‘Makes it perfectly clear’
The Werewolf of Washington is a 1973 American comedy horror film written, edited and directed by Milton Moses Ginsberg, produced by Nina Schulman and starring Dean Stockwell, Biff McGuire, Clifton James, and Michael Dunn.
The movie satirises several individuals in the Richard Nixon Presidency.
Jack Whittier (Dean Stockwell) is the press secretary for the White House and for the President of the United States, while on assignment in Hungary, he is bitten by a wolf who actually turns out to be a man; when Jack tries to report it, he believes it is the work of Communists.
When he returns to Washington D.C., he is assigned to the President (Biff McGuire); he is also been having an affair with the President’s daughter Marion (Jane House). Jack suddenly starts to feel different changes about him whenever the moon is full…
Obviously, The Werewolf of Washington was written as a satiric comedy during the Watergate era. Alas, due to sludgy direction, stiff editing, and unfocused writing, it just comes off as a miscalculated mess. Interestingly, it’s very reminiscent of a later and much better film, Mike Nichols’ Wolf.
However, where Jim Harrison’s script for Wolf deftly and intelligently intertwines the world of publishing as a savage dog-eat-dog environment in which only the strong survive with Will Randall’s rediscovery of his virility – in every sense of the word, Milton Ginsberg’s script for The Werewolf of Washington fails miserably in this same respect.
This is due largely to countless gratuitous scenes and a serious lack of satiric precision; because of these aesthetic mistakes, Ginsberg as writer and director undermines his purpose by failing to connect the vicious mythology of the werewolf with the vicious realities of politics. In this muddy broth, both the horror and comedy elements lose their potency, leaving the viewer missing the spice and feeling unsatisfied and ambivalent.
Ben Spurling, HORRORPEDIA
“Enjoyable spoof of horror movies which succeeds by observing the conventions and not allowing its determination to satirise American politics get in any way of the narrative.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook
“One of those faults is the werewolf getup. Maybe they didn’t have enough money to tear the suit, or maybe it’s supposed to be a sight gag, but Stockwell simply looks like a guy wearing a werewolf mask. His nice suit never gets torn or even disheveled, making it hard to swallow. I don’t need a full blown transformation, but at least glue some hair on his chest and rip the shirt a little.” Horror Movie a Day
” …it’s the only film in history in which the word Pentagram is repeatedly mistaken for Pentagon, though the confusion over shape and function is understandable. There are lots of other laughs to be had, some of them might even be intentional, but it’s difficult to tell. It’s a rather cheap and poorly-produced piece of work, but amazingly the acting is half-decent in parts.” Nigel Honeybone, HorrorNews.net
“Dean Stockwell is quite good as a man torn between his two lives and puts plenty of energy into his performance with the make-up on. He leaps and bounces all over the place as the werewolf and has the mannerisms down to a tee. But this is where the problems lie. Once the werewolf scenes are over, the political satire is terrible.” Andrew Smith, Popcorn Pictures
“Dean Stockwell gives a good performance and there’s a funny scene where he starts to turn into a werewolf while bowling with the President […] And then there’s a scene where the werewolf attacks a woman in a phone booth and it’s actually rather suspenseful and almost scary. Plus, Biff McGuire is great and all too plausible as the vapid President.” Lisa Marie Bowman, Through the Shattered Lens
“A hit-or-miss comedy which blends political satire and lycanthropic laughs […] A poorly integrated subplot involving a mad dwarf scientist (Dunn) is good for a few laughs but like the half-hearted pastiche of Universal’s The Wolf Man it goes nowhere.” Nigel Floyd, Time Out Film Guide
“The laughs are few and far between in this political horror spoof […] It’s such a bizarre idea that one really wants it to be funny, but the promise is never fulfilled, and the picture ultimately disappoints.” TV Guide
Cast and characters:
- Dean Stockwell … Jack Whittier
- Katalin Kallay … Giselle
- Henry Ferrentino … Beal
- Despo Diamantidou … Gypsy Woman
- Thayer David … Inspector
- Nancy Andrews … Mrs Margie Captree
- Clifton James … Attorney General
- Biff McGuire … President
- Jack Waltzer … Appointments Secretary
- Ben Yaffee … Mr Captree
- Jane House … Marion
- Beeson Carroll … Commander Salmon
- Michael Dunn … Doctor Kiss