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Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century: ‘Moon of the Wolf’

Your brother is a werewolf.

Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century is a look back at the weirdest, most memorable, and most off center movies of the 20th century. From head turning horror to oddball science fiction, this column examines the films that will leave a lasting impression for centuries to come.

I declare this the summer of werewolves! Summer just seems like the prime time for werewolves to thrive. People are more inclined to be out late so there’s plenty of prey for full moon hunting. I am particularly terrified of werewolves having watched An American Werewolf in London between the spaces of my fingers clamped tight over my eyes as a five-year old. I had seen earlier cinematic werewolves, far less grotesque, but still creepy in their primal nature.

The Wolf Man did not prepare me for the complete destruction of David Kessler’s human form and the intricacies of his jaw unhinging to shape his lupine face. This week’s strange and fantastic tale looks at a different kind of werewolf. One that is more classic looking in nature, but also modern in his origin. Daniel Petrie’s Moon of the Wolf premiered on ABC in 1972 as the movie of the week. Slip into your 70’s sensibilities as we discuss all that might be going on in this southern gothic murder mystery of mayhem. 

 

A murder most foul has occurred in the sleepy Louisiana town of Marsh Island. A local woman is dead and it is rumored that the murderer is her mysterious lover. The mystery does not last very long as the town physician, Dr. Druten straight up tells the sheriff he is is responsible for impregnating his late patient, but he is not the murderer. Both the setting and the genre leave the women in this story predisposed to danger should they fail to uphold social moral rules, sex outside of marriage is always a big one. It’s a big deal in horror and it’s a big deal in Marsh Island.

One of the most prominent families in town is also dealing with their own scandal. Louise Rodanthe has shamed her family by running off to live with a man. Rather than have the town learn that Louise has led a life of sexual fulfillment, her brother Andrew makes up a story that she is ill and was temporarily insane. Louise bucks the traditions of the genre and her town by flirting with the sheriff and telling him about her dalliance. That being said, it is Andrew who suffers from an illness. Prone to malaria, a sickly disposition, and various other illnesses handed down in the family, Andrew is exposed as a werewolf, the true curse in the family.  

Moon of the Wolf is a fairly tame film, there is little violence and any mention of any misbehavior is quickly admonished. However, it does make some interesting points on the long standing stigma surrounding promiscuity, sexual liberation, and  illnesses such as epilepsy. Moon of the Wolf actually gives more than the premise would predict. Grow your hair out, don’t shave, and grab a mint julep with your scandalous significant other and watch Moon of the Wolf. 

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