To listen to the hysterical moralists of the day, American teens in the 1950’s were living in a whirling vortex of insatiable savage impulses marked by juvenile delinquency, alcoholism (or at least the fatal sip of the same refreshment the adults were freely pouring like a waterfall in the same households), smoking, and degenerate Rock and Roll which served to unleashed the primitive sexual beast within leading to moral rot and community shame and disgrace (Duck and cover those legs right now, Missy!). And these are what are now regarded, aided with the soothing balm of distancing historical perspective, as the dull Eisenhower years. To be fair, every generation has its sliding barometer of generational panic (the parents of these hysterical parents were nonplussed over the emergence of the sexually kinetic jitterbug supplanting the divine pleasures of The Whiffenpoof Song), yet with the emergence of television (and the continued growing appeal of that most American of entertainment venues, the drive-in movie), Hollywood studios were amassing with heretofore unseen interest in the youth audience to boost the lagging ticket sales of the adult demographic, and with the emergence of the exploitation minded, youth savvy American International Pictures, which rather than shying away from parental anxieties used them as an attraction to box-office lucre, the seeds were planted which has led to the eventual infantilization of the American cinema at it is enjoyed (by a few) today.
Subtly hidden within this hybrid of mad scientist and monster with folklore origins- though not the first to attempt the deliberate introduction of lycanthropy by way of a gene altering serum as previously explored in the 1956 “The Werewolf” -is a cautionary tale on the dangers of nonconformity, though in an effort to be more appealing to the youth audience to whom the film is intended, the severest infractions, resulting in violence and death, are directly the result of respected adult authority imposing its own blind ambitions on a helpless teenager. Seldom has a film built on such simple-minded formulaic elements managed to create a confused point-of-view as convoluted as what the screenwriters Herman Cohen and Aben Kandel have devised in which an overly familiar mad scientist horror scenario is given the illusion of an application of freshness by converting the primary characters from the usual careless adults into a troubled teen and then spend the entire film promoting the values of good fellowship while those same characters are ensuring the destruction of the lead character. Talk about having your cake and biting it too.
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