A month and a half ago or so, a friend of mine posted a message on another forum about how bizarre he thought it was that movies like the Star Wars trilogy have yet to claw their way to our beloved shiny 5" discs, yet there seems to be an endless stream of hopelessly obscure niche titles being released on DVD. The specific example he cited was, as you could probably guess by the fact that I'm prattling on about it in this review, Curse of the Queerwolf. The reason movies that movies like Curse... are being released seems obvious enough: people buy them and the companies involved get money. I tend to gobble up off-kilter horror-inspired comedies, and after getting a kick out of another recent DVD release from filmmaker Mark Pirro, I was pretty enthusiastic about giving his follow-up a gander. Unfortunately, Curse of the Queerwolf didn't live up to my expectations.
The Queerwolf, a creature that becomes a same-sex-sex-crazed transvestite with the rising of the full moon, was introduced in Mark Pirro's previous film, A Polish Vampire in Burbank. Although he only had a few minutes of screentime, the character was such a hit that Mark decided to flesh out the concept for his follow-up feature. The Dickenthrope in Curse of the Queerwolf is Larry Smalbut (Michael Palazzolo), who has a girlfriend at home but can't quite resist the temptation to pick up chicks, or at least some semblance thereof, with his bestest buddy Richard Cheese (Kent Butler). Larry's infidelity comes back to bite him on the ass -- literally -- when a brunette he takes back to Dick's place has a little more equipment than anticipated. A group of torch-bearing queerwolf hunters track the inflicted creature to Richard's apartment, warning a flustered Larry about the curse subtly hinted at in the movie's title before continuing the chase. A local gypsy spots the mark of the Pansiegram on Larry's palm and offers her assistance, which Larry rejects until the first of several consecutive full moons. He undergoes a terrifying transformation, blacks out, and wakes up in a men's sauna to lots of thumbs-ups, grinning faces, and a sore bottom. A talisman keeps Larry's transvestite tendencies in check, but a secret that big ::coughs:: can't stay hidden from view forever.
Curse of the Queerwolf may come off as homophobic. It is, after all, a movie in which gay characters spread an uncurable disease and are hunted as monsters. That's a gross oversimplification of what unfolds, but I can see how some people could walk away thinking that this movie isn't terribly gay-friendly. I personally didn't find any of the cartoonishly-mid-'80s stereotypes offensive, nor did I get the faintest impression that Mark Pirro was trying to push any sort of anti-gay agenda. Then again, I'm white, straight, and apathetic, so what the hell do I know?
Since I'm a pretty difficult person to offend anyway, I'm more concerned over whether or not the movie's funny. I liked A Polish Vampire in Burbank and thought it offered some solid laughs, but the distribution of the gags was scattershot. I was hoping the comedy would be a little more even in Curse of the Queerwolf, but disappointingly, the humor mostly fell flat. Polish Vampire had me going almost from word one, but I don't think I laughed in Queerwolf until almost twenty minutes in, when Dick decides to get the ladies (he says, using the term loosely) drunk. Despite the way I generally come across in my reviews, there really is a part of my mind that's occasionally capable of critical analysis. When I was watching Curse of the Queerwolf, that largely unused nugget of my brain insisted that this was the better of the two Pirro movies. There's a more substantial plot, a slew of references to other movies (a list including The Exorcist, The Omen, The Wolf Man, An American Werewolf in London, and, perhaps most memorably, Deliverance), a premise that doesn't call attention to its low budget as frequently, and...suddenly that critical part shuts down. Anyway, even though I do see Curse of the Queerwolf as superior in a number of ways, for whatever reason, I didn't find it particularly funny. That's not to say there aren't funny parts. I thought the climactic sequence in the restaurant and the Exorcist spoof were great, just to name a couple, and it's hard for me not to be charmed by a movie where dogs are systematically killed and aversion therapy continually proves to be fatal. These moments are just too few and far between for my tastes. The movie also runs a little long, clocking in around twelve minutes or so more than the leaner, more efficient A Polish Vampire in Burbank.
Curse of the Queerwolf managed to amass a pretty respectable collection of positive reviews from a variety of notable sources when it was first released, and I'm disappointed that I'm not among them, seeing as how I'm neither positive nor notable. Maybe I'd just subjected myself to too much Pirro in too short a time. Not only did the movie not strike me as being of the quality of A Polish Vampire in Burbank, but its release on DVD doesn't have quite as much to offer.
