TNCC frontman Matthew Cade was recently provided a batch of horror themed cigars from Famous Smoke Shop, each one named after a famous icon from horror film history. Cade came up with the grand idea that The Doctor should review a film to pair with his cigar reviews. Naturally I thought that this concept was brilliant. The first icon on the docket was Frankenstein, followed by Leatherface, and tonight we’ve chosen everyone’s favorite furball The Wolfman to place under the Tuesday Night Cigar Club microscope…
The above prophecy comes courtesy of the late Claude Rains as Sir John Talbot in The Wolf Man. I’m afraid that the legend of Wolfmen or Werewolves has fallen on hard times, largely in part due to something you may have heard of called Twilight. This is unfortunate, as the legend predates modern literature. The French told stories of what they referred to as “le loups garoux” long before Richard Thomson’s The Wehr-Wolf, a Legend of the Limousin appeared in print sometime in the mid-nineteenth century. As a man of science, I have always been fascinated by the idea that a human being might somehow be able to transform himself (or herself, of course) into a bloodthirsty lycanthrope. Some of my weirder colleagues have referred to it as “shape-shifting” but that takes all the fun out of it for me. Whether you are a believer in such things or not is immaterial, but take The Doctor’s word as gospel as far as this is concerned: do NOT, under any circumstances, consume Asti Spumante in quantities large enough that you end up intentionally trying to get bitten by a wolf in order to see if any transformation occurs. Leave that to the professionals, like me.
All of which brings us to the Wolf Man entry in our reviews of horror themed cigars and movies, and for The Doctor it was a no-brainer. That’s right, we are going with the 1985 classic Silver Bullet. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis and based on Stephen King’s novella “Cycle of the Werewolf” (King also wrote the screenplay) Silver Bullet stars the late, great Corey Haim and the one and only Gary Busey.
Queue the full moon in its bloated brightness…kick in the eighties-era, synth-keyboard opening score… and away we go, to the small, not unpleasant town of Tarker’s Mills. King’s stories almost always take place in his home state of Maine, although the film adaptations of his work are less adamant when it comes to nailing down a specific state in the union. We are informed that it is 1976, a largely insignificant and unnecessary framing device given that the movie was likely filmed in 1984 and isn’t a real period piece. However, this is quickly forgotten when town drunk Arnie Westrum, played here by the legendary James Gammon of Major League fame, has his head lopped off while he removes dirt from the railroad ties and sings an old dirge about Rheingold beer. I love that this film doesn’t screw around with a backstory; one minute these small-towners are going about their lives sans werewolves and then suddenly he (or she) is there. We see very little of the actual werewolf before the film’s climax, and my feeling is that this was an intentional choice but more on this later…
We are shortly introduced at the town fair or bake sale to the Coslaw family. Our film’s main protagonist is the adolescent and wheelchair bound Marty Coslaw, played here by the aforementioned Haim a couple of years before he vaulted onto the teen idol stage. The Doctor fondly remembers the heyday of the Two Coreys and still considers himself a fan. We know that Haim fell on hard times in his personal life, but it should always be remembered that he was a gifted performer and he easily sells us on Marty’s likability and his handicapped condition. The handicap itself is never fully explained, but it feels to the viewer that it was not the result of some horrible accident but rather a congenital issue. Either way, this is Marty’s lot in life, and we gather that he has friends and is well liked by all (almost) that know him.
In addition to the fact that the werewolf attacks – which are fairly violent and brutal for their day – begin immediately, another factor that really works for me with Silver Bullet is that the time is taken for some character development. It’s one thing to set people up for a potential slaughter, but it’s something else entirely if you have actually started to like some of them. Not hurting the proceedings are the fact that there are winning acting performances all around. Haim and the young Megan Follows, as his older sister Jane, both deliver in an atypical brother-sister act; Jane likes Marty but, as she points out, her parents constantly bend over to take care of Marty and, in doing so, they often leave Jane out in the cold. We are also treated to Terry O’Quinn – of television’s Lost – playing beleaguered town sheriff Joe Haller, the dark, sunken-eyed Everett McGill (see the TNCC discuss McGill’s classic turn in in People Under the Stairs here) as the intense Reverend Lowe and, of course, the joyous Gary Busey as Marty’s drunken Uncle Red. If that doesn’t interest you in this movie, then take two Steel Reserves and call The Doctor tomorrow, but not in the morning.
