Face of the Screaming Werewolf

Year: 1964
Production Co: Jerry Warren Productions
Director: Gilberto Martínez Solares/Rafael Portillo/Jerry Warren
Producer: Jerry Warren
Writer: Juan García/Gilberto Martínez Solares/Alfredo Salazar/Jerry Warren/Fernando de Fuentes
Cast: Lon Chaney Jr

When I watched The Last Man on Earth, the first 1964 adaptation of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend (a version from the 70s exists in Omega Man with Charlton Heston, and the Will Smith redux in 2007 at least kept the original name), I was struck by the poor quality.

Plenty of films from the mid 60s still look crisp and well shot, so it was either the craft on screen in the staging, locations and costumes or the dodgy transfer in the version I watched, but the whole thing looked cheap and muddy, as if it'd been a horror knockoff of the sort we might see from Mario Brava or Lucio Fulci.

I was reminded of that film while watching this shlockfest because of the same problems for a movie that's – while certainly old – similarly comes from an era where quality wasn't that hard to come by.

The picture quality is awful. There's no appreciation for editing and pacing. Turns in the plot make no sense. Dialogue issues forth when the actors aren't moving their lips, or when they're off screen, a telltale sign it was (badly) remixed from old or already-used footage.

Reading up on the film later I realised I was on the money. A guy called Jerry Warren, spiritual brethren to Ed Wood and Roger Corman (but with no talent), had an existing movie about an Egyptian mummy, somehow convinced Lon Chaney Jr to be in it and shot/spliced it into a new story he shot about a werewolf, only further confusing a badly-paced plot.

We meet a roomful of scientists monitoring a woman lying on an operating table who's regressing into past lives, whereupon we're treated to an overlong dance sequence of her and a bunch of extras swaying around to the music on a dodgy Aztec temple set.

When she awakens and is able to tell the group where the events she saw took place, they travel there to discover and retrieve two mummified bodies to bring back. One is an ancient Aztec warrior who goes nuts and wants to kidnap the woman, the other a werewolf who dons a shock mask of yak hair and a rubber teddy bear nose whenever the moon grows full and goes on the rampage.

That portion, with Chaney Jr as the werewolf, is all the new stuff that gives the movie its title.

When he turns for the second time he escapes from the lab where he's being held captive and runs rampant in the city before kidnapping yet another damsel in distress and (for some reason) returning to the lab for the climactic showdown with some character we've never even seen.

Just look at the poster – it's a huge full moon with a blacker-than-black figure painted over the top, the eyes of a cat and a hastily-drawn mouth full of sharp teeth affixed in the head area. The movie's just as cheap and ill-thought out, and if you're a werewolf aficionado you're (once again) going to be very disappointed.

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