Bonus Reviews for Week 144
I was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) and Blood of Dracula (1957)
“I was a Teenage Werewolf” (1957) and “Blood of Dracula” (1957)
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look at a couple of “I was a Teenage ___” films. One is innovative and interesting, while the other simply copies the first while changing a few of the details.
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I was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)
• Directed by Gene Fowler, Jr.
• Written by Herman Cohen, Aben Kandel
• Stars Michael Landon, Yvonne Lime, Whit Bissell
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 16 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgement Zone
Surprisingly good, although many of the characters behave inexplicably. This one started the whole “I was a Teenage XXXXX” genre.
At Rockdale High School, there’s a fight in the courtyard. Jimmy and Tony are at it with fists flying. The police show up, and everyone runs away except the two boys. Jimmy says he was just being friendly, and Tony took it the wrong way and wanted to fight. Detective Donovan tells them to shake hands. Donovan warns Tony that he has a temper and a bad attitude; it’s just a matter of time until Tony lands in jail. He suggests that Tony go to see Dr. Brandon, who helps “difficult kids adjust.” The doctor uses hypnosis; Tony doesn’t want to see a headshrinker.
He yells at Arlene, his girlfriend, then apologizes. He can’t control his anger sometimes. She thinks Tony should go to see Dr. Brandon; it might help. His father says, “Sometime you just have to do it the other fella’s way.” It seems everyone knows Tony has problems, and they all want him to get help.
It’s Halloween, and Tony picks up Arlene for a date. They go to a party, where Vic sings a song and they all dance. They all play some Halloween pranks on Pearl and Vic. For some reason, Tony seems very popular with the other kids, even though he is an angry, unlikable jerk most of the time. Tony loses his temper once again and hits Arlene, which brings that party to a halt.
Tony goes to see Dr. Brandon. The doctor sedates Tony and then gets a special drug out of the refrigerator. “After years of searching, I’ve found someone suitable for my experiment,” he explains to Dr. Wagner, his partner. “We’re probably saving this boy from the gas chamber.” Wagner warns him about possible transformations. He plans to hypnotize Tony and regress him back to his earliest instincts. Brandon thinks all of humanity could regress “and start all over again.”
That’s what he does to Tony. Over a period of several days, Brandon continues the hypnotic treatment and the drugs. One night, after one of their parties, Frank, one of the young men, is attacked and killed in the woods.
The police start their investigation. Pepe the janitor looks at the crime scene photos and says it looks like the boy was killed by a werewolf. They used to have those back in the Carpathian Mountains in the old country.
Tony goes to see Dr. Brandon, and something is clearly bothering him. He’s got weird memories, almost like a nightmare. Brandon and Wagner already suspect what happened to the boy in the woods, but they proceed with Tony’s “treatment.”
Tony gets called to the principal’s office. Dr. Brandon has reported progress to her. She agrees; he’s behaving much better than he used to. If he keeps this up, she’ll recommend him to the state college. On the way out, he sees Theresa, who is practicing acrobatics in the gym. The bell goes off behind him, which makes him angry. Then he changes into a werewolf and kills her. Theresa’s screams draw a crowd, and they all see the werewolf as he runs across campus. They recognize Tony’s clothes; they all know it was him.
The reporters are all over the police about it, but they aren’t talking. Detective Donovan goes to see Dr. Brandon, who says he has no idea what happened with Tony. Brandon says he doesn’t believe in werewolves; nevertheless, he explains the werewolf lore to the detective. Pepe the janitor reminds Officer Chris about his werewolf theory. Before long, there’s just no denying the facts.
Several days pass. The police organize a manhunt through the woods. The werewolf’s been hiding out there all along. They all have finally accepted that it is a werewolf they’re after. As the police close in, the werewolf is attacked by a police dog. The wolf man kills the dog, but the police are right behind him.
Morning comes, and the werewolf turns back into Tony. Dr. Brandon thinks that sooner or later, Tony will return to him. Tony avoids the police and gets back to town, where he calls Arlene. He hangs up as soon as she answers.
Tony shows up at Brandon’s lab. Brandon refuses to back down and admit it was a mistake. He wants to see a transformation. He injects Tony with more drugs and gets to see the transformation close-up. Real close up. The werewolf kills Dr. Wagner and then closes in on Brandon, killing him as well. The police break in and shoot the werewolf. He turns back into Tony in death. Detective Donovan looks at Brandon’s body and states, “It's not for man to interfere in the ways of God.”
A “horror” film with a musical number in the middle just isn’t trying very hard. Other than the silly musical number, the film takes itself pretty seriously with very little humor. The teenagers aren’t great actors, but the adults carry most of the drama.
No real reason is ever given for Tony’s anger issues. It’s inexplicable how any of the other kids allow him to even be around them at the parties, much less how he’s actually popular.
The werewolf’s makeup looks good, much toothier than Lon Cheney’s Wolf Man. There are two very fast transformation scenes, and they are effective.
Blood of Dracula (1957)
• Directed by Herbert L. Strock
• Written by Aben Kandel
• Stars Sandra Harrison, Louise Lewis, Gail Ganley
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 9 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgement Zone
What if a whiny girl at a boarding school became a vampire? Not a normal vampire, but a mind-controlled zombie vampire? What if a mad scientist believed that such a mind-controlled zombie vampire could save the world from its obsession with nuclear radiation? Yeah, well, this low-budget film is nowhere near as interesting as that description makes it sound.