Busey, a couple of years before his near-catastrophic motorcycle accident, absolutely nails the role of Uncle Red, a burly, fun-loving boozer who truly loves his handicapped nephew and goes so far as to construct The Silver Bullet, a high-powered, motorized dirtbike/wheelchair for Marty to buzz around town in. This probably isn’t very safe, but I’m not going to pee on anyone’s party. In another example of Uncle-Really-Doesn’t-Know-Best, Uncle Red provides Marty with a brown grocery sack filled with illegal and potentially destructive fireworks after the Tarker’s Mills Fourth of July celebration is cancelled… and then instructs his wheelchair-bound nephew to sneak out of the house after dark and find a nice place to detonate the fireworks on his own! I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: Where was this guy in my life when I was growing up?
At first, only bad or unsympathetic people are killed such as the town drunk followed by a would-be suicide… and then Milt Sturmfuller, another town drunk, played by Jim Baffico who horror aficionados will be grateful to know played Wooley, the SWAT team member who goes apeshit at the beginning of the original Dawn of the Dead. Sturmfuller isn’t a fan of seeing his young daughter peck Marty on the cheek, so he delivers this gemstone quote, courtesy of our man King: “Damn cripples. Always end up on welfare. Ought to electrocute them all. Balance the damn budget.” Needless to say, when he meets his demise moments later, no one really cares. Soon, however, an innocent kid is killed, and it turns out to be Marty’s best pal, Brady. The townspeople of Tarker’s Mills, now scared shitless and having lost all faith in the local constabulary, meet up at Owen’s Bar to plan their vigilante night. In the words of Moe Syzlak of Simpsons’ fame, Drinking Will Help Us Plan.
Sheriff Haller shows up to try and stop the lynch mob but they are having none of it, especially after the dramatic arrival on the scene of Brady’s father who has just come from the Harmony Hill cemetery. This leads to one of the penultimate sequences of the film where literally dozens of the townspeople head en masse out into the misty night with shotguns, flashlights and hunting dogs in a misguided attempt to find the killer. (Only Marty, at this point, thinks that something supernatural might be afoot, a notion that is quickly poo-pood on by Uncle Red.) It’s a great few scenes, starting at the bar and then proceeding out into the woods where the groups of people slowly become separated. One such group runs afoul of the werewolf who quickly dispatches three of them as the other’s flee. The sequence is capped off by a nightmarish dream sequence involving some excellent visual effects, which is no surprise considering that Rick Baker and Rob Bottin were involved. Unfortunately, at least according to the end credits, Baker and Bottin were somehow NOT involved in the creation of the werewolf suit itself, which is really the one fault of Silver Bullet. I don’t want to be too negative because I have thoroughly enjoyed this film for a long time, so I will focus on the positive, which is that back in the 1980’s, most things were done by hand. I just get the feeling that the filmmakers didn’t like what they had and/or it was really awkward for the stuntman to move around in, because we really just don’t see enough. In a werewolf movie, one kind of wants to see the werewolf. And yet, strangely, it doesn’t matter that much. It’s a werewolf movie, yes, but it’s really an actors movie, and not seeing it very often or too clearly until the denouement does add an element of suspense.
Tarker’s Mills now becomes a virtual ghost town, even in broad daylight. The mystery doesn’t last for the entire duration; we know who the werewolf is with at least the final 30 minutes to go, if not longer, and Silver Bullet never tries to be a mystery movie anyhow. It’s a straight-up horror movie. Marty actually shoots the beast in the eye with one of his more dangerous looking fireworks, and then he and Jane do a little sleuthing. Uncle Red remains a non-believer until the very end, although he does humor his niece and nephew and try to help them out, but not without some trepidation which climaxes with this exchange:
Red: A very familiar feeling is beginning to come over me.
