The Academy Awards are tomorrow night. I won't be watching (as usual). First, Sunday nights habitually find me bowling (badly) with family and friends. Second, I looked up the nominees and realized how rarely I get out to the movies. I didn't recognize most of the titles or actor and actress names, which cuts down considerably on the fun of rooting for a winner from my living room. However, I still wanted to contribute a column about the cinematic arts.
Woefully ill-equipped to offer insight into tomorrow's Oscar ceremony, I did the next best thing to choose a topic for today's column: I pulled a movie at random off of my DVD shelf. It was Scream of the Wolf, a 1972 made for TV movie starring Peter "Mission Impossible" Graves, Clint "Cheyenne" Walker, and Jo Ann "how do you pronounce her last name" Pflug. A network television executive greenlighting a werewolf movie during prime time expresses everything that was great about the 1970s.
Younger readers may be surprised to learn of a time when TV movies were not about hot-topic social issues or the disease-of-the-week. Television was the "plug-in drug" and Americans were darn happy about it! It allowed us to ignore things like the Vietnam War, the changing roles of women, civil unrest, and Ringo Starr's solo career. Sure, there were some distracting voices. Teachers would often scold that TV was making us into a nation of idiots. We ignored them and continued adding sums with our fingers. Ralph Nader warned us that TV was molding us into an unthinking nation of consumers. We scoffed at him and went right back to making out our Christmas lists. In August. Psychologists counseled us that TV was going to give us short attention spans.
Sorry. Where was I?
That's right. Scream of the Wolf.
Sometimes the lead casting of a film is pure magic. Can you imagine anyone other than Clark Gable bringing Rhett Butler to life in Gone With The Wind or Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca? I now proudly submit to this list Mr. Peter Graves for his groundbreaking role of Mr. Weatherby in Scream of the Wolf. Alas, no one else could have brought such life and sparkle to lines such as:
"Have a little coffee."
"Sure, come on!"
Mr. Weatherby points out to the police that the murderer's tracks always change from four footprints to two in a just few steps. Even though this information will have the average four-year old screaming at the screen, "It's a werewolf, people," no one seems capable of making the connection. His girlfriend finally pieces the whole mystery together and even spills the beans on the twist ending not once, but TWICE during the first half of the movie.
Classic movies need spectacle, like the chariot race in Ben-Hur. The only spectacle this movie has to offer is police cars with sirens blaring. Lots of 'em. There isn't a single shot, no matter how mundane, of police cars in the entire film when the sirens aren't yelping! My favorite example of this is when six cars and one highway patrolman shut down the entire street, pull into city hall, and walk inside to give a press conference.
You may have guessed by now that Scream of the Wolf didn't win an Academy Award in 1974 (or any other year). Was it worth the $3 it cost me to rescue it from the bargain box at Big Lots? I can truly say it delivered every penny's worth of entertainment! Anyone want to go bowling?
Ian Eastman, M.A., is a community educator with Family Services of Warren County. Go to www.fswc.org to subscribe to its Family Services Parenting E-news-a free, once-monthly dose of inspiration and tips to promote the health and well-being of your family.