Written by: Fernando de Fuentes, Juan Garcia, Gilberto Martinez Solares, Alfredo Salazar, and Jerry Warren
Directed by: Gilberto Martinez Solares, Rafael Portillo, and Jerry Warren
Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Rose Arenas, and Ramon Gay
Reviewed by: Brett G.
No one is safe with a screaming werewolf on the loose in the big city!
I’m pretty much always scouring lists of upcoming horror releases, and, every now and then, I’ll stumble upon something pretty interesting. Take Face of the Screaming Werewolf, for example, which easily caught my eye as a 60s werewolf flick starring Lon Chaney, Jr. That Jerry Warren was attached as a producer also set off some vague alarms (the ghosts of MST3K were swirling), but I wasn’t quite sure just how wary I should be (more on that later). Anyway, for 6 bucks, I decided to take the bullet, and, as I tossed the DVD into the tray, I noticed that the moon outside was pretty luminous, but only half-full. I should have taken that as an omen.
A professor (Ramon Gay) experimenting with hypnosis discovers that one of his patients (Rose Arenas) is actually a reincarnated Aztec woman. Because her trance-induced revelations are obviously trustworthy, he takes off to the Yucatan, where he and his team discover not one, but two mummies. They bring each back home, but a series of events involving a rival scientist and a thief causes each monster to be set free to terrorize the city.
Face of the Screaming Werewolf is fairly terrible and barely comprehensible. A totally Z-grade extravaganza, its cheapness would make Ed Wood blush. All of the dialogue is obviously dubbed ADR, and most of the time it’s just overlaid onto insert shots. Then there’s long stretches without any dialogue at all, and we’re just left with generic stock music droning away as nothing particularly interesting happens (an early Yucatan tribal ritual is a good example of a sequence that just grinds everything to a halt). But worst of all, none of it makes any real sense--there’s two monsters, and Chaney apparently plays both. One is a straight-up mummy who lumbers around and grunts like Frankenstein’s monster, while the other is a standard werewolf; who these two creatures are is never explained, nor do we really know what kind of experiments the two doctors are performing.
I will say this, though--Lon Chaney is definitely here and is definitely a werewolf. I kind of expected this to be a case where he’d maybe pop up in a glorified cameo just so the film-makers could get “Lon Chaney” and “werewolf” up on the marquee. But no, he’s there as an old school wolf man, complete with Jack Pierce-style make-up and 1940s transformation effects. He terrorizes the town in pretty glorious fashion, as she claws the shit out of everyone (it’s kind of bloody too!) and slings girls over his shoulder with reckless abandon; part of the climax is some King Kong inspired stuff that involves him scaling a skyscraper for whatever reason. The other, standard mummy creature isn’t nearly as interesting, and he’s hastily written out of the script in laughable style.
Because my mind begged to make order out of chaos, I sought to figure out just why this movie made no sense. While I was watching it, I had a notion that it might have been edited from two pre-existing movies, and guess what? It was. In addition to directing his own crappy movies (The Wild Woman of Batwoman being a fairly infamous MST3K-lampooned stinker), he also acquired the rights to other (usually foreign) flicks, and edited them together with no regard for logic or narrative coherence. In this case, he took La momia azteca and La casa del terror and mashed them together to get a quick and dirty monster movie. Both were Mexican productions, and the latter is actually a werewolf comedy (and was actually Chaney’s last wolf man outing), so you can imagine the results here.
It’s pretty disastrous stuff; I knew going in that it likely wouldn’t be pretty, especially knowing the movies Chaney got himself attached to later in his career (with the exception of the wickedly awesome Spider Baby). In this case, he didn’t even ask to be apart of something so amateurish. Were it not for the recent DVD release from Cheezy Flicks, this probably would have remained even more obscure. If you’re brave enough to check it out, be prepared for a glorified VHS rip, complete with tracking woes and muddled sound. For extras, there's some neat theater intermission commercials and some trailers for other films Cheezy has released (The Lost Missile, X, The Monster and the Ape, and Horrors of the Black Museum) However, unless you’re just a glutton for cinematic punishment and a champion of the truly terrible, avoid this and any other release of this one. Trash it!
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