I Was a Teenage Werewolf is a 1957 horror film starring Michael Landon as a troubled teenager, Yvonne Lime and Whit Bissell. It was co-written and produced by cult film producer Herman Cohen and was one of the most successful films released by American International Pictures (AIP).
Samuel Z. Arkoff wrote in his memoirs that he got a lot of resistance for producing a film portraying a teenager becoming a monster, an idea that had never been exploited in film before. The film became the first one to have the word “teenage” in the title.
Dawn Richard, who plays a teenaged gymnast in the film, was actually a 22-year-old Playboy centerfold model at the time, appearing in the magazine’s May 1957 issue, which hit the newsstands a couple months ahead of the movie.
Pepe, the Romanian janitor at the police station, was played by the Russian-born Vladimir Sokoloff, a character actor who appeared as ethnic types in over 100 productions, his most famous being the old Mexican man in The Magnificent Seven three years later.
Tony Marshall is the only other male actor to receive billing in the trailer for I Was a Teenage Werewolf, in addition to Landon and Bissell; however, he made only one other motion picture, the obscure Rockabilly Baby, for Twentieth Century-Fox, which was released in October of the same year.
Shooting began 13 February 1957. The movie was shot in seven days.
This film was the first of four “teenage monster” movies produced by AIP during 1957 and 1958. All four films highlighting a theme of innocent teenagers being preyed upon, transformed, and used by corrupt adults for selfish interests. I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and Blood of Dracula were both released in November 1957 and feature a teenage boy transformed into a Frankenstein’s monster and a teenage girl transformed into a werewolf-like vampire, respectively. How to Make a Monster, released in 1958, features two young actors being hypnotized to kill while in make-up as the monster characters “Teenage Werewolf” and “Teenage Frankenstein” of the 1957 films.
Variety reported: “Another in the cycle of regression themes is a combo teenager and science-fiction yarn which should do okay in the exploitation market […] Only thing new about this Herman Cohen production is a psychiatrist’s use of a problem teenager […] but it’s handled well enough to meet the requirements of this type film. […] good performances help overcome deficiencies. Final reels, where the lad turns into a hairy-headed monster with drooling fangs, are inclined to be played too heavily.” Variety went on to say that Landon delivers “a first-class characterization as the high school boy constantly in trouble.” Harrison’s Reports was fairly positive, writing, “This horror type program melodrama should give pretty good satisfaction in theatres where such films are acceptable. The story is, of course, fantastic, but it has been handled so expertly that it holds the spectator in tense suspense.” The Monthly Film Bulletin in the UK was negative, declaring, “A piece of old-fashioned and second-rate horror, the transformations are very badly done, the scientific background is shaky in the extreme and the monster looks like anything but the usual idea of a werewolf. It all seems rather hard on poor Tony, who is quite a pleasant boy when he’s himself.”
According to Tim Dirks, the film was one of a wave of “cheap teen movies” released for the drive-in market. They consisted of “exploitative, cheap fare created especially for them [teens] in a newly-established teen/drive-in genre.”
The film was very profitable, as it was made on a very low budget but grossed as much as US $2,000,000, compared to its $82,000 budget. Released in July 1957, it was followed four months later by I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and Blood of Dracula and by the sequel How to Make a Monster in July 1958.
I Was a Teenage Werewolf helped launch Landon’s career, as he became a regular on Bonanza only two years later, staying for the entire TV show’s run. Another actor from the film, Guy Williams, got into big roles for TV later into the 1960s: he first had the lead in the Disney TV Show Zorro, followed by playing Professor John Robinson on the TV show Lost in Space, which also featured other big name stars in regular and guest starring roles. During the Bonanza years, Williams and Landon did appearances together in some installments. Still another star from the film, Whit Bissell, got into sci-fi both on film and TV: he played numerous doctors (good and bad) and then played Gen. Kirk on the short-run TV series The Time Tunnel.
Although today the film is largely regarded as a source of “camp” humor, and while at the time of release the idea of an adult human turning into a beast was nothing new, the idea of a teenager doing just that in a movie was considered avant-garde—and even shocking—in 1957.
good quality VHS transfer, black & white, mono, fullscreen, runs 76 minutes. DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic!