The Boy Who Cried Werewolf is a 1973 American horror film directed by Nathan H. Juran from a screenplay by Bob Homel. It stars Kerwin Matthews, Elaine Devry, Robert J. Wilke and Scott Sealey.
The film was released as the bottom half of a double-bill with Sssssss – notably the last double-bill released in the United States by Universal Pictures. Until its Blu-ray release on 26 July 2016, it had been strangely neglected. In the UK, it never played theatrically, has never been shown on TV, or had a home video release.
This is a pity, as it’s a fascinating example of the PG-era of horror films in America, being somewhere between a straight horror movie and a children’s film. Perhaps this is the reason why it is currently in limbo – just who do you market the film to?
The film wastes no time introducing the werewolf – we see him in the opening credits, looking like a dog with swept back hair, possibly more cute than terrifying. The werewolf attacks father and son Robert and Ritchie Bridgestone (Kerwin Mathews and Scott Sealey), finally ending up impaled on a wooden fence, transforming back into a human at the point of death. While Ritchie knows that their attacker was a werewolf, his father refuses to believe him, claiming that it was too dark to see who their attacker was. Likewise, the police, his mother and his psychiatrist all assume that Ritchie’s story is a result of the trauma of seeing his father kill their attacker.
In an attempt to prove that there is nothing to fear, Bridgestone takes the boy back up to their cabin in the woods. Unfortunately, he was bitten during the struggle with the werewolf, and we all know what that means. Before long, he has transformed into a werewolf himself and is roaming the woods attacking drivers and stealing their heads, which he buries in the shed beside the cabin! Will anyone believe Ritchie before his transformed father kills him?
Despite its inherent ludicrousness (the polo-neck clad werewolf, the nonsense with the severed heads), The Boy Who Cried Werewolf tells its story with a straight face. It’s efficiently, un-flashily shot and while a little slow moving, is surprisingly good fun. It keeps the gore off-screen for the most part, and tells the story through the eyes of the child hero, making this a good entry-level horror film for kids. It is, of course, very much of its time, which ironically makes it a fascinating historical time capsule, featuring as it does a band of ‘Jesus Freaks’ – a religiously driven variant of the hippy cult / commune, which had a brief spurt of popularity in the early 1970s. The film also works as an allegory – Ritchie’s parents are going through a difficult separation (because his mother wants to have a career!) and the film can easily be seen as being about childhood fears of the family unit being torn apart.
The film marks the last teaming of Mathews with director Nathan Juran, after the pair had made The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and Jack the Giant Killer, and of course is rather less ambitious than either of those films. Juran died shortly after making this, while Mathews would retire soon afterwards, his only further credit being a cameo in 1978 film Nightmare in Blood. It has no connection to the 2010 TV movie of the same name.
David Flint, MOVIES & MANIA
“There is some amusing business in Werewolf toward the end, as the thrashing werewolf (Kerwin Mathews) tangles with a bunch of Jesus Freaks. Bob Homel, who plays the leader, also wrote the picture.” The New York Times