shoots at the booth, killing Eddie. Afterward, Karen is traumatized and cannot remember what happened. Her co-workers, Terry Fisher and Chris, go to Eddie’s apartment and find drawings of Karen, wolf-like creatures and a seascape, all signed by Eddie Quist. Terry and Chris approach the station’s resident psychiatrist, Dr. George Waggner, about airing a show on Eddie’s psychological profile. Meanwhile, Karen has partial flashbacks, but is frustrated that she cannot remember all the details, and it puts stress on her relationship with Bill. Station manager Fred Francis convinces her to report the story, but Karen freezes on camera and Waggner recommends that she go to his coastal retreat, “The Colony,” for therapy. On their first night at the Colony, Karen and Bill attend a beach barbecue and meet Jerry Warren and his wife, Donna, wild woman Marsha and her brother, T. C., Charlie Barton, and elderly Erle Kenton. Erle is distraught and tries to kill himself in the campfire, but Waggner talks him out of it. That night, Karen is awakened by a howling noise and is certain that someone is outside watching her. The next morning, Donna insists the police investigate and Sheriff Sam Newfield admits the area has a coyote problem. Meanwhile back in Los Angeles, Terry and Chris meet with the coroner, but when they open the morgue drawer, Eddie’s body is gone and the metal door is battered. That night at the Colony, Karen and Donna find a mutilated cow in the woods and Sam declares the predator is a wolf, not a coyote. The next morning, while Karen attends group therapy, Bill, a vegetarian, is talked into joining the wolf hunt and shoots a rabbit. Meanwhile, Terry and Chris visit an occult bookstore to learn about werewolves and discover that only silver bullets will kill the creatures. Later, as the men return from hunting, T. C. insists Marsha will skin and cook Bill’s rabbit. When Bill visits her cabin, Marsha kisses him, but he pushes her away and leaves. As he walks through the woods, Bill is attacked by a wolf, but makes it back to his cabin. Karen wants to leave, but Waggner advises against travel until Bill’s wounds heal. When Terry and Chris learn of the situation, Terry drives to the Colony and Chris plans to follow later. Terry brings a picnic lunch and apologizes to Bill for forgetting a vegetarian entrée, but he is enjoying the meat. That night, Karen wants to make love with her husband, but Bill claims he is not feeling well. Later, Bill meets Marsha in the woods and, while making love, they transform into werewolves. Early the next morning, Terry wanders the beach and recognizes the seascape from Eddie’s drawings. She rushes back through the woods, discovers an isolated cabin and is attacked by a werewolf. When Terry grabs an ax and cuts off its arm, the severed wolf paw morphs into a human hand. Terry runs to Waggner’s office and calls Chris. As she frantically communicates the situation, they realize Waggner must also be an accomplice. Terry searches Waggner’s file cabinet for “Quist” and discovers that Eddie, Marsha and T. C. are related. As Chris listens on the phone, a large werewolf attacks and kills Terry. Chris calls Sam, insists on meeting the sheriff at the Colony, then stops at the occult bookstore for a box of silver bullets. Meanwhile, Bill sneaks back into his cabin as Karen wakes up, but his back is covered with scratches from Marsha and, when Karen confronts him, he slaps her. Karen rushes to Waggner’s office where she discovers Terry’s body and the disconnected phone. She is stunned when the bullet-ridden Eddie enters the office. As Eddie pulls a bullet out of his forehead and transforms into a werewolf, Karen searches for a weapon. She finds a container of acid and throws it in Eddie’s face, then runs outside where she is captured by Jerry and Charlie. They force her to the barn where Bill and the Colony members wait. Karen runs to Waggner, but he is one of the werewolves and encourages Karen to accept the “gift” of joining them. Marsha is opposed to Waggner’s theory that werewolves can fit in with society and leads an attack on the doctor. Meanwhile, Chris arrives at Waggner’s office and encounters a bloody, acid-scarred Eddie, who tauntingly hands Chris a rifle, then transforms into a werewolf. To Eddie’s surprise, Chris kills him with a silver bullet. Chris races to the barn to rescue Karen. He immediately kills T. C. and Jerry with silver bullets, and also shoots Waggner, who is thankful to die. As the others transform, Chris and Karen force the werewolves into the barn, lock the door, douse the building with gasoline and set it on fire. They drive off but the sheriff shoots their car and transforms into a werewolf. Chris kills Sheriff Newfield with a silver bullet, then he and Karen escape in the police car as it is attacked by werewolves. A werewolf breaks through the back window and bites Karen before Chris shoots it. As the dead werewolf transforms into Bill, Karen insists they have to warn people about werewolves. Later, at the television station, Karen goes on air with an eyewitness report about the deadly fire at the Colony. She ignores the teleprompter and warns of the secret society of werewolves. In the control booth, Fred wants to cut her off but Chris pulls out a rifle and stops him. To prove her point, Karen transforms into a werewolf on air. A tear slips from her eye as she looks to Chris and he kills her with a silver bullet. The station cuts to a commercial, and patrons who were watching the telecast in a bar discuss whether it was a true story or a television stunt as Marsha, sitting at the end of the counter, orders a burger, cooked rare. +

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

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