Election Day Special: The Werewolf of Washington (1973)

My fellow Americans…  In this time of strife, unrest, dangers from threats inside and outside our great nation, I call on you to do your civic duty and vote.  Don’t vote Democrat or Republican.  Libertarian or Green.  Vote Werewolf.  He is a man with voracity and spirit!  He is a man who would later appear on a cult classic television show about a guy who time travels by leaping into bodies and helping right historical wrongs.  As his poster says he “Makes it Perfectly Clear!”

Wait…  Whaaaaaaaaaaa?

Folks, today’s movie is The Werewolf of Washington and it was made as a satire against the state of the nation under Richard Nixon’s reign as President.  I’ve seen this movie too many times.  For reasons I don’t want to go into here…  But let’s get back to that little tagline again.

“Makes it Perfectly Clear.”  Is that his campaign slogan?  Is that a play on a real politician’s campaign slogan?  Frankly, I think I have a pretty strong argument that it does NOT make anything perfectly clear.  There’s a fucking werewolf or puppy dog or yeti wearing an Uncle Sam hat.  I mean, that’s clear.  This is pretty bonkers really.  I want to know exactly what is being made clear and I want to know it right now.  But since this is B-Movie Enema, we all know that is a fool’s errand on my part.  These movies are goddamn terrible and I’m sitting here watching them like an asshole.

Sigh…  Okay, let’s pull up the plot synopsis here from IMDb: “A reporter who has had an affair with the daughter of the U.S. President is sent to Hungary. There he is bitten by a werewolf, and then gets transferred back to Washington, where he gets a job as press assistant to the President. Then bodies start turning up in D.C…”

Makes it perfectly clear.

Scott Bakula was smoking hot in these early seasons of Quantum Leap.

Dean Stockwell starts our movie off with a voice over questioning how something like this could happen in America.  He also explains that he’s a known writer who was fucking the Prez’s daughter and he wanted out without hurting her or damaging his career. So, he asked to be transferred to Budapest under the cover that he was too pro-administration.  When the Prez found out about it this supposed reassignment due to his views, he’s given a job he couldn’t refuse back in the States.  So he tries to convince his Hungarian girlfriend, Giselle, to come with him.  On the way to the airport, he is forced off the road by some weird dude just hanging out on the road.  Whittier (Stockwell – the name itself is a play on Whittier, California, Nixon’s birthplace), gets mad at him and pulls all sorts of cartoonish American-in-Europe bullshit.  He’s left desperately trying to get someone to help him get to the airport, but the gypsy lady and the guy who ran him off the road aren’t willing to help.  They are scared of him because he’s marked to be the werewolf’s next victim so they just decide to leave him.  He tries to ask a villager for help, but because of the full moon, he declines to help Whittier.  Giselle goes missing while we hear wolves howl at the moon.  To save her, Whittier kills the wolf with a cane but not before he gets scratched.  He also sees that who he killed was the guy who caused him to wreck in the first place.

Okay, so any fans of the Universal classics would know that this is lifted directly from The Wolf Man.  In that movie, Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) is met by Bela the gypsy dude (Bela Lugosi).  When he gets his palm read by Bela’s wife, she reveals he’s been marked by the werewolf.  He gets attacked, and kills the wolf, but it turns out to be Bela who has passed the curse onto Larry.

Sadly, a potentially competent remake falls by the wayside when Whittier continually spouts satirical jokes mixing up the guy’s longing for death for being politically charged by the Communist regime or the secret police and then also mixes the Pentagram for the Pentagon – I guess he’s paranoid like Nixon was famously known for.  Ugh.  I hate this movie.

Whittier gets back to the good ol’ U-S-of-A.  At a party, he meets the President (played by Biff McGuire – love that goddamn name) and is told some stuff about what Whittier will be working on as the assistant press secretary.  Whittier is left with this fucking annoying old bitty who is supposedly important but she just cannot shut her fucking claptrap.  He also reunites with the President’s daughter, Marion, who tells Whittier that she’s engaged to be married.  Later, Whittier is stuck talking to the annoying woman and sees the pentagram form and disappear on her hand.  Thank fucking Christ we don’t have to deal with this lady for much longer…

Later, still, Whittier wolfs out and attacks the annoying lady while she is stumbling home drunk.  In the middle of the night.  While her mangled body is discovered, Whittier is working with the Attorney General (played by Clifton James who is most known to my generation as the cartoonish racist sheriff in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun) on a plan to attack the press to win back the hearts and minds of the public.

