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DVD: Wolfen (1981)
Review Rating:   Standard  
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August 6, 2002



Genre: Horror  
A pack of ghostly wolves may be responsible for a series of murders in New York City.  



Directed by:

Michael Wadleigh
Screenplay by: David Eyre,  Michael Wadleigh
Music by: James Horner
Produced by: Rupert Hitzig

Albert Finney,  Diane Venora,  Edward James Olmos,  Gregory Hines,  Tom Noonan,  Dick O'Neil,  Dehl Berti,  Peter Michael Goetz,  Sam Gray,  Ralph Bell,  Max M. Brown,  Anne Marie Pohtamo,  Sarah Felder,  Reginald Vel Johnson,  James Tolkan

Film Length: 114 mins Process/Ratio: 2.35:1
Colour Anamorphic DVD: Yes
Languages:  English Stereo, French Mono
Special Features :  

"Howl-Ywood" 'Wolves in Movies' guide (Text only) / Cast and Crew list / Theatrical trailer

Comments :

"Wolfen" was the first of novelist Whitley Strieber's works to be filmed in the 1980s (the others being "The Hunger" and "Communion"), and provided director Michael Wadleigh with enough material to fashion a solid horror film that's more about urban decay, using the plight of the wolves to exploit the abuse and near decimation of Native American culture and big city urban decay.

Wadleigh's best-known film is the seminal concert epic "Woodstock," and though a skilled filmmaker, his already sparse output stopped after "Wolfen" underwent some serious mid-production problems, and major creative differences: new Steadicam footage was tweaked with solarization effects as a kind of roving 'wolfcam'; and Craig Safan's full-blooded orchestral score was junked and replaced by new music and some dissonant sound effects by James Horner. (Ironically, though Horner's excellent score has yet to receive a commercial release, Safan's rejected score is out on CD.) Wadleigh was reportedly later involved in a Civil War epic, but it seems the bad blood from "Wolfen" has turned the filmmaker away from any future endeavors. (Oddly, the DVD's case cites a non-existent commentary track with Gregory Hines, Edward James Olmos and Director/Co-Writer Michael Wadleigh - a regretful loss, though if it was ever recorded , perhaps some comments were deemed too critical of the production, and the whole endeavor was shelved.)

While some sources cite "Wolfen" as having been released in 6-track Dolby, the DVD's 2.0 Dolby Surround still evokes some effective chills, with active rear surrounds and directional front channels adding various location ambience. Horner's metallic-styled score is also aggressively employed in the film's sound design, with some exceptional surround effecs co-created with the film's main sound whiz, Andrew London. Fans of Horner's music will readily recognize several aggressive and moody passages later employed in Horner's scores for "Aliens" and "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" works.

The original Orion Pictures trailer - a marvelous combination of action shots, jarring sounds, and high-contrast graphics - is in average shape, and there's a short text-based history of wolves in movies, so fans can track down some lesser-known titles in a similar vein.

© 2002 Mark R. Hasan

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