TEEN WOLF (1985) Collector's Edition Blu-ray
Director: Rod Daniel
Scream Factory/Shout! Factory

Things get hairy for Scream Factory with their new Blu-ray collector's edition of TEEN WOLF.

Mediocre high school basketball player Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox, THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS) is tired of being average, but the odd post-pubescent changes he starts to undergo – including hair sprouting in odd places, sharp fingernails, pointy ears, fangs, and red eyes – soon have him anticipating a "lifetime of fearing full moons and dodging silver bullets." Scott soon discovers that there are some advantages to his lycanthropy – like stealing hot girl Pamela (Lorie Griffin, CHEERLEADER CAMP) away from bad boy Mick (Mark Arnold, THREESOME) – and soon becomes the big man on campus. His overnight celebrity as hirsute basketball star, however, starts to alienate him from his teammates, friend Lewis (Matt Adler, FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR), his father Harold (F-TROOP's James Hampton) – who warned him that "with great power comes greater responsibility" – and Boof (Susan Ursitti, ZAPPED!), the only girl who has ever wanted him for who he is on the inside. Meanwhile, his best friend Stiles (Jerry Levine, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY) – having coined the term "teen wolf" – is cashing in with merchandise, and Coach Finstock (Jay Tarses, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW) is thrilled to finally have a winning team, while vice principal Thorne (James MacKrell, GREMLINS) is looking for any excuse to expel the furball.

A surprise low budget hit – partially stemming from being released a month after BACK TO THE FUTURE even though it was shot before – TEEN WOLF is still a fun film for those of us nostalgic for our eighties childhoods, but some disappointments emerge with contemporary viewing. The rushed script is rather simplistically built around the usual teen movie clichés, stressing the importance of remaining true to who you are on the inside while paying lip service to the pining would-be girlfriend, the unattainable crush, the bullying romantic rival, and winning the big game (not to mention "urban surfing" scene set to "Surfin USA" and a grooming for the prom scene scored to a "Stayin' Alive" instrumental). On the other hand, it does explore the father-son relationship with some depth as well as the alienating effects Scott's popularity has on his friendships and his teammates. There is the potential to venture into some dark areas not unfamiliar in werewolf movies, such as Scott's relating a dream featuring Boof, Pamela, and chickens confusing sexual arousal and hunger, the threat of transformation brought on by anger and aggressiveness, and a too-quickly-dropped aside in the script about the fate of Scott's mother who is thought to have either left or passed on up until late in the film. Some of the Tom Burman bladder effects during the film's only transformation sequence – actually executed by Jeff Dawn (THE TERMINATOR) and Steve LaPorte (BEETLEJUICE) – harken back to the artist's work on THE BEAST WITHIN. What remains are a charismatic performance by Fox, scene-stealing ones by Hampton, Tarses, and Levine, and a sweet one by Ursitti that hold our interest. Doug Savant (MELROSE PLACE) and Scott Paulin (CAT PEOPLE) also appear. A sequel followed soon after with Jason Bateman (another TV star hoping to make the leap to the big screen) and, more recently, the franchise would be spun-off BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER into a dreary, angsty television series currently in its sixth season.

Released theatrically by Atlantic Releasing and on VHS and laserdisc by Paramount, TEEN WOLF and other Atlantic (NOMADS, STORMY MONDAY) titles passed through Polygram in the 1990s and eventually ended up with MGM who released the film on DVD in a double feature with the sequel in 2002 and a barebones Blu-ray of the first film in 2011 (followed by a reissue of the DVD double feature in 2014 to capitalize on the TV series). Scream Factory's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray, however, is derived from a new 2K scan which reveals the weaknesses of the older transfer. Never a glossy film despite top notch work by Tim Suhrstedt (THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW), the older transfer's fine detailing in textures seemed to have effected by some color boosting (which made Fox's eyes look as loudly blue as his shirt in one scene). The newer transfer does sport superior textures and colors, while the slow-motion shots and opticals are still grainy but not quite as coarse-looking. The enhanced resolution only makes Burman's prosthetics look particularly rubbery during the transformation close-ups. The presentation opens with the Atlantic Releasing logo without a new MGM logo appended to the start. The original mono mix has not been upmixed for the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which boasts clear dialogue and scoring while the effects range from ineffective (the growling) to piercing (the dog whistle) and the songs sometimes lack the degree of bassy presence to match the sequences they accompany (the climactic basketball game, for instance). Optional English SDH subtitles are provided.

While it would seem like a natural choice for Scream Factory to do this release as a BD50 double feature with TEEN WOLF TOO, they have instead included an expansive documentary on the making of TEEN WOLF that is longer than the feature itself. "Never. Say. Die. The Story of TEEN WOLF" (143:10) covers every aspect of the production starting with Atlantic Releasing – who hit upon what they believed to be a winning formula of producing low budget movies for under a million dollars after the success of VALLEY GIRL – setting up a pitch meeting for COMMANDO writing partners Jeph Loeb (FIRESTORM) and Matthew Weisman (BURGLAR) and picking TEEN WOLF out of ten ideas they presented. The two discuss their working relationship, with Weisman as writer and Loeb as editor. With the input of the producer Mark Levinson (MYSTIC PIZZA), executive producer Michael Rosenblatt (NIGHT OF THE COMET), and casting director Paul Ventura (MODERN GIRLS), the writers cover the ten week pre-production schedule including some of the additional responsibilities they took on like choosing director Rod Daniel (K-9) and the importance of getting Fox whose availability was scheduled around FAMILY TIES' hiatus while Meredith Baxter-Birney was on maternity leave. The casting Fox leads to discussion of BACK TO THE FUTURE since Ventura reveals that Eric Stoltz was considered as an alternative for TEEN WOLF and the producers learned during production that Fox had replaced Stoltz on the former film (at one point, simultaneously shooting TEEN WOLF by day, BACK TO THE FUTURE by night, and returning to FAMILY TIES for its London vacation episode). Also interviewed are cast members MacKrell, Levine, Adler, and Ursitti (who was seen in a director's reel by the writers at the same time Levine mentioned the part to the actress while they were working on CHARLES IN CHARGE). They also discuss the importance of casting the father role and have fond memories of Hampton, while Ventura also lets slip that a young David Spade was also considered for the role of Stiles.

Other segments cover the stunts and make-up – with input from Burman Studios' Jeff Dawn and Fox's basketball double Jeff Glosser, a 5'7" player for Loyola-Marymount picked by Dallas Mavericks scout Richard T. Baker (who served as technical advisor) – editing and temp scoring Lois Freeman-Fox (TURNER & HOOCH) who initially clashed with director Daniel over the differences on some of the unofficial editing terminology between film and television, the scoring (Freeman-Fox used Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" for the montage sequences that would be replaced by original songs by composer Miles Goodman and lyricist Douglas Brayfield), and the film's legacy with the cast and crew discussing the premiere, screenings, and the cult following it has among fans they have encountered (including critic Rob Galuzzo who shows off some memorabilia). Blu-ray producer Brian Ward also shows up to definitively refute a claim made on a VH1 special about the exposed genitalia of a crowd member in the film's final shot. The disc also includes a stills gallery (6:14) and theatrical trailer (1:52). The disc comes with the superior original cover art on the inside and a slipcover that reproduces the brand new artwork. (Eric Cotenas)