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Philippe Mora
Sybil Danning, Christopher Lee, Reb Brown, Annie McEnroe, Marsha A. Hunt
Writing Credits:
Robert Sarno and Gary Brandner

A young man whose sister was murdered by werewolves helps an investigator track down a gang of the monsters through the United States and Europe.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $24.97
Release Date: 7/14/2015

• Audio Commentary with Director Philippe Mora
• Audio Commentary with Composer Steve Parsons and Editor Charles Bornstein
• “Leading Man” Featurette
• “Queen of the Werewolves” Featurette
• “A Monkey Phase” Featurette
• Alternate Opening and Alternate Ending
• Behind the Scenes Footage
• Still Gallery
• Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Howling II [Blu-Ray] (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 1, 2015)

Hollywood likes to follow trends, and 1981 turned into “the year of the werewolf”. At least three notable 1981 films depicted those characters: Wolfen, An American Werewolf in London and The Howling. London became – and remains – the best-known of the bunch, but the other two achieved decent success as well.

As far as I can tell, Wolfen never spawned a sequel, but London led to An American Werewolf in Paris 16 years later. That one appears to be more remake/spin-off than sequel, though, unlike 1985’s Howling II, a true follow-up to Joe Dante’s 1981 original.

In the first film, newscaster Karen White (Hana Ludvikova) apparently died. At her funeral, her brother Ben (Reb Brown) meets Stefan Crosscoe (Christopher Lee), an “occult investigator” who claims Karen actually got transformed into a werewolf.

Of course, Ben refuses to believe this, but along with reporter Jenny Templeton (Annie McEnroe), he eventually accepts Crosscoe’s statements. This takes them on a journey to Transylvania where they must halt massive transformations that will greet the upcoming 10,000th birthday of Stirba (Sybil Danning), queen of the werewolves.

In true George Costanza fashion, I enter Howling II without seeing Howling first – to the best of my memory, that is. I may have viewed Howling on VHS or cable in the 1980s, but if I did so, that memory faded years ago.

While Costanza watched Home Alone 2 before he saw Home Alone and felt “lost” during the sequel, I doubt I missed much in terms of story or comprehension due to my inexperience with the first Howling. The second film gives us enough background to make its events clear and understandable even for those of us who never saw the original.

In this case, I probably benefited from my unfamiliarity with the first Howling because I suspect it’s a better film. I didn’t like Howling II on its own, so I’d bet a comparison with its predecessor would make it look even worse.

Not that Howling II lacks any entertainment factor. It manages a few decent action scenes, and it comes with a fair amount of nudity. Danning couldn’t act, and she looks oddly “old” for her age; only 33 at the time of the movie’s release, she resembles an older woman who used cosmetic surgery to try to appear younger.

Nonetheless, Sybil had a heck of a body. Never afraid to show off her charms, Danning occasionally makes the movie worthwhile.

Beyond a couple of lively horror sequences and some T&A, I can’t find much about Howling II to make it enjoyable. Danning and Lee tend toward campy/over the top performances, while Brown and McEnroe go in the opposite direction. Brown lacks any range beyond “vaguely bemused” while McEnroe underplays to an emotionless extreme. Both leave a void at the head of the movie.

Director Philippe Mora adds a little style to the film at times, but he doesn’t make these visual techniques stick. Howling II shows the influence of the era’s music videos and offers visual flair without substance. Some of its quirks come across as self-conscious, as though Mora wants the product to appear artier and more daring than it is.

In truth, Howling II offers nothing more than a forgettable, bland werewolf tale. While its basic tale shows promise, the end result feels generic and lifeless.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B+

Howling II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. An erratic presentation, the movie showed its age.

Sharpness varied. The movie usually looked acceptably detailed but rarely much more than that. Not too many scenes looked really ill-defined, but few came across as particularly distinctive; most of Howling was acceptably concise and no more. Jagged edges and shimmering caused no concerns, and I encountered no signs of edge haloes or noise reduction.

