Werewolves on Wheels (1971)
Werewolves on Wheels (1971) is exactly what it sounds like -it’s a gritty drive-in movie with horror and biker film elements. It’s more of a road flick than anything, and we get the usual cliches, including squabbling bikers pecking for order, pot-smoking, beer-drinking, decent scenery, folky hippie music, bare breasts, road rage, a bad John Wayne impersonation, and werewolves on motorcycles. Well, actually one werewolf on one motorcycle at the very end of the film. The film doesn’t star anyone, but pop singer Barry “Eve of Destruction” McGuire and an unrecognizable Billy “Jam out till 3 am at Monster Bash” Gray appear as bikers.
Werewolves on Wheels isn’t a bad waste of 79 minutes, but it takes some time to get rolling. Basically, the Devils Advocates bikers cross paths with a satanic cult led by a mysterious cloaked wacko named “One”, played by Severn Darden. We’ve seen him before in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), The Spanish Moss Murders episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974) and many other TV appearances. He usually plays a meddling scientist-psychiatrist type. He’s always a good weirdo with a distinct and immediately recognizable voice. One puts the satanic hex on the bikers who eventually succumb to lycanthropy.
The film’s greatest asset is DOP Isidore Mankofsky’s low-angle open road cinematography set against a southwestern/Mojave landscape. Mankofsky’s werewolf shadow transformations around a camp fire predated Joe Dante’s The Howling (1981) by ten years. Mankofsky got his start making documentary films, and is a capable cinematographer with varied work on Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985), Somewhere in Time (1980), The Muppet Movie (1979) and Scream Blacula Scream (1973). He has several other credits to his name. WWOW is worth seeing for his contributions.
The werewolf makeup isn’t bad. It reminds me a bit of a Don Post mask, which it probably is. The film titles do not list any reference to makeup credits, so it’s anyone’s guess. IMDb lists James Dunn as responsible for props. Perhaps he ordered the Don Post mask?
Director Michel Levesque has been entrusted to all of 4 films over a 30 year span. He’s best known for his art design on various Russ Myers productions. Oddly, this film does not have one large-breasted woman and sports one werewolf on wheels.
I feel exploited.
About $20 for the Dark Sky DVD if it is still in print.