Nancy Perkins is in the back seat of the car. She doesn’t want to go to this new boarding school, but her evil stepmother insists. It’s obvious from everyone’s behavior that Nancy isn’t just being whiny.
Mrs. Thorndyke, the headmistress at the Sherwood School, scolds them all for arriving late. She shows Nancy to her room, as it’s past bedtime. Four girls sneak into her room and sift through all her clothes. They take her cigarettes and chocolates, but she fights them over her boyfriend Glenn’s picture. Ms. Rivers storms in and scolds Nancy for being noisy and making a mess already. Nancy doesn’t tell on the others.
The next morning, Mrs. Thorndyke introduces Nancy to Myra, Terry, Nola, and Ann. They have a secret organization, “The Birds of Paradise.” Myra and Nancy meet Eddie the groundskeeper. The whole gang takes turns dating Eddie, the only guy at the school.
Myra is the lab assistant for science class. Miss Branding, the science teacher, explains that her thesis has been denied again. The male scientists won’t even listen to her theories. They mock her. “They search for power in the wrong place. If they continue do you realize what the people of the future will be? What they’ll look like? Grotesque, misshapen fiends.” She’s really worried about radiation. “There’s a power strong enough to destroy the world within each of us, if only would could unleash it.” She thinks she can unleash this terrible power. She needs to find a disturbed girl with a natural fire. Myra suggests Nancy.
That afternoon, Nancy gets burned in science class, and she throws a fit, which is exactly what Myra and Branding wanted to see. Miss Branding suggests that she knows a way that Nancy can get even. Branding puts on an amulet and hypnotizes Nancy. The amulet was from the Carpathian Mountains; “It can release frightening powers.” She tells Nancy that there is no pain in her hand, and it does go away. Oh— “and it’s important to obey me, always.”
That evening, there’s an all-girl dance party. Eddie, Joe, and Tab decide to crash the party. Tab sings a song, “Puppy Love” more for the girls in the audience than any plot reasons.
Miss Branding hears the music upstairs and pulls out her amulet. Nancy starts feeling dizzy. Grouchy old Ms. Rivers storms in and ends the party. Nancy still feels strange and heads back to her room. Nola goes down to the basement to prepare for tomorrow’s class, but something attacks her down there. Miss Branding puts away her amulet and goes back to work.
Sergeant Stewart is on the case the next morning, and he questions all the girls. The coroner finds two small puncture wounds on Nola’s neck. Dr. Mike explains that he’s heard “legends of vampires, of Draculas.” The murder last night reminds him of those stories. Could it be Dracula? The boss reprimands Mike for being silly.
Myra talks to Miss Branding. She suspects Branding has done something wrong and doesn’t like it. Branding insists that she’s looking to help all humanity and that Myra should trust her.
The girls have a Halloween scavenger hunt with a bunch of objects buried in the cemetery. Terry and Eddie would rather make out than play the game. Eddie gets freaked out by the location and goes home. Terry sees Nancy approach, but she looks strange. We watch her change into a fanged monster who kills Terry and then Tab as well. The girls soon find the bodies.
The police call in all the girls once again, this time with the use of a lie detector. As Nancy takes her turn, Branding holds her amulet and concentrates. She tells her story, all lies, but the polygraph backs her up.
Nancy goes to Miss Branding for help; she thinks she’s going crazy. She knows that Branding is making her do things, bad things. “The deed and the responsibility are mine,” Branding says.
Mrs. Thorndyke comes to Branding; the state is looking at closing the school because of the deaths. They need to keep down the hysteria until they catch the killer.
Glenn, Nancy’s old boyfriend, finally turns up, but Nancy doesn’t seem too happy to see him. She only wrote him one letter, and he thinks something is wrong. The two of them go to sit in his car to work it all out. He won’t leave, and she’s really tempted to bite him on the neck.
Nancy runs away, going to Miss Branding for help again. They argue, and Nancy wants out of the experiment. Brandon says it’s too late; “We must go to the end of this experience. In time, you’ll be proud of the part you played in saving mankind!” They fight, and Branding pulls out the amulet. “My will is stronger than yours!” Branding insists.
Nancy turns into the batgirl and wrestles Branding. Branding’s experiment gets knocked over and she breathes poison gas. Nancy falls on a broken table and is impaled. Mrs. Thorndyke comes in and says it’s all for the best; there is a power greater than science that rules the Earth.
This is said to be the first time a vampire was shown with visible fangs in an English film. Nancy’s vampire-form is pretty neat and not overblown, but still very creepy. She looks like a bat-faced girl.
Obviously, Dracula himself doesn’t make an appearance in the film, but he is mentioned in one conversation; Miss Branding’s amulet is said to come from the Carpathians, so we’re supposed to do the math ourselves.
It’s never quite clear how using an amulet to mind-control a student is going to save the world from nuclear radiation, but Miss Branding seems to think there’s some relationship. Still, she was mixing up noxious chemicals in her room, so maybe thinking things through wasn’t her strong suit.
This was clearly a mirrored copy of “I was a Teenage Werewolf,” with the same basic story structure, teens who rely on “evil” teachers, and even a similar musical interlude to appear to the kids. It was not as good as that film, but it’s still decent.
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