Moon of the Wolf (1972)

On last night's episode of C.S.I.: Louisiana, the action moves into the sweltering deep swamps of Marsh Island, where this sleepy bayou town is rocked by a murder for which there is no clear suspect. We open as two toothpick-chewing local yokels find a dead girl out in the woods while a-huntin'-up some possum for dinner. The poor girl is/was named Ellie, and in a town this small (and inbred) everyone knows who she is/was.

Dead girl.

The Sheriff is called in to investigate, arriving on scene in his huge Oldsmobile land-yacht. The Sheriff is a portly, balding, hairy guy who looks like he just stepped out of In the Heat of the Night, though he's a competent lawman and seems to have all his teeth (must not be a native). What initially seems like a simple case of a pack of wild dogs killing the girl (only in Louisiana...) gets more complicated when it's determined that she first died from a blow to the head, and then the pack of wild dogs munched on her (again, only in Louisiana...).

The Sheriff.

The Sheriff has three suspects in the murder. The first suspect is the Hillbilly, who is actually the dead girl's older brother. He's a quick-tempered, hard-drinking, nose-picking redneck who hasn't mastered buttons or zippers yet (this movie is rough on the...ahem, indigenous local population and their love of rotgut moonshine, coon dogs, and their 13-year old cousin's virginity). The Hillbilly was mad that his little sister was out whoring around and he unwisely admits to hitting her often when she didn't listen to his sage advice on relationships.

The Hillbilly.

The next suspect is the Doctor, who on the surface seems above reproach, but soon admits that he knew the dead girl on a more personal level than just writing scripts for STD medicines. In fact, they were having a torrid affair and he got her knocked up! He claims that she wanted to have the baby and get married, but he wanted her to get an abortion as he figured having a love-child with a skanky girl half his age might cause some problems with his medical career.

The Doctor.

The last suspect is the Rich Guy, a member of the founding family of Louisiana who lives in a huge colonial mansion up out of the swamps (on the good side of the tracks...). The Rich Guy was using the dead girl to steal medicines from the local hospital to treat a rare form of malaria he has. He doesn't want the locals to know he's sick because they already gossip about his family enough (like about how they wear collared shirts and bathe more than bi-annually). He gave the dead girl a mother-of-pearl necklace that was found at the crime scene, though he claims to be innocent of her murder.

The Rich Guy.

To further muddle things, the Rich Guy's slightly attractive middle-age older Sister arrives back from New Yaaaawk City. She's everything that her brother the Rich Guy is not, open, friendly, talkative, and she looks cute in a sundress. She's also got her overly-shadowed eye on the Sheriff, who she admits to having a crush on in junior high.

The Sister.

More clues come when the Sheriff goes to visit a dying Old Man who has "the shining", an ability to see spooky paranormal things (all old guys in the swamps have this power). The aged swamper is delirious and just keeps mumbling "Lookilook!" in pigeon Creole, but the Sheriff just keeps smiling. In a lucid moment, the Old Man has his maid put out pots of burning sulfur around his house. Hmmm...

The Old Man.

To up the drama even more, the Hillbilly finds out that the Doctor got his sister pregnant and rushes out to confront him (because marrying a rich doctor is oh-so scandalous and a clear step down from being a lot-lizard down at the truck stop...). A sucker punch in the street earns the Hillbilly a night in jail to cool off. The Sheriff is now quite conflicted, as suspicion is increasingly falling upon the Doctor, who is an old friend of his and the only other person in town who doesn't scrape up roadkill for snacks.

In the bayou, they don't lock the cells much.

The Sheriff and the Rich Guy (who is trying to clear his name) go to the Old Man's house to talk to him, but the smoking sulfur pots on the front porch cause the Rich Guy to collapse into a coma. He's put into the local Parish's three-bed one-nurse hospital, where it seems he's had some sort of allergic reaction to the sulfur. When he regains consciousness, he blames it on a hereditary condition with the men in his family, what he deceptively called "malaria" before. The dead girl was actually bringing him medicine to help treat this odd malady.

Gasping for air.

The Sheriff and the Sister now take a break from all this detectivin' and share some sweet tea and corn biscuits in the sitting room of her mansion. They talk about her family's long and storied history in Louisiana, and about grandpa's "monthly spells". Oddly, while there is some underlying flirtation here, they never get frisky with each other. This might be because the Sheriff is perpetually sweaty and no one likes making out with sweaty guys (or so I hear).

Chatting with the purdy lady.

While convalescing in the hospital, the Rich Guy changes into a werewolf! Oh shit, I almost forgot this was a werewolf movie. I was enjoying the "whodunit" storyline and now I'm kinda bummed that it's turned into a ho-hum monster movie. This werewolf is the "furry gloves and Halloween mask" variety, though, thankfully, we only get a few quick glimpses of the creature's face. It breaks out of the hospital and is on the loose now.

The Werewolf.

In an earlier scene that I forgot about, the Sister figured out she was the Werewolf's next victim because the Old Man saw a pentagram in her palm. I admit that I don't know a lot about werewolves (other than what Twilight taught me...), but since I also saw this same hand-pentagram thingie in Werewolf of Washington, I figure it has to be part of the established werewolf culture (right?).

Why is it that old people are so spiritual?

The Sister hides in her mansion with the Sheriff there to protect her (though he doesn't believe in monsters, of course). They read an old history book that attempts to make a medical case for lycanthropy (versus a purely demonic possession case), which is maybe the only inventive aspect of this movie. The Sister suddenly realizes that all the menfolk in her family have been werewolves, but her brother is the last of the male line, so if he dies it stops here.

That's a nice lamp, a Tiffany, no?

The Werewolf does indeed come after the Sister now (not sure why, never really explained how it picks its victims). She and the Sheriff lock all the doors but the beastie has super-wolf strength and breaks through easily. While the Sheriff is out looking in the wrong place, the Sister has to fend for herself, jumping out a window and running into the barn (hey, at least she didn't just stand there and scream). The Werewolf chases her in there and the Sister is barely able to set the place on fire before escaping back to the house.

She needs a better lock.

Since we earlier heard that fire can kill a werewolf, we are teased to think it's dead, but it's not and it gives chase to the Sister once more (again, we never learn why the monster is trying to kill her, of all people, but I guess that's not important). Back in the mansion, she barricades herself in the parlor with a pistol she found in a nightstand. The Werewolf comes growling and she has to shoot him down. The monster changes back into the Rich Guy (deceased) and the Sister says, "He must have had those bullets blessed.", because other than fire the only way to kill a werewolf is with blessed bullets. She and the Sheriff walk off together as the credits roll. Mulder and Scully show up the next day...


The end.

[Editor Pam: So if this is a hereditary medical condition, why hasn't the family done something about it down through the years? If the family's been in Louisiana for generations, wouldn't the neighbors have noticed that a lot of people are getting torn apart by "wild dogs?" Since this werewolf doesn't hesitate to go after family members, wouldn't the family be afraid for themselves? Can't they lock the family werewolves up at the appropriate time of the month? And let's hope there's not very many men to a generation, otherwise the secure cell could get a little crowded. Oh, wait, so it's only the men that become werewolves? Why not the women? I suppose it could be a sex-linked disease, like hemophilia.]


Written in April 2010 by Nathan Decker.

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