"The Howling"

A moment of horror from 1981's "The Howling" directed by Joe Dante, now out on DVD and Blue-ray. (Courtesy of the Shout Factory / October 20, 2003)

"The Howling," from 1981, was a major stepping stone in Joe Dante's progression from Roger Corman's Hammond Lumber studio to big Hollywood productions like "Gremlins." Amid many excellent low-budget and/or B-movie entries of the time, it was a standout, with Dante's work supported by John Sayles' witty script, Rob Bottin's makeup effects and an effective Pino Donaggio score.

In the name of full disclosure, back in 1980 I served as a production assistant on this film for one night, tasked with walking behind the aged and terribly arthritic John Carradine with a chair so he could sit down the moment Dante yelled cut. It was a thrill and I'd like to think that my standing is high within the admittedly obscure ranks of John Carradine Folding Chair Carriers.

The new video release from Scream Factory is a good transfer, surrounded by a plethora of extras (some new, some imported from earlier editions). There are two commentary tracks: The more interesting includes Dante and actors Dee Wallace, Christopher Stone and Robert Picardo (recorded in 2003); the other has Michael Felsher interviewing Gary Brandner, author of the original novel. There are two "making of" shorts — an eight-minute promotional piece (directed by Mick Garris) made for the theatrical release, and a 50-minute look-back from 2003. In addition, there are separate interview pieces, ranging from 10 to 20 minutes each, focusing on executive producer Steven A. Lane, editor Mark Goldblatt, co-screenwriter Terrence H. Winkless and stop-motion animator David Allen.

We also get 11 minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary, seven minutes of outtakes, a trailer and a photo gallery. The one weak spot is a tour of the film's locations, written, directed and hosted by Sean Clark, who manages to be irritating within 30 seconds; apparently someone once told him he was funny, and sadly for us he believed it.

"The Howling" (Scream Factory, Blu-ray $29.93; DVD, $19.93)

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ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on "FilmWeek" on KPCC-FM (89.3).