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Tony has a problem: he's a bitter, abusive, dairy-tossing asshole. His girlfriend Arlene has an even bigger problem: she's slavishly devoted to him, for unknown (but probably daddy-issues related) reasons. After he whales on yet another one of his friends, Arlene finally gets Tony to visit a therapist and seek help. Too bad for him, he happens upon one of those "mad scientist" type psychiatrists who has big plans for violent and stupid Tony; he's going to make him even more violent and stupid. Yes, the crazy doc hypnotizes Tony into becoming a werewolf. Turns out lycanthropy is a placebo; who knew?
Strangely, although Tony seems to be much calmer after starting therapy, this ends up not helping him at all, as now he's gone from simply pummeling innocent friends to tearing out their throats at night or after a loud noise, and then not remembering what happened. He isn't too keen on the long-term implications of this new gig and seeks out the doctor again for help -- not realizing he was causing all of his problems in the first place. Things go belly-up shortly after that, with a few more people ending up dead before the cops arrive and turn Tony into Swiss cheese. Sadly, at this point he's no longer alive to throw himself at them, but on the bright side, at least now Arlene has a chance to finally experience a healthy relationship. ...Ah, who are we kidding? She'll probably just hook up with Ike Turner or something.
The film was both a financial and critical success when it was first released. It was also innovative in that while 'man turns into werewolf/vampire/whatever' movies were common, this was the first that had it happen to an adolescent. Michael Landon's acting especially was praised by critics for being believable and sympathetic (well, believable, anyhow). This was the breakout role for Michael Landon, who would go on to star in Bonanza about two years later. Face it: you owe it to yourself to see Mr. Ingalls chucking a bottle of milk at the wall and pounding on his annoying classmate.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the oft-parodied "I Was a Teenage so-and-so" stock horror title originated with this movie.
This film contains examples of:
- An Aesop: The movie closes with the police officers remarking: "It's not for man to interfere in the ways of God." Then again, this is a movie from the '50s, so it could be expected.
- Bittersweet Ending/Downer Ending: Tony dies, but he kills the evil doctor and destroys all traces of his experiment data and werewolf-making chemicals beforehand.
- Broken Aesop: Subverted. Normally, lessons like "you have to bow to authority" would inspire a frightful backlash among contemporary viewers, but Tony's such an unbelievable jerk that he could actually stand a little discipline.
- Dawson Casting: All of the 'high-school students' are clearly in their twenties, at least. Early-twenties at best.
- Doesn't Like Being Touched: Tony, and a friendly pat on the back from a friend is what started the opening fight.
- For Science!: Why does the shrink want to make Tony into a werewolf? Why else?
- He also insists on transforming him into a werewolf in front of his very eyes because simply hearing reports of werewolf attacks and assuming his 'experiment' succeeded isn't scientific.
- Foreshadowing: "Make sure to cook them chops. Don't eat 'em raw, like you did last time!" Yeah, no way that's ever gonna come up again...
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Tony.
- A Handful for An Eye: Michael Landon pulls a handful of soil out of a nearby wheelbarrow and throws it at the middle-aged high school student who's been beating the tar out of him so far. It doesn't really help.
- Indeed, he could have turned the fight if only he'd had some milk to throw...
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Malcolm Atterbury as Tony's ineffectual dad Charles, who also played the loser father of another troubled teen in High School Big Shot.
- Hey, Wait!: Tony turns back into a human after he's killed a person as a werewolf and tries to walk nonchalantly through the city. The police are frantically searching for him. Suddenly, a police officer calls out to him! He stops... and the officer warns him he should use the cross-walk when crossing the street.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The psychiatrist gets killed when trying to get photographic evidence of Werewolf!Tony; a phone rings and sends him into another killing frenzy.
- Improbable Weapon User: Some men favor a gun, others a knife or maybe a sword. But Tony? He's a master of projectile dairy products! Piss him off and you might catch a carton of half-and-half right in the gob.
- Jerkass: Tony again.
- Love Martyr: Arlene. Also possibly the girl dating the guy who sings the song.
- Lzherusskie: Averted in that Pepe the Janitor was actually played by a Russian. (Though he's clearly laying the accent on a bit thick.)
- My God, What Have I Done?: The thing that really convinces Tony to see the hypnotist is when he knocks Arlene over, when she tries to break up a fight he's in.
- No Budget: This film was shot on a $82,000 budget (low-budget even by 1950's standards). Most noticeably, the set of the doctor's office is reused as the principal's office (It's the same window). Despite this, it grossed about $2 million and was one of American International Pictures most successful films.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: You can apparently be hypnotized into werewolfism, according to the film's rulebook. Also, the werewolf becomes dangerous not when he sees a full moon, but rather when he hears a bell ring.
- Also, humans evolved from werewolves.
- Spiritual Successor: Teen Wolf is part this, part remake.
- Torches and Pitchforks
- Troubled but Cute: Tony.
- You Fail Logic Forever: Why yes, mankind has become far too violent! We must solve this problem by finding a way to regress people to bloodthirsty animals... what?