Friday, April 11, 2014

The Werewolf of Washington (1973)

Conceived as a comedy-horror hybrid—but not actually successful at delivering laughs or scares—this tongue-in-cheek flick imagines what would happen if a member of a dysfunctional presidential administration contracted a case of lycanthropy. Rest assured, any genuine comedic potential in this random notion was missed by writer-director Milton Moses Ginsburg. Instead, Ginsburg fills the movie with bland scenes of a nebbish freaking out because he’s turning into a wolf during full moons, as well as lifeless vignettes depicting the activities of a dopey president and his inept staffers. The whole piece looks cheap and grimy, especially in the awful public-domain prints that are prevalent in the marketplace, because Ginsburg opts for a super-dark lighting style in many scenes, and because his production values reflect a budget of about $1.50. Add in the ineptitude of Ginsburg’s approach to dialogue, dramatic construction, and shot design, and the stage is set for tedium. The Werewolf of Washington isn’t completely unwatchable, thanks to a few moments of campy goofiness, but it’s bad enough to challenge the attention spans of all but the hardiest viewers. Dean Stockwell, whose gigantic eyebrows give him a somewhat lupine quality even in normal circumstances, stars as Jack Whittier, a reporter who’s sleeping with the president’s daughter. While vacationing in Europe, Jack is bitten by a werewolf. Upon his return to the U.S., he’s given a choice position as Deputy Press Secretary. High jinks, including scenes of Jack trying to persuade White House officials that she should be taken off the job because he’s killing people at night, ensue. It’s all quite dull and stupid. Still, there are glimmers of something akin to amusement. Ginsburg’s best attempt at a joke is a runner about people confusing the words “Pentagon” and “pentagram,” while Stockwell spends his transformation scenes pulling faces that suggest Jerry Lewis in the midst of a seizure. Oh, and the werewolf makeup that Stockwell wears is more The Shaggy D.A. than The Wolf Man. In other words, this dog’s got distemper.

The Werewolf of Washington: LAME

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