{2jtab: Movie Review}

The Howling: Collector's Edition (1981) - Blu-ray Review


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4 stars

Writer/Director Joe Dante (Gremlins) humorously takes on America’s culture of violence with 1981’s The Howling.  Manically led by a charging performance from Patrick Macnee (BBC’s The Avengers), The Howling and Dante – alongside Jon Landis’ An American Werewolf in London – singlehandedly revolutionized the stale werewolf picture, rescuing it from its creaky past with humor, thrills, and cameos galore.  Dante’s The Howling remains a cult favorite because it nails the hair-raising scares required to muzzle the laughter.

Dee Wallace stars as Karen White, a Los Angeles television news anchor who is being stalked by a serial murderer named Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo).  When an ambush goes awry and she’s actually attacked by her stalker, she and her husband Bill Neill (Christopher Stone) are sent – by her therapist, Dr. George Waggner (Macnee) - to "The Colony", a secluded resort in the countryside filled with the most interesting type of folks, for recovery.

With a just-in-the-nick-of-time performance from John Carradine  and cameos from Slim Pickens, Dick Miller, Roger Corman, John Sayles, and Forrest J. Ackerman, the wolves descend on the unsuspecting and the “rest and recovery” is over for Karen and company.  Bill is bitten and seduced by Marsha Quist (Elisabeth Brooks), and begins transforming by firelight in the dead of night.  When Karen’s friend, Terri Fisher (Belinda Balaski), is summoned to The Colony, the whole truth is revealed and the truth of The Howling begins to unravel.  There is no rest for the wicked, it seems.

Loosely based on the 1977 novel by Gary Brandner, The Howling is its own self-referential beast entirely.  Dante and Sayles co-authored the script with the same tone that they lathered their previous collaboration, Piranha, with.  The result is the same.  The Howling hits hard with scares and self-aware, satirical laughs.  It also launched six sequels, with The Howling II: You Sister is a Werewolf starring Christopher Lee being the most notable.

It can’t be denied that what made The Howling the most famous for filmgoers back in the day was the initial transformation scene of Stone’s.  While practical effects artist Rob Bottin tops himself with Picardo’s head bubbling transformation scene, the film never – narratively, that is – recovers from the magic of practical special effects.  These scenes are long and focused and never shy with what part of the human anatomy they show shape shifting as men and women turn into their werewolf state.  The Howling also features stop-motion animation by notable animator David W. Allen, and puppetry intended to give the werewolves an even more non-human look to them.

Dante would perfect everything about tone with his hit comedy/horror film Gremlins, but The Howling is the necessary stepping stone in Hollywood.  Without this, you don’t get the gift of Gizmo.  It’s that simple.  And, if you are a child of the 70s, then I’m sure the film has enough memories of its own to make this release from Scream Factory a perfect night at home.  It might not always follow the established rules of werewolf lore due to the fact that the animals can change at will, but that only makes it more exciting … and unpredictable.

Enjoy The Howling’s laughter and its slaughter.  I dare you.

{2jtab: Film Details}

The Howling - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 91 mins.
: Joe Dante
: John Sayles
Dee Wallace; Patrick Macnee; Dennis Dugan; Kevin McCarthy; John Carradine
: Horror
Imagine your worst fear a reality.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You can't tame what's meant to be wild, doc. It just ain't natural."
Shout Factory
Official Site:
Release Date:
April 10, 1981
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
June 18, 2013

Synopsis: Karen White (Dee Wallace-Stone) is a television news anchor who is being stalked by a serial murderer named Eddie Quist. In cooperation with the police, she takes part in a scheme to capture Eddie by agreeing to meet him in a sleazy porno theater. Eddie forces Karen to watch a video of a young woman being raped, and when Karen turns around to see Eddie she screams. The police enter and shoot Eddie, and although Karen is safe, she suffers amnesia. Her therapist, Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee), decides to send her and her husband, Bill Neill (Christopher Stone), to "The colony", a secluded resort in the countryside where he sends patients for treatment.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

The Howling: Collector's Edition (1981) - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

5 Stars

Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Collector's Edition

Available on Blu-ray - June 13, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

While The Howling is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory's Scream Factory imprint with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.86:1. For the most part, this is a significant upgrade from the previous DVD edition, with better clarity, improved contrast and more robust color. Oh, the neon!  Colors are bold and energetic with rich saturation in the primaries, adding to the film's sly self-aware sense of humor. Black levels are true and accurate for the most part with some of the best moments taking place at night. Shadow details are very well-defined, allowing fans to really appreciate the special-effects work of Rob Bottin and the amazing transformation scene. Generally speaking, this is a really nice looking high definition presentation that makes a few minor missteps, none of them fatal.



  • Ported over from MGM’s original DVD release is a great audio commentary between Joe Dante and actors Robert Picardo, Dee Wallace, and Christopher Stone.  This is a must-listen for fans.  There is also a commentary with novelist Gary Brandner.

Special Features:

Shout! Factory brings The Howling to Blu-ray as a Collector's Edition under the distributor's Scream Factory line.  The disc is housed inside a blue, eco-elite case with brand new reversible cover art and a cardboard slipcover.  Hats off (once again) to Scream! Factory for giving a beloved horror film from the deluxe blu-ray treatment.  You get a good mix of the old - including a solid 50-minute making-of piece called "Unleashing the Beast," an 8-minute archival piece, and a batch of outtakes, trailers, and photos – and the new.  The brand new featurettes include deleted scenes (with optional Dante commentary); an episode of Horror's Hallowed Grounds in which host Sean Clark offers a quick and amusing modern glance at the exteriors used back in 1981, and some rather fascinating interviews with stop-motion animator Dave Allen, editor Mark Goldblatt, and co-writer Terence Winkless. This is another GREAT release for Horror Hounds.

  • Howlings Eternal with Steven A. Lane (19 min)
  • Cut to Shreds with Editor Mark Goldblatt (12 min)
  • Interview with Co-writer Terrence Winkless (13 min)
  • Horror's Hallowed Ground: A Look at the Film's Locations (12 min)
  • Making a Monster Movie: Inside The Howling (8 min)
  • Interview with Stop Motion Animator David Allen (9 min)
  • Unleashing the Beast - The Making of The Howling (49 min)
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (11 min)
  • Outtakes (7 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1 min)
  • Photo Gallery (7 min)

{2jtab: Trailer}