In 1973, Universal Studios showed a bit of nostalgia for their ’40s and ’50s monster movie heyday when they released a couple of two homegrown, modestly-budgeted scare flicks with monster themes. They even released this duo together as a double-bill, complete with ads done in a drive-in movie style.
The first of these was Sssssss!, a beloved snake-themed item that has remained a staple on home video over the years. The other film never made it to home video but is fondly remembered by monster kids of a certain age: The Boy Who Cried Werewolf is definitely more kiddie-oriented than its co-feature but that’s part of its appeal for those ex-monster kid fans as it plays like a child’s introduction to the werewolf genre.
Simply put, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf plays like someone took The Wolf Man and refashioned it to fit the needs of the family audiences who were attending Disney’s live-action kiddie flicks of the ’70s. The hero is young tyke Richie (Scott Sealey), whose world is turned inside out when his father Robert (Kerwin Matthews) is bitten by a werewolf during a camping trip. No one believes Richie, not even his recently divorced mom Sandy (Elaine DeVry) – and things get deadly when the full moon returns and Robert begins experiencing a bloodthirsty turn to the lycanthropic.
The Boy Who Cried Werewolf is often shrugged off by the horror crowd as a throwaway kid-horror quickie but it’s a little better than its reputation suggests. The script by Bob Homel, who also stars in the film, does a solid job of transposing the story beats of The Wolf Man into a distinctly early ’70s setting that simmers with tensions over feminism, divorce and the counterculture. Thus, it’s no wonder that Robert’s transformation from average Joe to werewolf slips between the cracks in this socially uneasy setting.
The storyline plays things out in a simple, kid-friendly fashion so don’t expect any sophisticated satire or clever reinventions of werewolf lore. That said, it also doesn’t shy away from violence or scares despite its PG-rating and it also doesn’t avoid the tragic implications of the werewolf myth despite its kid-flick intentions (one can easily imagine the ending making many kid viewers cry).
The direction by Harryhausen film vet Nathan Juran is workmanlike but solid, emulating the old Universal horrors as much as the budget allows (there’s a lot of day-for-night photography) and getting solid performances. Matthews seems to be having the most fun here – he really camps it up when in his yorkshire terrier-ish werewolf makeup – but DeVry does nice low-key work as the loving but doubting mom and Sealey turns in a convincingly emotional performance as the scared kid. That said, it’s Homel who steals some scenes as the leader of a Jesus freak group that stands in for the gypsy clan usually included in old werewolf movies.
In short, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf is a programmer that is effective on its own modest terms. Those who like it sometimes compare to a “starter version” of the werewolf myth for kids and that tag fits the film nicely.
Blu-Ray Notes: This title was unavailable on home video in the U.S. for decades until a recent blu-ray release from Scream Factory. The transfer here looks nice, day-for-night sequences and all, bringing out the ’70s color palette well and showing some nice detail in the more brightly-lit scenes. The lossless presentation of the original mono mix sounds well-balanced and free of distortion. Extras consist of a theatrical trailer and an image gallery.