Marty (nervously): What?
Red: I’m beginning to feel like a horse’s ass, that’s what.
I won’t spoil anything else for those who haven’t seen it, but I recommend that you check out Silver Bullet the next time you are in the mood for a good horror movie. Let your inner werewolf come out and play. I believe it is available on Amazon for the princely rental fee of $2.99, and in The Doctor’s professional opinion, that is 3 bucks well spent. I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Well, not on purpose, at least. If you are already a fan of Silver Bullet, then I suggest dragging out your timeworn DVD on a dark night in the near future, perhaps when the spectral moon is at its fullest… and if you should happen to hear any howling, don’t be alarmed. It is likely just The Tuesday Night Cigar Club expressing our extreme disappointment that we walked all the way to Arby’s only to find it closed for the simple fact that it is three in the morning. As always, The Doctor wishes you all a clean bill of health.
review by CADE
Well here we are again. Much like The Doctor and I’s collaboration of Frankenstein I’m finding myself reviewing a cigar that corresponds to a classic horror icon that, as a lifelong horror fan, I’ve never been a fan of. I don’t like werewolves, I don’t think they’re scary, I don’t find them interesting, and to be honest there’s only one lycanthrope who’s ever blown my skirt up on the big screen…
But I’m a professional cigar podcaster and internet celebrity so I will not allow my apathetic feelings towards these hairy losers to influence my opinion of tonight’s cigar whatsoever.
The filler tobacco spills out slightly past the end of the Ecuadorian sumatra wrapper and that combined with the rough, somewhat sloppy, patchwork cap definitely gives the Skinny Wolf the appearance of a rough monster who’s not overly concerned about his presentation… kind of like The Wolfman himself prancing around in those tiny Daisy Duke jean shorts and nothing else. Well played Pete Johnson, well played… There’s milk chocolate and a slight hay aroma on the prelight sniff. The nice open cold draw revealed notes of wet dog paws and virgin blood. Just kidding, I actually don’t get much of anything from the cold draw.
A sharp and powerful spice immediately lights my nose up once the foot is toasted. Wow that is a strong motherfucking introduction, no more retrohaling for a while. French roast coffee is the dominant note right out of the gate, followed in the first few inches by a really enjoyable tobacco flavor. I finally give in and tempt fate by retrohaling again (that’s blowing smoke out your nose for all you non cigar podcasters) and I’m shocked to find the bold spice completely gone! There one minute and gone the next, it’s as if the rollers placed a single hot pepper seed right at the foot of the stogie to mess with my head…
The spice has been replaced by the milk chocolate sensation I smelled before lighting up.
I dump the long ash as a precaution but construction overall has been superb. The French roast coffee with chocolate undertones continue in the middle portion of the Skinny Wolf. Mix in that rich tobacco note and it’s a winning trio of flavors swirling around here. What do any of these factors have to do with The Wolfman? Nothing that I can discern but, as I confessed earlier, I am admittingly unschooled in the nonbasketball playing werewolf films with the exception of The Howling and Jack Nicholson’s Wolf.
That strong spice through the nose is suddenly back! It must be a full moon folks because this stogie is ALIVE! Sorry, I’ll calm down now. I love complex, nonboring, smoking experiences and I’m certainly getting that here.
This has been my favorite Skinny Monster so far in our ongoing review series. What I experienced when smoking the Pudgy Monsters last year is that I tended to prefer the cigars based on cinematic monsters that I didn’t necessarily like the movies themselves and vice versa (I love Friday the 13th movies for example and the Pudgy Jason just didn’t do much for me) and this interesting trend seems to be continuing with the Skinnys. I may not be a fan of The Wolfman or his hairy nards but I am a fan of the Skinny Wolf by Tatuaje.
I hope you liked this collaboration between The Doctor and myself, if so let us know! If not, we’ll send you in send you in to buy a keg of beer from that miserable old ballbuster… you filthy animals!