The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973)

Nathan H. Juran directed plenty of films, but we probably know him best for  Attack of the 50 Foot WomanThe Deadly Mantis20 Million Miles to Earth and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Becca and I had seen the trailer for years, but this was one of those films that you could only find on the grey market until Shout! Factory released it this year.

Robert Bridgestone (who starred in Juran’s aforementioned Sinbad film) is a divorced dad who tries to bond with his son, Richie, by taking him on a camping trip. On a midnight hike, the men are attacked by a werewolf, but Robert is able to toss it into a ravine where it’s revealed to be a human, impaled on a wooden fence. The sheriff and Robert are happy with the conclusion that the man was simply a drifter, but Richie isn’t so sure. And since his father was bitten in the attack, he’s worried about what will happen next.

Sandy, Robert’s ex-wife, insists that father and son go to counseling together, because Richie has become obsessed with lycanthropes. The psychiatrist (George Gaynes, Commandant Eric Lassard from the Police Academy series) believes that Richie has invented the werewolf story as he can’t deal with the knowledge that his father has killed another man. He suggests they go back to the camp, an act he believes will stop Richie’s fixation with werewolves.

As they return to the cabin, Robert finds himself in great pain and transforms into a werewolf that chases Richie — who has no idea that the beast is his father — across a highway. The werewolf attacks and massacres a driver while Richie hides with two newlyweds who are camping. Finding his father missing, Richie stays with the couple, but when Robert comes to get him in the morning, he’s ill-tempered and not about to listen to his son’s werewolf shenanigans.

The next night, Robert changes into a beast again, but Richie has already found a hiding space. No worries — the werewolf will kill the newlyweds instead, shoving their camper down a hill, then mutilating their bodies and decapitating them. Richie emerges just in time to see his father go from wolf back to man. As they drive back home, Richie grills his father, who doesn’t take kindly to it. When they get back to his mother’s house, he runs, telling her he doesn’t want to be alone with a monster.

After another visit to the psychiatrist, its determined that between the divorce and murders, Richie sees his father as a beast. The film would be much more interesting here were there any doubt as to whether Robert was the werewolf. But no — instead the entire family is put into harm’s way. Too bad they didn’t see the headline of today’s paper: Local Psychiatrist Murdered.

As the estranged family heads out to camp, they run across a hippie commune. Sandy enters their circle of power that wards away evil spirits, but when Robert tries to join her, he is stopped dead in his tracks.

Back at the cabin, that whole 1970’s liberated women need men and were all wrong for divorcing their spouses paradigm rears its ugly head. Sandy confesses how much she missed Robert, who starts transforming into a wolf.

Robert finds Richie in the shed and begs his son to lock him in. Sandy barges in, only to nearly be killed. They escape to the sheriff’s office, but no one will believe Richie. Even now. I mean, he may be the most annoying kid ever, but his logic is starting to add up.

Even after he attacks the hippies, they pray for his soul and watch him transform. That night, he rises again and a search party — read that as mob of angry townsfolk — give chase. The wolf grabs Richie and bites him on the arm before he’s shot and stumbles onto a stake in the ground, which pierces his heart.

Everyone is shocked as the werewolf reveals his true form: Robert. But Sandy is more concerned that her son is now a werewolf, thanks to his father’s bite.

The Boy Who Cried Werewolf can’t live up to the manic trailer that sold it to me. But it’s still an enjoyable yarn, mixing end of the 20th century problems — divorce and hippies, man — with the traditional werewolf mythos.

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