Retro Television Review: Scream of the Wolf (dir by Dan Curtis)

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1974’s Scream of the Wolf.  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

A small town in California is shocked when a series of brutal murders occur within the city limits.  Someone or something is killing people whenever the moon is full.  The only clue are the footprints that the killer leaves behind at every scene.  Strangely, there are time when the kill seems to walking on all fours, suggesting that it’s a wild animal.  But then, suddenly, there are only two footprints, indicating that the killer is a man.  Is the killer a beast or a human?

Maybe it’s both.

That’s the question that John Weatherby (Peter Graves) attempts to answer in Scream of the Wolf.  John is a former hunter who is now working on a book about his life.  He looks at the footprints and the savagery of the attacks and he says that the killer is obviously a wolf because no human could be capable of doing such a thing.  However, many people in town are convinced that the killer is a werewolf.  That includes John’s girlfriend, Sandy (Jo Ann Pflug).

In fact, Sandy thinks that she knows exactly who the werewolf is.  She thinks that Bryon Douglas (Clint Walker) is responsible for the murders.  Byron is an old friend of John’s.  They used to hunt together.  John eventually turned his back on hunting but Byron continues to insist that people are never more alive than when they are hunting another creature.  In fact, Byron claims that the murders are actually a good thing.  According to Byron, the murders have woken up the survival instinct in the spoiled inhabitants of the town.  And indeed, the citizens of the town do appear to be getting progressively more and more paranoid.

Okay, so Byron obviously has some issues.  But does that make him a werewolf?  John insists that there are no werewolves and that Byron is just a somewhat eccentric blowhard.  John better hope that he’s right because Byron has announced that he’s going to hunt down the werewolf and he’s invited John to join him on the hunt.

Running a brisk 78 minutes and not wasting a single one of them, Scream of the Wolf is an enjoyable and atmospheric werewolf film.  I don’t think I actually heard a wolf scream over the course of the film but I did hear plenty of people scream.  For a made for TV movie, Scream of the Wolf doesn’t shy away from showing the horror of being stalked by an unseen creature in the middle of the night.  Needless to say, any film featuring Peter Graves as a former big game hunter is going to have a bit of camp appeal but, in the end, Graves’s somewhat stolid acting style works well for the character that he is playing.  Clint Walker, who towers over everyone else in the film, gives an intimidating and creepy performance as Byron.  The film’s central mystery isn’t particularly complex but the story is told well.  Scream of the Wolf is a simple but entertaining film, one that’s ideal for October viewing.

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