• Howling III (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: January 15th, 2019.
    Director: Philippe Mora
    Cast: Barry Otto, William Yang, Imogen Annesley, Deby Wightman, Lee Biolos, Dagmar Bláhová
    Year: 1987
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    Howling III – Movie Review:

    Philippe Mora, the director of Mad Dog Morgan and The Beast Within, took his first step into the world of werewolfdom with 1985’s Howling II… Your Sister Is A Werewolf. Two years later, he followed that one up with this third entry in the series, also known as Howling III – The Marsupials. While the second film is widely regarded as a bit of mess, at least it had a naked Sybil Danning and ‘New Wave’ Christopher Lee in it to distract us from some of its problems. This third film? Well…

    The movie beings in Siberia where a man in a fur coat (hey, it’s cold in Siberia) is attacked and killed by a werewolf. Cut to Australia where a young filmmaker, the assistant director of a horror film, comes across a woman in a park and falls head over heels for her, offering her a part in his latest production. The affection is mutual right from the start – but this guy doesn’t realize she’s a werewolf marsupial (complete with a pouch!), and so is her grumpy dad! Still, they get it on and before you know it, she’s knocked up.

    Meanwhile, a scientist with an obsession for lycanthropes named Harry Beckmeyer (Barry Otto of The Punisher) hopes to capture a werewolf. Something to do with his grandfather being bitten years ago. While he sets about doing this, a Russian werewolf ballerina named Olga (Dagmar Bláhová) shows up as do some werewolf nuns. Compassionate man that he is, Beckmeyer manages to hypnotize a few of them in order to interview them without being mauled, but it doesn’t last long they’re running around killing people and the Australian army gets involved.

    This is a bizarre, creative and seriously weird movie that feels nothing like Joe Dante’s original picture. Had this not been affiliated with the franchise it might have been better received but since it has that branding on it, you can’t help but compare it to the two previous entries in the series and wonder just what on Earth Mora was going for here. Commercial viability doesn’t seem to have been a consideration here as the film definitely do NOT play to audience expectations. It spends more time dealing with the marsupial creatures (giving the film a uniquely Australian bent) than it does with traditional werewolf ideas but as misguided (?) as the film seems, it’s not boring even if the performances range from bad to uneven.

    Mora doesn’t seem interested in frightening his audience at all. There are no real scares here, and only occasional tension. Instead, it seems like he’s just having fun throwing a bunch of ideas to the wall and seeing what sticks. It’s clear that the budget was pretty low, not all of the effects are particularly convincing, but by throwing in some distinctly Australian elements (some might say clichés) More does at least deliver a strangely entertaining film with some distinct cultural elements. Does it always work? No, but you’ve got to admire the man for trying.

    Howling III – Blu-ray Review:

    The AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation for Howling III is framed at 1.85.1 and taken from ‘a new digital transfer sponsored by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.’ Presented in AVC encoded 1080p on a 50GB disc, the movie generally looks pretty nice here. Some shots do look a bit soft, having everything to do with the original photography, but by and large detail is quite strong throughout the presentation. There are a few spots where contrast does appear to have turned up a little bit to give certain scenes a bit of a ‘hot’ look but this is part of the intended look. Color reproduction is otherwise very good and we get nice black levels too. No problems with compression artifacts or edge enhancement problems and the image appears free of noise reduction or obvious filtering problems, retaining a film-like appearance throughout.

    The only audio option offered on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. This is a more than decent sounding mix. Dialogue stays clean and clear from start to finish and the score has some good bounce and power behind it. The levels are properly balanced, so there are no problems with understanding the dialogue even in the more active moments in the film. Hiss and distortion are never an issue. The movie sounds good!

    The first extra on the disc is a commentary track with director Philippe Mora moderated by Jamie Blanks (the director of Urban Legend and the Long Weekend remake). This is an enjoyable track from start to finish. Blanks keeps Mora on target and engaged while the director himself chimes in about pretty much everything you’d hope for. He has no delusions about the picture and is quite aware that it stands in very stark contrast to the first sequel and especially to the original film. He shares some great stories about working with the cast and crew, writing the script, the locations and effects featured in the film and quite a bit more.

    Mora also pops up in a twenty-seven-minute interview wherein he shares some amusing anecdotes about the ‘werewolf’ costumes used for the shoot, how the film relates to the other pictures in the series, how he came on board in the first place and more. There’s some crossover here with the commentary but this is a fun piece, Mora is a good interviewee.

    A nineteen-minute collection of vintage interviews taken from Mark Hartley’s Not Quite Hollywood documentary are also included here. In this section we hear from Mora but also from makeup and effects artist Bob McCarron. Again, some fun stories here as they relate to the making of this rather unique picture!

    A theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection finish off the extras on the disc.

    Howling III – The Final Word:

    Howling III isn’t scary or even really tense but it is, for better or worse, a very different take on the whole idea of werewolves, evolving that concept in strange and sometimes completely absurd ways. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds quite good and both the commentary and the interview are illuminating and interesting. It’s hard to flat out recommend this if you haven’t seen it before but if you are a fan of this particular picture, you’ll appreciate the presentation quality and supplements on this release.

    Click on the images below for full sized Howling III Blu-ray screen caps!