Blu-ray Review: Howling II



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Way back in a time when the Beta v. VHS war was coming to an end, college kids needed kick for a slow weekend. They would march down to the local videostore and poke around the shelves looking to rent a few frights for the night. On such an occasion, my pals brought back a copy of The Howling II. The original film had a good buzz and the sequel starred Christopher Lee. Little did us know that the most enduring and endearing image of the movie would not involve the Hammer Icon or a toothy werewolf. Let’s not rush to that clip which could be seen as the first pop culture gif. Now is the time to focus on the fresh Blu-ray of Howling II which gives the sequel a first class release.

The movie opens where The Howling. Ben White (Captain America‘s Reb Brown) attends his sister’s funeral He’s a bit stunned at her strange demise, but he’s in complete denial that she had turned into a werewolf on television. He can’t even take the word of Christopher Lee (Horror of Dracula) about his sister getting hairy. Ben doesn’t a clue until it happens to him when he visits his sister’s crypt where a bunch of toothy strangers have plans for her. This change of heart leads to Ben, Christopher Lee and a reporter (Annie McEnroe) splitting for Transylvania to find a werewolf queen. Naturally the woman in charge of werewolves would be the smoking hot Sybil Danning (Reform School Girls). She does more than howl at the moon. She’s a superior witch with vast power. Her biggest power is to stop orgies at her castle. She’s not too happy knowing the trio have arrived on her turf. She’s ready to turn them into her latest converts. Does seem odd thinking of anyone wanting to turn Christopher Lee into an undead evil character. That should be his natural state.

What was the moment that we all marveled at the end of the film? During a sexy scene involving a werewolf threesome, Sybil Danning rips off her top. It’s a hot scene during the movie. But the movie doesn’t just let us remember that scant moment. It repeats those few seconds over a dozen times during the closing credits. This was a great way to make sure that theatergoers stuck around to see the name of the Best Boy. It really did play out like a gif as the moment kept replaying until the screen went completely black. It’s also the best way to remember Howling II from the half dozen entries in the series along with any other werewolf movie produced in the last century. We were still talking about it during Monday’s lunch.

Howling II doesn’t attempt to create the same tone as Joe Dante’s The Howling. There’s a bit more cheesy fun to the action versus the conspiratorial tone that dominated the original. The movie is comfortable embracing the new wave action of the ’80s. Christopher Lee wears a pair of freaky sunglasses. There’s an ’80s band near the castle that looks like they were opening for Frankie Goes to Hollywood before this out of the way booking for exposure. Reb Brown plays his character with a great blockhead motivation. Ultimately the movie belongs to Sybil Danning. She’s a vision of beauty and power in her castle. Her leather outfit is visually stunning. It’s even more stunning in 1080p. Howling II is as enjoyable to watch as The Howling, but for a whole separate attitude.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. What matters most in this transfer is the shimmering glory of Sybil Danning in 1080p. I’d let her turn me into a hairy beast. The DTS-HD mono is fine even though it is strange to think of a movie from 1985 lacking stereo. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentary
has director Philippe Mora recount his time with strangeness of Prague during the communist era. Seems the locals didn’t quite understand movie magic as a concept. A second track has composer Steve Parsons and editor Charles Bornstein. Parsons is the punk rock singer at the nightclub.

Leading Man (13:51) gives Reb Brown a chance to sound smart on the screen. Like Mr. T, Brown was discovered by a talent agent while being a badass bar bouncer. He appeared in a Captain America movie with Christopher Lee.

Queen of the Werewolves (17:03) lets Sybil Danning recount her dinners with Christopher Lee and the KGB. She enjoyed being in a real castle for the shoot. Sybil must be supernatural since she hasn’t aged since the shoot. She discusses the end credits.

A Monkey Phase (15:29) lets the special effects and make up effects artists talk of their work. Steve Johnson and Scott Wheeler had done a lot over the years although Wheeler was the newbie on this shoot. There’s a great tale of where he had to glue some hair.

Alternate Opening (10:34) cuts out a large section in the beginning to get Christopher Lee from the funeral to the nightclub in Europe.

Alternate Ending (9:35) is a little less than the finished cut.

Behind the Scenes (3:52) is mostly outtakes. Mora has a little fun letting us know what he’s cutting.

Theatrical Trailer (1:02) pushes the new wave of horror angle.

Still Gallery (8:17) covers all angles of the production.

Howling II is a bit more horror fun as the action goes from Los Angeles to Eastern Europe. Sybil Danning dominates as the Queen of the Werewolves.

Scream Factory presents Howling II. Directed by: Philippe Mora. Screenplay by: Robert Sarno & Gary Brandner. Starring: Christopher Lee, Annie McEnroe, Reb Brown, Marsha Hunt and Sybil Danning. Rated: R. Running Time: 91 minutes. Released: July 14, 2015.

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