Let's get this said upfront: Don't let your young children watch "Werewolf" on Rupert Murdoch's Fox Broadcasting stations Saturday night. Unless they've become immune to horror movies, this two-hour series introduction, airing at the early hour of 8, may scare their socks off. (The series, which begins next week, won't air until 9.)
On the other hand, their teen-age siblings will love the special effects by Rick Baker and Greg Cannom.
Baker won an Oscar for his work on "American Werewolf in London" and a British award for "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes," worked on Michael Jackson's "Thriller," "Star Wars," "The Incredible Shrinking Woman," "The Fury" and the recent "Harry and the Hendersons." Cannom's work includes "Nightmare on Elm Street III" and "Cocoon," "Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories" and "The A-Team."
The series intro, written by executive producer Frank Lupo (whose surname means "wolf") and directed by David Hemmings, also includes some brief, partial male nudity, since the man who turns into a werewolf at night isn't wearing clothes when he awakens at dawn.
Co-executive producer John Ashley, who worked on "Apocalypse Now" and produced low-budget horror films, explained that "we will do it in a way that is truly frightening, yet there will be a definite contrast in our two main characters, since one werewolf has a good-natured side -- he tries to control his conduct before he is driven to violence."
Yes, but of course the "good" werewolf, college student Eric Cord (John York), is driven to violence: murders, mutilations. He's so sorry, but he just can't help it. Having seen his mild-mannered friend Ted Nichols (Raphael Sbarge) turn into a raging, uncontrollable werewolf, he has already obliged Ted's last request by killing him with a gun loaded with silver bullets melted down from a cross owned by his late mother.
Unfortunately, Cord not only faces a murder charge, the body of the werewolf having turned back into the corpse of Ted, but he also has suffered a bite from Ted-the-fiend.
So Cord knows what's in store for him after the next commercial. To say that his future with his girlfriend Kelly, Ted's sister, is in jeopardy would be an understatement if it weren't for the fact that Kelly (Michelle Johnson in her debut) actually invites Cord to move in with her, knowing that he is a werewolf. Because Ted left his sister a taped explanation, she knows he was, too.
Cord, searching for a way to stop the carnage without losing his own life, concludes that he must kill the antecedent of the bloodline, Janos Skorzeny, a one-eyed sea captain from Baja California who delights in his nighttime role.
The evil Skorzeny is played by Chuck Connors, former star of "The Rifleman." His appearance comes fairly late in the show. Fortunately, we meet a series of smaller characters who provide a bit of humor along the way: The bail bondsman who doesn't appreciate the value of Cord's 1967 Mustang convertible, given him in security; the clumsy young lawyer who fills in for his father at Cord's arraignment and soft-pedals the charge; and the redneck owner of the storage shed Cord-as-Werewolf demolishes ("Nothin's dirtier than anything in this world than vandalism," he declares -- but of course there is).
Johnson, as Cord's girlfriend, is engaging, but gets some unbelievable lines. Wailing "I don't understand anything any more," she witnesses Cord turn into a raging fiend, then advises him the next morning, "You need to get some help or something."
Lance LeGault as the part-Indian bounty hunter Alamo Joe Rogan who grew up in Brooklyn is a bit more mysterious. Rogan, in stetson, suede jacket and jeans, is called in by Cord's bail bondsman because Cord has missed his court date and the bail bondsman stands to lose $100,000 bail. The continuing logline of the series: Cord is out to get Skorzeny; Rogan is out to get Cord.
And though Connors is touted as the star, it is LeGault, carefully loading his gun (with silver bullets, we presume), who begins and ends the drama, and LeGault's monotone that issues Very Significant Statements:
"There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who believe in flying saucers and those who don't." Oh. But it's "believe in werewolves," isn't it?
Wait, there's more: "You can stand up to anything if you can look it in the eye -- if you've got the guts to look it in the eye." Ah, yes, slightly redundant, but the ring of truth.
And a final pronouncement: "Nothing is worse than a nightmare, except when you can't wake up from it."
So, Fox Broadcasting, is "Werewolf" representative of television entertainment, Murdoch-style? Will this series become a cult classic? Now that's something to chew on.