Print flaws became a distraction at times. Though never especially heavy, I did notice moderate examples of specks and marks. Again, these didn’t ruin the image, but I thought it could/should have been cleaner.

Colors seemed erratic. They displayed the usual Eighties murkiness much of the time, but they also occasionally looked reasonably vibrant and distinct. For the most part, the hues came across as somewhat messy.

Black levels tended to appear somewhat inky, while shadow detail was a little too dense much of the time. Interiors seemed fairly flat and muddy. This was a mediocre presentation.

When we moved to the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack, it showed its age but usually sounded decent. Dialogue was acceptable, as only occasional edginess affected the lines. Speech could’ve been more natural, but the lines seemed okay.

Music wasn’t particularly bold, but the score and songs showed reasonable clarity and vivacity. Effects seemed clean and without substantial distortion; though they didn’t have much kick, they reproduced the material well. While nothing here dazzled, the mix held up fine for a 30-year-old mono track.

Like most Shout! Factory releases, this one comes with plenty of extras, and we launch with two separate audio commentaries. The first involves director Philippe Mora. Along with moderator Michael Felsher, Mora discusses how he came onto the project, cast and performances, effects and makeup, shooting behind the Iron Curtain, music and audio, stunts, and related topics.

Mora ensures that we get a fun, informative chat. He presents a lot of entertaining stories about the shoot and delivers plenty of useful behind the scenes info. This ends up as a strong commentary.

For the second commentary, we hear from composer Steve Parsons and editor Charles Bornstein. Felsher conducted independent interviews with these two, so we get them presented here in a totally non-scene-specific manner. First we hear from Parsons and then we get the chat with Bornstein. Both interviews cover similar territory, as we learn about how both men got into movies as well as their work on Howling II and other aspects of their careers.

We get good info from both men, but Bornstein seems more interesting if just because he actively loathes Howling II. Parsons takes the opposite approach, as he falls into the “it’s a cult classic’ camp, so it’s fun to hear the contrast in their views. I’d prefer this as a traditional commentary but we still find plenty of good notes here.

Three featurettes follow. Leading Man goes for 13 minutes, 51 seconds and presents an interview with actor Reb Brown. He chats about aspects of his career as well as his experiences during the shoot of Howling II. Brown doesn’t give us much in terms of fascinating details, but he throws out enough amusing anecdotes to make the reel worth a look.

During the 17-minute, three-second Queen of the Werewolves, actor Sybil Danning chats about topics similar to those addressed by Brown. She gives us general thoughts about her career and relates her impressions of her time on Howling II. Danning’s comments prove to be mostly fun and informative.

Next comes A Monkey Phase. In this 15-minute, 29-second featurette, we hear from special makeup effects artists Steve Johnson and Scott Wheeler. Like the actors, we learn how they got into movies, and they then relate details about the work they did for Howling II. This becomes the most interesting of the featurettes, as we get a mix of facts and amusing stories.

The disc also includes an Alternate Opening (10:34) and an Alternate Ending (9:35). The “Opening” doesn’t seem especially “alternate”, as it contains much of the same footage; it just leaves out a little of Christopher Lee’s opening narration.

As for the “Ending”, it also does little to alter what we see in the final film. Actually, I watched the theatrical conclusion and “Ending” back to back a couple of times, but I’ll be darned if I can figure out how they differ. Any changes that exist are minor.

Some Behind the Scenes Footage lasts three minutes, 52 seconds. This clip gives us raw footage for a werewolf attack scene. It’s substantially more entertaining than the movie itself.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a still gallery. Presented as a running montage, this shows 99 stills across eight minutes, 17 seconds. These mix publicity photos, shots from the set and movie images. This ends up as a decent collection.

A forgettable werewolf tale, Howling II lacks much to make it worthwhile. It suffers from a dull story and weak acting as it plods across its 91 minutes. The Blu-ray provides mediocre picture and audio as well as a useful collection of supplements. Howling II does little to make itself enjoyable.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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