The Tomb of Terror – The Howling (1981)
The film was first pressed to disc by MGM in August 2001. It featured a decent anamorphic widescreen transfer, but only a trailer was featured as an extra. This was a big step down from a 1994 laserdisc released by Image Entertainment which featured a commentary, featurette, deleted scenes, outtakes, and more. The striking original poster art was slightly altered for this barebones DVD release. It’s not the worst poster redesign I’ve seen on a DVD cover, but makes the film look more standard than it actually is.
MGM rectified this situation in 2003 when they put out a special edition with the original poster art and many extras. This double-sided disc featured the film on one side and the special features on the other (so glad they stopped doing this). On Side A we got what a slightly improved transfer and a Dolby 5.1 sound remix. There was also a fullscreen viewing option for the film included, something else I’m glad companies have stopped doing. The commentary from the laserdisc is included and features director Joe Dante along with actors Dee Wallace, Robert Picardo, and Christopher Stone. There are some dead spots to the track, but Dante and Wallace keep it fun and entertaining. The only other extra on this side is an Easter egg featuring a short interview with Dick Miller where he discusses his long career. Just click on the happy face on the special features menu to find it.
Side B of the special edition contains the real meat and potatoes of the set. A new 50-minute documentary entitled “Unleashing the Beast” is the best extra on the set and features new interviews with all of the heavy hitters involved with the film. Director, writer, producer, cinematographer, and main actors are all accounted for. Everything is covered, from the origin of the werewolf in Hollywood to the adaptation process of Gary Brandner’s novel, and features deleted footage of some really dumb ideas that I’m sure the filmmakers are embarrassed they ever entertained. This includes some stop-motion animation as well as flying werewolves! The one big person missing from this new documentary is FX maestro Rob Bottin, but he is featured in the vintage 10-minute featurette “Making a Monster Movie: Inside the Howling.” We also get ten minutes of deleted scenes, five minutes of outtakes, two trailers, and photo galleries.
The special edition DVD of The Howling is the best presentation of the film and extras to date. If you’re a fan, this is the one to get. However, it should be noted that there are some interesting special features available on the laserdisc that weren’t ported over. An interview with stop-motion animator David Allen is included where he talks about his work not being used in the film and features more of the stop-motion footage than we get in the DVD documentary. The deleted scenes are slightly longer on laserdisc, with some nudity in the hot tub scene for some reason being taken off of the DVD (maniacs!). The laserdisc also features commentary over the deleted scenes by director Joe Dante that is not present on the DVD. Also included were Pino Donaggio’s score on an isolated audio track and the complete script to the film. Hardcore collectors and werewolf fans will want to make sure to hold onto their laserdisc special editions to get the complete story on The Howling.
But even a definitive special edition wasn’t enough for MGM. After the buyout by Fox, the film appeared in many multi-film packs with the worst cover art yet. First up was the 2008 “There Will Be Blood” Triple Feature. Here, The Howling appeared with the new millennium bombs Perfect Creature and Darkwolf. All info I can find on the release says that it’s a three disc set, but doesn’t specify if any extras from the films’ original releases are carried over. Doesn’t really matter though, this release is easily skipped. Then in September 2009 the film showed up on two double features on the same day! First up was The Howling/Child’s Play double feature. This included the special edition disc of The Howling, but only the original fullscreen release of Child’s Play. Child’s Play is available on its own in a widescreen special edition, so this double feature is also skippable. The other set was a Howling/Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf double feature. Once again, the special edition of the original is included and the disc for part II is the best release that film has seen. This one is worth picking up if you just have to own the complete Howling collection