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Elite Entertainment presents
Priest: You should not run away from home.
DVD ReviewI've always had a soft spot in my heart for the werewolf. Aside from my favorite movie beast, the "Creature From The Black Lagoon"—who really only had one good film—the venerable werewolf has appeared in countless variations in endless scenarios over the years. I guess it was that unstable nature of the werewolf, the seemingly unpredictable transformations and animalistic tendencies that first caught my eye back in the olden days. Because aren't we really all 'wolves' on the inside?
In 1986, three years after directing Howling II, Philippe Mora released Howling III: The Marsupials. In what can only be described as a totally new direction for the entire werewolf genre, Mora's third installment in 'The Howling' series introduced a new species: werewolf marsupials. Yep, this new breed has a pouch, just like a kangaroo. But more importantly, Mora had decided to treat this story more as a comedy, or as he describes it in the accompanying dvd commentary, "tongue in pouch" humor. Don't be mistaken, Howling III: The Marsupials may have been intended as a comedy, but it very skillfully balances itself between horror and humor.
It would be a great disservice if I were to reveal too much of the clever plot of this movie. The basic plotline involves a new breed of werewolf marsupials living deep in the outback of Australia, ruled by bald hulk Thylo (Max Fairchild). Jerboa (Imogen Annesley) is a gorgeous young member of the wolf tribe, but she yearns to see snow fall on the Sydney Opera House. She escapes and heads to big city of Sydney. Her mixed up meteorological wish is a result of her having a snow globe of the opera house, and once she finds out it doesn't snow in Sydney, it ruins her day.
The next 90+ minutes proceed in new directions for werewolves, as Mora introduces a number of bizarre concepts (for a beast flick, that is), including love, motherhood and employment. The story then takes off into unpredictability when werewolf nuns and government agents enter the picture, tracking young Jerboa. Relax—any further explanation of the unconventional plot would probably make no sense, and that would take the fun out of it for you. Trust me on this. Sit back and relax as Mora pays tribute to a number of classic horror genres, and invents a few of his own.
This is an all Aussie production, and Mora has dotted the cast with familiar faces from his previous films. If you've seen Death Of A Soldier or Mad Dog Morgan, you will certainly recognize some of the principals as Mora favorites. The great thing about the players is that they never resort to 'looking' like they're in a comedy. The jokes are played straight, and sometimes you aren't sure whether to laugh or not. Frank Thring has a small, but funny role as a fey horror movie director with more than a passing resemblance to Alfred Hitchcock.
Mora continues to layer "inside" film humor into the plot by having a couple of characters go to a horror movie to watch a low-budget shocker called 'It Came From Uranus'. Now that's funny! Jerboa's pouch, while certainly a film oddity, comes off as sexy to her new boyfriend, regular human Donny (Leigh Biolos), and he still loves her despite their species differences. Make no mistake, the werewolf marsupials are killers, and are not shy about attacking at will. But that doesn't mean there can't be some comedy and romance mixed in. And if someone can tell me why Imogen Annesley never became a star, please let me know.
In the pre-CGI effect days of 1986, a director relied on in-camera shocks to scare the viewers. No post-production computer effects; it's all makeup and models. And when the film budget is low, the effects budget is even lower. The werewolf effects don't hold up too well to the cynical CGI-savvy filmgoer of today, but Mora's beasts have a lot of character and actual personality. Even with a limited effects budget, the use of transformations, which is the horror movie 'money shot', is used sparingly.
Sure, the transformations in Howling III: The Marsupials are few and far between, but a couple of them are memorable enough to live in infamy as classic B-movie horror scenes on concept alone. A film like this has such a great spirit of fun that it's easy to look past the now-dated wolf effects.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: Kudos to Elite on the re-mastering job!! An all-things-considered rocking transfer from what must have been a hard-to-find, decent print. Occasional nicks and dirt, but very rare. This new transfer remains true to Philippe Mora's vision to paint the film like a comicstrip, and the use of bright colors. The Aussie sky is a gorgeous light blue, and the clouds look like they might float off the screen into the room. Fleshtones are consistent and steady, and always look great.
Considering this is a 1986 release, it looks like it could have been shot yesterday. A beauty.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: A brand new, re-mixed 5.1 soundtrack is another big plus on this disc. Considering it was originally released in 1986, and was an extremely low-budget title, the new and improved sound is a kick. Without a doubt, Elite's audio work has enhanced this new release substantially, and they have done a wonderful job. Rear channel effects abound on Howling III: The Marsupials, as both music and ambient sound. Dialogue is always anchored perfectly upfront, and a few limited spatial effects complete the package. Sure, the Aussie pop songs that are used sound a little dated, but the score by Allan Zavod has never sounded better.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Philippe Mora
The Stills Gallery is a collection of about fifty production stills from the making of Howling III: The Marsupials, and a few shots from scenes that never made it into the final product. Nothing overly stimulating, but nice for one time viewing.
The promotional trailer, presented here in full-screen, is a bummer. Image quality is extremely low, and it looks just awful. The TV spot is a quickie, only ten seconds in length.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsATTENTION! Howling III: The Marsupials is a "must get" for all you werewolf fans out there. Mora has tilted the werewolf mythos on its hairy ear, and the end result is film unlike any other in the genre. More of a comedy than a horror film, it moves into heretofore-uncharted werewolf territory and never appears concerned about becoming predictable, because it isn't. The acting in this one is far superior to any of its contemporaries, and the laughs are never played too broadly or over the top, even when Mora uses werewolves disguised as nuns.
Forget what you know about werewolves and get yourself a copy of Elite's new Howling III: The Marsupials.
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