August 23, 1985
1985 was a huge year for science fiction, action, horror, and fantasy films. It saw the release of genre favorites such as The Goonies, Lifeforce, Cocoon, Fright Night, and Red Sonja, to name a few. It was also the year of Michael J. Fox, as he was riding a growing wave of popularity with his hit TV series Family Ties and starred in the biggest film of his career, Back To The Future. That film made nearly four hundred million dollars and spent eleven weeks at number one.
Of course, Fox starred in another, slightly less successful film that capitalized on his fame that was released a few weeks after Back To The Future. That gem was called Teen Wolf and it would open at number two behind Back To The Future on August 23, 1985. The film would go on to make eighty million at the box office and was a solid hit (albeit greatly overshadowed by Fox’s other film from that year).
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve seen this film over fifty times. I stopped counting at fifty many years ago and estimate that I’m probably knocking on the three digit range by now. I’ve watched it more times than all of the times I’ve watched Back To The Future and its sequels.
I really love this film. I’m fully aware that it’s not a cinematic masterpiece nor is it even one of the top ten films from 1985, but there’s something very appealing to me about this little flick. Perhaps it is the fact that Jeph Loeb, writer of television shows such as Smallville, and Lost, and comics including Batman: The Long Halloween, and the film, Commando, wrote this film with Matthew Weisman. It was his first major script.
Maybe it was how cool I thought Jerry Levine was as Stiles Stilinski, or how gorgeous I thought Lorie Griffin (who played Pamela Wells) was every time she appeared on screen. Heck, it could have been Susan Ursitti’s peformance as Boof or even Michael J. Fox’s charisma as Scott Howard. I’m not really sure, but the film has had a hold on me for years.
No matter what the reason is, I can’t seem to get enough of this film. The special effects are actually very good for a film with a production budget of around one million dollars. Scott’s transformation scene was executed with perfection, but his interaction with his father (brilliant character actor James Hampton), was obviously shot on more than one day, as Fox’s makeup (his hair in particular) changed styles during the scene.
It was also very obvious when Fox’s “wolf double” took to the basketball court. Played by Jeff Glosser, this version of Scott had a different face and was a few inches taller than Fox in relation to the rest of the basketball players. With that being said, Glosser did an excellent job of making the rest of the guys on the court look like rookies.
The film’s soundtrack was great in my opinion. Featuring the work of artists such as Amy Holland and David Palmer, the music perfectly set the tone of a high school circa 1985. Sadly the album hasn’t been available for a long time and the CD version of the album is available on Amazon for over $130 bucks from resellers.
The film has aged well as far as I’m concerned, as its central theme, wanting to be more than average, is timeless. We’ve all been in a situation where we feel that we’re just fading into the background and we want to take center stage. If and when we do become the focal point, how we handle our newfound fame can make or break us, as it does Scott Howard in the film.
The movie spawned a Saturday morning cartoon that I loved and a 1987 sequel called Teen Wolf Too. The film starred Jason Bateman and was essentially the same story as the original film except for the fact that it took place on a college campus and Todd Howard (Bateman) was a boxer instead of a basketball player. I liked it, but I found it to be very boring and more of a remake than an actual sequel. MTV created a 2011 television series as well. I’ve never watched it, but my daughter loves the show.
The film turned thirty-three years old today, and I coincidentally watched it again just the other night. I’ll probably watch it again in a week or two.
Thanks for taking a trip down memory lane with me. Let me know what you thought about Teen Wolf in the comments section!