Howling III Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Written and directed by Philippe Mora
1987, 98 minutes, Rated PG-13
Released on January 15th, 2019
Barry Otto as Dr. Harry Beckmeyer
Imogen Annesley as Jerboa
Leigh Biolos as Donny Martin
Ralph Cotterill as Professor Sharp
Dasha Blahova as Olga Gorki
Max Fairchild as Thylo
Burnham Burnham as Kendi
Frank Thring as Jack Citron
Howling III (aka Howling III: The Marsupials) is an odd film that is all over the place in its gonzo storytelling presentation. Written and directed by Philippe Mora (The Beast Within), we follow the budding love story of an Australian werewolf and her handsome beau, while an anthropologist searches out the werewolf community for observational purposes. The creatures live in the Outback and largely keep to themselves, but occasionally reach out to feed the clan. The U.S. military is looking to exterminate the species that is beginning to spread from one country to another and a group of scientists are also standing by to research the monsters.
Set outside Sydney, Australia, we are introduced to a new type of lycanthrope, a breed that has evolved from the Thylacine – the Tasmanian tiger – and now finds females equipped with marsupial pouches to nurse their young. Indeed the creatures are far more sympathetic here than in any other entry in the franchise; a softer, gentler monster that wants to be loved and understood. Our heroine is a werewolf named Jerboa who is fleeing her abusive stepfather and has arrived in Sydney. She meets Donny Martin, an American working on a horror movie about werewolves. He introduces Jerboa to the director who immediately hires her as an actress for her natural talent.
Meanwhile, anthropologist Harry Beckmeyer and his colleague Professor Sharp are searching the continent for the werewolf village to study their way of life. They visit a local ballet at the Sydney opera house and are surprised when the prima ballerina, a Russian lady named Olga Gorki, transforms into a werewolf on stage during rehearsal. She is captured and studied in a lab until Beckmeyer believes she is being tortured and helps her escape. Soon these two pair up with Jerboa, Donny and their infant werewolf child, hiking across the Outback. The military continues to close in, but with luck they can elude capture and live in peace.
Howling III is a bit bonkers and has a lot of memorable moments that may encourage repeat viewings. This is not to say that it’s a good movie, far from it actually, but rather this is more bad fun from Philippe Mora, the director of the similarly entertaining Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf. Howling III shares a title with Gary Brandner’s novel but nothing else and is essentially unrelated in any direct way to the rest of the franchise except that it features werewolves. Mora viewed this film as an opportunity to make up for the shortcomings of part 2. He may have missed his mark, but he throws a lot of interesting ideas out there and some of them actually work. I don’t quite understand the whole marsupial angle, but it makes for a fun visual never seen before.
There are no show-stopping transformation sequences like the ones in the original The Howling, but there are some cheesy attempts, including one deliberately silly scene in the movie Jerboa and Donny go to see on their first date. On the whole the effects are pretty standard, but nothing special. They do the job in a low-budget kind of way and are not too shabby overall. Mora’s direction is a bit more accomplished in this second sequel and the film moves at a faster pace than its predecessor. Performances are generally strong without any real standouts, though Imogen Annesley does a fine job as Jerboa, the female lead. My favorite actor in the film is Burnham Burnham as Kendi, the werewolf elder who summons the great spirit of his ancestors to do battle with the soldiers. He is a little old man kicking a whole lot of ass and he has such a positive energy about him that he is always a delight to see when he appears on screen.
This is the only entry in the franchise to receive a PG-13 rating and the scares are minimal. Mora succeeds at making the monsters the good guys and even manages to make them sympathetic. The picture works as a standalone adventure and the change in location to Australia is satisfying. The Howling spawned an impressive seven sequels (so far); most of those went directly to video and none are particularly strong. This one came along early enough in the franchise to gain audience attention, but didn’t break any records. Completists will want to scoop this one up for their collection and fans will welcome the addition of this title on Blu-ray.
Video and Audio:
Howling III receives a new digital transfer sponsored by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the picture looks terrific. The image is filled with bright colors and rich black levels and there is plenty of small object detail.
A DTS-HD MA 2.0 gets the job done with a nicely balanced track that is clean and free from distortion. Dialogue levels are clear and music cues are full and never intrusive.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Writer/director Philippe Mora sits down with fellow Aussie filmmaker Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend) for an enlightening audio commentary that covers a lot of ground. Topics include Mora’s introduction to cinema, becoming a director and a retrospective of his career. It takes a good hour to get to Howling III and then we only spend about twenty minutes on the subject, but he tells a lot of good stories and never slows down. Listeners looking for a delightful conversation are in for a treat, but anyone interested in a detailed study on the making of the picture will be disappointed.
A Conversation with Philippe Mora (27 minutes) is a 2018 interview that allows the director the opportunity to explain some of his creative decisions on Howling II and III. He dislikes repetition in sequels and set out to do something different. Mora talks about both pictures with an emphasis on III, and the history of the production. There is discussion about his relationship with author Brandner and working with producers on an Australian horror comedy. He talks about the deliberately low-budget and fast-paced shooting schedule. There is some overlap in information from the commentary, but remains a solid interview.
A pair of extended interviews (19 minutes) from the superb Ozploitation documentary Not Quite Hollywood featuring Mora and special make-up effects artist Bob McCarron sharing production stories is a welcome addition. Mora repeats some of the same tales, but he tells them with an infectious enthusiasm. McCarron delights in relaying some of the challenges to making a low-budget werewolf film.
The original theatrical trailer has been included.
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