Now a couple things to note.  First, I’m fairly certain the satire of the old lady dying has something to do with how big mouthed women who have too many opinions need to be silenced.  Maybe I’m reading into it too deeply.  Maybe I’m scared of women who have too many opinions (particularly about my passing gas in public places), but I think that’s what the movie was going for here.  Second, in profile, Marion looks like that SUPER SCARY lady in Pet Sematary.  You know Denise Crosby’s sick sister?  That scene that scared me as a child?  That’s waaaaay more scary than the werewolf in this movie.

I’m not the only one seeing this right?

So another thing that’s happening here, besides the Prez’s daughter freaking me the fuck out…  The President is trying to manipulate the press, and some others who have positions he needs to sway for whatever it is he wants to put into the government.  He mentions something about how the progressive ideas are getting in the way or something.  ALSO…  Since Whittier sees the pentagram on his former boss’ hand when she was asked to change her paper’s angle on his administration, I think Whittier’s werewolf is meant to be looked at as a tool of conservative government because OH WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS???

Apparently, in werewolf form, Whittier road the top of this lady’s car all the way from the White House, through the gates of said White House, all the way through the streets of D.C., to a gas station, and not a single motherfucker tried to flag her down to say there was a literal monster on the roof of her car.  I will say, in all fairness, this is actually a famous scene of this lady being attacked by Whittier and him having ridden the top of the car.  I think it’s considered well done.  I think it’s hilarious.

That moment is immediately ruined by social commentary about the black guy, and his hotass girlfriend, who found the lady must be who committed the crime because A) Werewolves are not real, B) he doesn’t like powerful women, C) it’s all why he uses the word “mother” so much, and D) because the suspect walked funny, it had to be the Black Panthers.  Anyway, Clifton James pulls out his classic racism in his characters by getting mad at the black dude and a black reporter despite Whittier trying to actually put a lid on things and calm things down.  Unfortunately, Whittier sees the pentagram on the hotass girlfriend’s hand.

This is followed by a whole scene of Whittier hiding in a bathroom stall and the President trying to open it while a guy pisses in the stall next to where Whittier is hiding.  Why he’s hiding I can’t say for sure but the President of the United States is desperately trying to fix a bathroom stall and that was a scene that made it into this movie.

Whittier asks the President to replace him because he isn’t feeling well.  He also asserts that he doesn’t think the Black Panthers are involved with the killings.  The President, though, says there hasn’t been an attack since they put a guard on the black dude.  Whittier says he should put a guard on him for when the moon comes up, but the President refuses.  Later, Whittier meets with a friend of his and confesses that he thinks he killed the two women and he’s a werewolf.  There’s a hilarious gay scare series of jokes when Whittier takes his friend into the bathroom and takes his shirt off to show the star mark on his chest.

That night, yet another full moon rises (there are like forty straight days of full moons in this movie) and Whittier turns.  I will say that the transformation scenes are well done.  Very classic and yet shows again how reliant this movie is on The Wolf Man.

He then goes out onto the streets of Washington and finds the black guy and his hotass girlfriend and attacks them.  In another fairly well known scene in B-movie lore, the girl goes to a phone booth to call a friend and gets trapped inside while the werewolf attacks the outside, eventually knocking it over.  For such a dumb movie I will give it credit for having some memorable moments that’s for sure.

He’s scared off by the fed watching the guy and the girl.  The President gives a press conference and starts rambling because he apparently is missing a page of his speech.  He talks as if he’s some sort of Nixon-Guiliani-Reagan mashup as he hits talking points about what he thinks is best for the country but doesn’t really mean anything.  It just distracts from answering the questions and so on.  When we first saw the President character, he seemed to be kind of intelligent and with it.  However, as the movie progresses, he becomes dumber and dumber and acts more and more like an idiot child.

This is actually where the movie starts to really come alive.  Before it’s a movie that simply ages badly with outdated jokes, etc.  Now, as the President regresses into a dummy and Whittier is desperately trying to convince everyone that he’s a werewolf that needs to be locked up and the curse be taken seriously, some really charming and silly scenes happen.  One of which includes the President and Whittier bowling in the White House and Whittier getting his hand stuck in the bowling ball because he slowly starts to transform into a werewolf by first experiencing a swelling in his fingers.  It is an utterly ridiculous scene but it is endearing.

But this movie is still horrible.

Wolfman, Frankenstein monster, midget.  Yup, all checks out.