Video: Curse of the Queerwolf is letterboxed to an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. Mark Pirro did the remastering for A Polish Vampire in Burbank and Curse of the Queerwolf himself, and apparently he was a little tuckered out when it was time to tackle this second movie. Speckling and scratches are more prevalent this time around. Some odd sort of aliasing rears its head on this single-sided, single-layered DVD shortly into chapter 16, particularly noticeable around the edges of the torchmen and on the neon Miceli's sign. Because of the low lighting in a number of shots, Curse of the Queerwolf is a lot grainier, and detail is further muddied. Though Curse of the Queerwolf was shot several years after Polish Vampire, its similarly-Super 8 predecessor struck me as looking better overall.
Audio: Curse of the Queerwolf was mostly looped, but the audio didn't seem as disparate with this film as in A Polish Vampire in Burbank. My only real complaint is a stutter around the 1:19:12 mark that I noticed on both my set-top player and my DVD-ROM. For those curious about this sort of thing, there are no alternate language tracks, no subtitles, and no closed captions.
Supplements: Kicking off the extras on this DVD release of Curse of the Queerwolf is the newly-produced twenty-six and a half minute documentary Completely From Behind. Much of the cast and crew are interviewed, including star Taylor Whitney, who so intensely disliked the way she looked that she requested that a still photo be placed over her voice. Echoing A Polish Vampire in Burbank, there was difficulty with the reliability of the movie's star, Michael Palazzolo, and the script was altered accordingly to give Kent Butler additional dialogue and screen time. Crown International Pictures mulled over giving Mark and company a hundred large to tackle Curse of the Queerwolf on 35mm, and production was shut down as Crown debated whether or not to fork over the dough. They opted not to, and the delay made regrouping for production a little tougher. Crown also slowed down post-production, but in a more positive way by giving Mark the opportunity to helm Deathrow Gameshow. The bankruptcy of their home video distributor Raedon also caused some headaches. Audio-wise, the unwieldy Tupperware blimps used to muffle the loud cameras are shown, and there are some 'before and after' examples of looped footage. The lyrics to "Ballad of the Queerbillies", complete with a bouncing 'billy head, are another definite highlight.
Mark Pirro and professor pal Patrick Hunter reteam for this disc's audio commentary. Much like their track on Polish Vampire, a lot of the key points have already been covered in the comprehensive documentary on the disc. I'm not sure what equipment was used to record the discussion, but it's riddled with hiccups and stutters that make the commentary almost painful to listen to. Still, a few good nuggets of information are tossed out. Mark appeared in the movie because, like Eddie Deezen in Polish Vampire, the original actor dropped out. The difficulties with lead Michael Palazzolo are further discussed, and to accomodate his schedule at one point, a marathon fourteen pages were shot in the space of just four hours. Mark also talks about how the title presented some headaches for distributors, yet was probably largely responsible for its modest success. A couple other random highlights include the origin of the...weapon the torchmen use to dispatch queerwolves and a wife who wasn't overly enthusiastic when learning that men were parading around her house with torches. Mark also reveals that he took advantage during the remastering process to make some visual tweaks, such as adding Larry's amulet in one shot and sticking in an explosion. There's also talk of an aborted sequel, Attack of the Queerwolf, as well as the possibility of a remake. The 35mm Night Swisher is listed as being on the drawing board at Pirrovision.com.
The Queerwolf was first introduced in A Polish Vampire in Burbank, originally played by Paul Farbman. A minute and a half excerpt from that previous movie has graciously been provided here, letterboxed to an aspect ratio of 1.55:1. Also shared between this DVD and Polish Vampire is a biography/filmography of Mark Pirro.
Rounding out the supplements is a letterboxed trailer (3:43) that shows off a lot of Queerwolf's best parts. Normally I would follow that with "no pun intended", only it was intended, even though it's not funny at all. Apologies.
As with A Polish Vampire in Burbank, the discs sports 4x3 static menus, and there are twenty chapter stops.
Conclusion: A quick skim through the reviews listed on Mark Pirro's website seem to indicate that the movie's pretty well liked, but Curse of the Queerwolf just didn't appeal to me in quite the same way as A Polish Vampire in Burbank. For the uninitiated, I'd recommend hitting your local mom 'n pop rental shop or a service like NetFlix first. Rent It.