With a name like Werewolf in Washington, you know it’s going to be good. In this 1973 low-budget horror flick, Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap) plays Jack, a reporter who has an affair with the First Daughter. Shockingly, when he ends the affair he voluntarily banishes himself to his papers bureau in Hungary.
In Hungary, Jack is bitten by a werewolf, which looks suspiciously like a cute dog. Jack beats the wolf to death. In an homage to the original Universal werewolf classic, Wolf Man, the murdered wolf becomes a local gypsy. When Jack tells his tale to local authorities, they hilariously rush him out of the country as if this has happened before and they know he’s going werewolf shortly.
Fortunately, Jack has been recalled to the States as no less than the President’s Press Secretary. Apparently, the President had heard that Jack had been banished for being “too administration.” Riiiiiiight.
Anyhoo, Jack is inserted back into the Washington social scene as he’s dealing with the slight problem that he’s developed a slight nervous tic after his Hungary experience. Well, substitute “slight nervous tic” with “transforming into a werewolf” in that previous sentence. Yes, there’s much drive-in horror cheesiness as a wolfman press secretary in a suit prowls the streets of Washington DC. Zaniness ensues.
After the second werewolf death, which it curiously seems is being investigated by the administration, specifically Press Secretary Jack, one official tries to pin the crime on an African American witness: ”He looks like he could severe a juggular. . . . His obvious hatred of female authority figures, the expressiong he keeps using — MOTHER! — Now it fits the pattern of the crime: Prominent middle-aged women found near national monuments.”
The witness tells the Executive Branch Homicide Squad that the killer was dark and furry. The Administration leaps to the conclusion it is the Black Panthers behind the crimes. No joke.
Jack actually realizes that he’s become a werewolf relatively early on, and tries multiple times to resign, confess, and get locked up. He even confesses to a colleague in a bathroom of the White House, ripping his shirt off to show a pentagram — actually a cute little star — on his chest. No one believes him, which isn’t shocking, but what is shocking is that no one fires his crazy self or accepts his many resignations.
Like many a cheap werewolf film, there are numerous consecutive full moons. Unlike many werewolf films, the werewolf gets a chance to knock off the President, who looks suspiciously like Ted Turner. (President Ted Turner, that is a scary thought.)
There are some bizarre scenes, including President Turner bowling with Stockwell in the White House bowling alley. Jack gets his hand stuck in the bowling ball as his hand starts to swell, an early sign of transformation. Jack tells the President that’s what happened, and the President blows him off and takes him to a cabinet meeting. In the cabinet meeting, Jack’s transformation begins, and he manages to slip out into — I swear — a giant warehouse that apparently exists in the basement of the White House. In this warehouse, there is a midget scientist named Dr. Kiss who befriends the werewolf. During the befriending, Dean Stockwell as Jack actually licks the midget. I can’t explain it. I really can’t.
The highlight of the film comes when Jack successfully manages to convince his colleagues that he is a werewolf and has murdered four innocent people. The two administration officials share this exchange:
Official # 1: “We can’t let the press know about this. . . ”
Official # 2: “Yeah, there’s no doubt the press would seize on your personal tragedy to discredit the President.”
Yes, the Press Secretary is a homicidal werewolf who has murdered four people. It’s a “personal tragedy,” all right. And the only reason to report on it would be to discredit the President, not because it’s the most interesting story since Abraham Lincoln killed all those vampires.
The officials tie Jack up and then leave him alone in his apartment. The do leave a time capture camera trained on him, because the President wants to document this for his library. Der hey? Yet the tie up Stockwell plan falls apart when the President summons Jack to help him with a big speech.
On Air Force One, Jack transforms. The President tries to talk the Press Werewolf down with these exact words: “Jack, this is your President talking. Now sit boy! SIT! Heel, Jack!” The President gets mauled and the President’s daughter ends the rampage with a silver bullet (not the beer, the all purpose werewolf killer).
Wow. Just wow.
The film was produced during the Nixon administration, and there is supposed to be some manner of intentional satire. The Turner administration is terribly hostile and distrustful of the media, Stockwell visits the Watergate, and . . . well, that’s about all I can bother to think about it.
Dean Stockwell, veteran character actor, chews the scenary, often literally, in Werewolf in Washington. As the best dressed werewolf in film history (he always transforms while wearing suit and tie) he vaguely resembles Civil War era statesman Frederick Douglass.
This is a Classic!
How has Werewolf of Washington escaped the riffing treatment by either Mystery Science Theater 3000, Rifftrax, and/or Cinematic Titanic these past few decades, I’ll never know.
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