Another scene happens in a planning room where the President is conferring with leaders in the military about withdrawing from Southeast Asia.  The Admiral is talking in gibberish.  The President starts talking about stuff and gets inappropriate responses (clapping and laughing at things that aren’t deserving of applause or laughter).  All the while, Whittier is slowly turning into a werewolf and acting like he’s super sick or utterly pained by this meeting.  You know, like how the viewer would feel while watching Werewolf of Washington.

Shit goes all the way off the rails when, after turning into a werewolf and wandering through an industrial plant somewhere in the Pentagon or the White House or something, Whittier runs into a midget who is apparently building a Frankenstein Monster.  What the holy fuck just happened here?  Oh fuck it…  Throw the midget in with his monster and let’s have fun with this shit.

He makes friends with the little guy and even sniffs his butt and licks his face.  Don’t get too attached to this little moment.  The movie cuts to the next morning and Whittier wakes up in a cemetery.  He calls a guy to get a silver bullet made.  While he prepares to do himself in, the little guy argues for Whittier to be taken alive.  This is the first time the President has heard of all these experiments the little dude is working on.  That seems like something the President would know about right?  I mean there are Frankenstein monsters being created, and he wants a live werewolf.  Shouldn’t the President be aware of these experiments?  Oh fuck it.

Whittier finally convinces people he’s a werewolf.  He has one final night of the full moon and gets his wish to be locked up.  He then wants to take a flight to Hungary the next day to find the gypsy lady.  He’d have a whole month to find her.  Before his pal in the Navy (yeah, there’s been this buddy character in a few scenes that I’m not sure exactly how they became friends or what) leaves him all chained up to be kept safe, Whittier has a sudden change of heart and begs for the pal to bash his heads in with his cane since it has a silver bit at the top and the gypsy lady did say that silver bullets OR a stick with a silver handle can kill a werewolf.  It can’t be too specific…  It just needs to be a stick with a silver handle.  Let’s not get too crazy about this legend or nuthin’.

Marion shows up out of the blue and thinks Whittier has been victimized by some crazy person who chained him to the chair.  He begs with her to leave but she’s a dumb woman and refuses to leave.  Now as Whittier berates and yells at Marion in hopes to make her leave or at least take a gun he has already loaded to protect herself, Dean Stockwell kills it.  He knocks it out of the park with his acting.

Then something dumb happens.  The President is going to give an address and his regular press secretary is sick so he insists upon Whittier coming to the address to give a good impression on the public.  The President says he is going to send a “helichopper” to pick up Whittier.  Despite knowing what’s up and why he must remain locked up, WHITTIER AGREES TO GET UNCHAINED AND GO TO THE ADDRESS.

All the President’s Werewolves

Guess what happens, boys and girls…  Whittier wolfs out on the helichopper.  The Asian guy who is going to the address too (to help support something the President is doing or whatever) starts freaking out because there’s a fucking werewolf on board with them.  The President is completely oblivious to what’s going on and doesn’t care at all what the Asian guy is saying.  I admit this is definitely another one of those completely bonkers scenes that makes this movie charming, but it is completely and totally cartoonish.

Finally, the President believes Whittier that there is a werewolf.  He doesn’t attack the President or the Asian guy (who is only called Prime Minister, so I guess he’s the Prime Minister of Asia) to kill them but he does play a little rough.  He throws the President out of the chopper just before they land at the address revealing the werewolf to the press before he runs off.  While the President still tries to go forth with his address, Whittier’s pal takes off to go protect Marion who is waiting for Whittier at his place with some champagne.  Seriously, everyone.  Why are you acting like all is normal and well and good?  At the least Whittier is mentally disturbed.  At worst, Whittier is a FUCKING WEREWOLF who will tear your arms off and beat you with them (god I wish there was a scene with that happening).  So Whittier shows up and chases Marion around.  She shoots him with the silver bullet and realizes when he changes back that she just killed the man she loves.

The end, right?  Nope!  As the credits start to roll, we learn the President is now carrying the werewolf curse and transforms with every full moon.

I wish I could say this movie is full of the camp and fun that it deserved to have.  It could have have been a marvelous piece of comedy.  Instead it’s just dumb.  I wish this could have been what you hope it would be when you see that fucking poster.  It just isn’t.  It’s notoriously bad and has been featured on many shows like Elvira’s Movie Macabre that poke fun at some of the worst of the worst movies and rightfully so.  At least it is an enjoyable movie to watch because it is so bad.

Okay, so before I return us to our regularly scheduled B-Movie Enema features, no matter who you support, get out there and vote!  See you on Friday when we feature a Chuck Norris/Cannon Films feature that I probably watched like 50 times as a kid.

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