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The Howling: Special Edition

TV reporter Karen White (Dee Wallace Stone) has got the scoop of her life, an interview with active serial killer Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo), but there's just one catch — she has to meet him alone. After following his trail into a porn shop, Quist reneges on the interview and starts making salacious overtones, but before Quist can do anything to Karen, the police show up and shoot him. Nonetheless, Karen is traumatized by their meeting — she can only remember fragments of what happened, and she is unable to sleep with her boyfriend (Christopher Stone) or conduct the news. The TV station's shrink, Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee), recommends that she go with her boyfriend on a retreat for group therapy, but once there Karen notices the people on the retreat are rather strange. And she keeps hearing wolves at night. The first in a rash of early '80s werewolf movies (followed closely by An American Werewolf in London and Wolfen), 1980's The Howling is fairly clever but uneven, as director (and Roger Corman protégé) Joe Dante can't hide his small budget. After the engrossing opening, the movie meanders a bit until the werewolves come a-knockin' (one can almost sense Dante getting better as the film progresses). It's when the creatures start making their appearances (including an impressive on-screen transformation) that the picture really kicks into gear and becomes a great deal of fun. Of note, the stock Dante company came into in full bloom with The Howling, as regulars Picardo, Dick Miller, Kevin McCarthy, and Brenda Balaski have shown up in most of Dante's films since, and there are cameos a-plenty with Slim Pickens, John Carradine, John Sayles (who also wrote the script), director Jonathan Kaplan, Corman, and Forrest J. Ackerman (holding his Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine). Making up for the previous bare-bones DVD, MGM has released a full-on special edition of The Howling. Included is the film in both anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-frame transfers, while both are presented in a newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 and the original mono soundtrack. Extras include an audio commentary (taken from the 1996 Laserdisc special edition) featuring Dante, Dee Wallace Stone, Christopher Stone (who passed away since the commentary was recorded), and Robert Picardo. On the flip-side is a brand new 54-min. documentary entitled "Unleashing the Beast" featuring producer Mike Finnell, John Sayles, Dick Miller, Brenda Balaski, Dante, Picardo, and Dee Wallace Stone. Also included is a vintage piece called "Making a Monster Movie: Inside The Howling," which interviews Dante, Picardo, Rob Bottin, and Patrick MacNee (8 min). Deleted scenes (10 min.) and outtakes (5 min.) also are included, as are two trailers, two still galleries, and promos for other MGM horror titles. Keep-case with paperboard slipcase.

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