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The Boy Who Cried Werewolf     1973     Scream Factory Blu ray

                                                In 1973 Universal Pictures paired this lycanthropic tale (or is that ‘tail’?) with the top-billed Sssssss for one of its final

                                      double features. The Boy Who Cried Werewolf is straight from the made-for-TV mold and is mostly remembered for scaring 

                                      little children during any of its numerous 70s TV screenings. That, and a werewolf in a turtleneck.

                                                Overly chipper twelve-year-old Richie Bridgestone (Scott Sealey, whose only other credited role was an episode of TV’s

                                      “Emergency”) is dealing with his parent’s divorce by trying to reunite them once more and restore family stability. During a

                                      father-son trip to the mountains a werewolf attacks Richie’s father, Robert (Kerwin Mathews, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, 1958;

                                     Octaman, 1971), and bites him on the arm. The werewolf falls down an embankment and is impaled, reverting to his human form, and Robert is convinced he accidentally killed a man. Richie—who’s a walking encyclopedia of werewolf lore--however, knows better. But no one believes him. At the request of his ex-wife, Sandy (Elaine Devry, Diary of a Madman, 1963), Robert visits therapist Dr. Marderosian (George Gaynes, Altered States, 1980). Robert talks about Richie’s imaginings and the good doc suggests father and son return to the cabin, so that Richie can experience the “real world” around him and see it’s not a fantasy haunted by werewolves.

          Unsurprisingly, their next trip to the mountains coincides with the full moon. Robert transforms into a werewolf and goes looking for victims. He finds them in the form of a TV repairman and a young couple in a camper, doing all his decapitating and dismembering off-screen. Later that night Richie hears the sound of someone digging in the basement, and upon investigating discovers the werewolf burying something. The lycanthrope doesn’t have time to finish before changing back to Robert and passing out. The next day Richie takes a closer look at the hole and discovers a bag with something in it. Just before he can open it the sheriff arrives, and Richie smartly covers the hole up in order to protect his father.

          The lad tries valiantly to get people to believe that his father has become a werewolf. But the sheriff won’t listen. Mom won’t listen. And as the days pass, Richie becomes more anxious and worried about his dad. Not only has he lost the comfort and security of his nuclear family; now he fears he’ll lose his dad, too.

          When Robert and Richie plan their next mountain getaway, Sandy agrees to join them in an effort to calm her son’s fears. Once at the cabin, however, Robert instructs Richie to lock him in the basement because he knows his transformation is approaching. The werewolf breaks free and takes Sandy first, then Richie, as he seeks to escape the sheriff’s posse that is rapidly closing in around him.

          The Boy Who Cried Werewolf plays upon the childhood anxiety of knowing something but having no adults who will believe you. Robert and Sandy—who surely have one of the most amicable divorced relationships ever—downplay Richie’s claims. The sheriff patronizes him. The boy knows that he and his family are in danger but no one pays attention. Regretfully, the leaden script fails to have Richie play any significant role in the story’s resolution. The childhood perspective is lost by the time of the werewolf’s final rampage.

          The prosaic direction by Nathan Juran (20 Million Miles to Earth, 1957; First Men in the Moon, 1964) lacks any hint of fear or suspense. What scared us as eight-year-olds when we saw it is now merely an exercise in tedium and endurance. Rated PG (“Parental Guidance”) upon release, the most shocking images are a (mostly hidden) dismembered arm wrapped in a bloody cloth and the mob-style killing of the werewolf. Without these two elements the film would’ve probably passed with a “G” rating. Parental supervision was no doubt recommended so that children—especially those of divorced parents--wouldn’t go home and start looking for excess hair and pointy ears on dear old Dad!

          The story, written by Bob Homel (his only screenwriting credit), could’ve easily been shorn of half its running time and used as an episode of a live-action Saturday morning TV show such as “Bigfoot and Wildboy” or the “Krofft Supershow.” The plot shuffles from one scene to another with no characterizations or surprises. Homel tries to inject some lightheartedness into the mix with a commune of Jesus Freaks, but even this feels like padding instead of a way to move the story forward. He plays the loquacious leader, Brother Christopher, who gets all the best lines, such as “You call us freaks? Well, we're not freak freaks! We're freaked out! Freaked out on God, man!”

          Shout/Scream Factory’s Blu-ray marks the film’s home video debut and you’ve never seen it look this good. The high definition transfer is bright and clear, with clean details and bold colors. A red tablecloth in one scene nearly pokes your eyes out with its vividness. Mom’s blue eyes, the werewolf’s slicked-back hair, and Dad’s paisley shirt stand out in their clarity and depth. Juran’s day-for-night photography is painfully obvious, and in some of the exterior shots the blacks are too heavy and dimensionless. However, these minor points—which have nothing to do with the digital restoration—do not distract from the overall pristine upgrade. It’s a beautiful improvement for a film on the tail end of a double feature. The only extras are a photo gallery and a theatrical trailer promoting the twin bill Sssssss/The Boy Who Cried Werewolf.