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Werewolves on Wheels
After it became a genre unto itself, it was inevitable that the biker movie would dip into other genres for inspiration. For instance, there was a gay-themed biker comedy called The Pink Angels and a blaxploitation crossover entitled The Black Angels. However, the most notorious biker movie oddball genre offshoot has got to be 1971's Werewolves On Wheels, a genuinely strange blend of genre concerns and 60's-giving-way-to-the 70's artsiness that never quite lives up to the promise of its glorious title.
Werewolves On Wheels starts off like your typical biker fare. You've got a biker gang, led by Adam (Stephen Oliver), wandering the desert on their hogs and getting into the occasional bit of mayhem. Things take a turn for the strange when they cross paths with a group of robed cultists led by a character named One (Severn Darden). The cultists put a spell on Adam's biker mama, Helen (D.J. Anderson), prompting a punch-up as they take her back and ride off into the night. Pretty soon, the bikers start getting killed off one by one and the gang's resident mystic, Tarot (Duece Barry), suspects that something supernatural is behind all of this...
There is much to like about Werewolves On Wheels. Michel Levesque does a good job of giving the film an artsy, atmospheric feel and crafts some impressive set pieces. The two best examples of this would be the spooky sequence where the bikers first meet the cultists and the stylish, intense black mass sequence, both of which are very effective. Levesque's work is supported nicely by sharp and stylish cinematography from Isidore Mankofsky and a really effective score from Don Gere that mixes fuzz-tinged instrumentals with some Byrds-ish folk rock tunes. There's also a strong performance by Oliver, who gives his gang leader character a lived-in, natural feel that makes a nice contrast to the weirdness surrounding him.
Unfortunately, Werewolves On Wheels falls short of the promise suggested in its title for just as many reasons as it succeeds. The major culprit is the script, which handles the solid storyline in a slapdash manner that meanders when it should be building tension. It leaves the actors to their own devices in terms of improvisation and not all of them are up for the job. The weakest work comes from Duece Barry as the gang mystic, who tries way too hard to be mysterious and intense. Despite his grasp of visual style, Levesque gets too caught up in his artsiness and lets the pacing go slack. Finally, there's a muddled ending that causes the film to end with a whimper instead of a bang.
In short, Werewolves On Wheels offers more curiosity interest than it does genuine thrills but it still manages to entertain. Exploitation aficionados and those who enjoy oddball genre mash-ups will almost certainly like it despite its flaws (for the record, I do) but those with a taste for more mainstream fare should tread with caution as, again, it doesn't quite deliver the non-stop thrill ride you'd expect from a seventies movie called Werewolves On Wheels.
Code Red presents Werewolves On Wheels framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in a transfer taken from "brand new HD master" that takes up 20.2GBs of space on a 50GB disc. Detail, depth and texture are substantially improved over the old DVD release that Dark Sky Films put out in 2006, as you'd expect it to be. There is minor print damage noticeable throughout a lot of the movie, small white specks and scratches, indicating that some more cleanup work could have probably been done but most fans of seventies genre fare won't be bothered by this. Colors look really nice, flesh tones are accurate and black levels are pretty solid as well. No issues with any noise reduction or edge enhancement, this always looks very film-like.
The only audio option for this release is a 24-bit English language DTS-HD Mono track. Again, no problems here. The dialogue is perfectly audible and the levels are properly balanced. The film's score sounds nice too, with just the right amount of ‘oomph' behind it when the movie needs it. There are no subtitles or alternate language options provided.
Extras are comprised of a trailer for the feature, bonus trailers for a few other Code Red properties (J.C., Guyana, The Naked Ape, Blastfighter, Ironmaster), menus and chapter selection options. The commentary track from the long out of print Dark Sky Films DVD release of the film has not been ported over to this Blu-ray release.
Werewolves On Wheels will definitely appeal to cult movie buffs and horror fans who appreciate genre mashups and quirkier drive-in fare. The movie isn't perfect, but it's pretty entertaining despite its flaws. Code Red's Blu-ray release is light on extra features but the presentation is pretty decent, making this a worthwhile upgrade for fans of the film. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.