1981 was quite the year for werewolf movies, with two of the most iconic ones being released, The Howling and An American Werewolf in London. While the latter had a much larger box office, the former often gets overlooked. So on its 40th anniversary, we wanted to honor The Howling by making this list of 40 fun facts about it!
1. Jack Conrad was originally slated to directed, however due reported “trouble with the studio” he stepped down and was replaced with Joe Dante. Conrad is still credited as a producer of the final film.
2. Initially Rick Baker was slated to do the special effects, however he left to work on the other incredibly iconic werewolf move from 1981, An American Werewolf in London.
3. He left his assistant Rob Bottin in charge of makeup, who did an amazing job.
4. Director Joe Dante wasn’t satisfied with Terence H. Winkless’ original script, and thus hired John Sayles to rewrite it. Dante and Sayles had previously worked together on 1978’s Piranha.
5. Adult actress Annette Haven was initially offered the role of the seductive Marsha Quist, but turned it down not for the nudity the role called for, but rather because she opposed how violent the movie was.
6. Film debut of Robert Picardo
7. Picardo was apparently very frustrated with the hours long makeup process. He felt that he had gone to drama school just to end up in low budget horror. However, he would go on to work with Joe Dante again many more times.
8. In Dr. Waggner’s (Patrick Macnee) office, a picture of Lon Chaney Jr. is visible, hanging on the wall. Chaney was famous for portraying the Wolfman in a total of 5 movies during the 1940s.
9. Waggner only gets a brief mention in the source novel, while he’s a major character in the movie.
10. In one scene, the coroner recounts a story about someone named Stuart Walker, which was an homage to the actual Stuart Walker, director of Werewolf of London. This 1935 movie is considered to be the first werewolf movie with sound.
11. Despite being a prominent member of the werewolf coven, we never actually see Waggner in werewolf form.
12. The total shoot lasted 28 days.
13. During the “werewolf lovemaking” scene (which is only seen in silhouette), Joe Dante had to use animation due to not having the budget to use actual costumes or animatronics.
14. Elisabeth Brooks (Marsha Quist) was very upset with her nude scene, as was told that the nudity would be concealed by smoke and that the audience wouldn’t actually see anything. Much to her surprise, the full nudity was left in the final movie.
15. Dee Wallace was reportedly very uncomfortable filming in the real life porn shop.
16. John Hora shot the film as the cinematographer, and would go on to work with Joe Dante again on both Gremlins movies, as well as The Burbs.
17. Robert A. Burns served as the movie’s art director, and since he had previously worked on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, many of the set dressings were reused from that.
18. The werewolf transformation at the end was shot in extreme close up on Joe Dante’s office because the production had run out of money and they couldn’t afford another set.
19. Dee Wallace and Christopher Stone were engaged in real life and were even married at the end of shooting. They remained married for 15 years until Stone passed away in 1995.
20. Indie horror producer/director Roger Corman had an uncredited cameo as the guy waiting to use the phone booth after Dee Wallace’s character.
21. Horror director Mick Garris also has an uncredited cameo as “Man with TV Guide”.
22. The film’s score was done by Italian composer Pino Donaggio, who had previously scored Carrie, Joe Dante’s Piranha, and Tourist Trap. He would then go on to score Seed of Chucky.
23. The burger in the final scene reportedly fell apart right after shooting because it wasn’t well-prepared.
24. Joe Dante regular Dick Miller said this was his favorite movie he’s ever been in.
25. Dante wasn’t a fan of the book and believed that his movie was an improvement on the story. Years later the novel’s author Gary Brandner confronted him about it during a lecture in which Brandner was in the audience.
26. Brandner actually went on to write the screenplay for the sequel, Howling II: …Your Sister is a Werewolf.
27. The newscaster Lew Landers (Jim McKrell) appears in both The Howling and Joe Dante’s Gremlins, meaning that both movies potentially are in the same universe.
28. The movie proved divisive among famed critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert (who normally both hated horror). Siskel gave The Howling a very positive review while Ebert didn’t like it.
29. Critic Leonard Maltin enjoyed it calling it a “hip, well-made horror film.”
30. The resort was shot at the Mendocino Woodlands Camp in northern California, which you can still visit today.
31. One of the movie’s largest criticisms was the first werewolf transformation was “too good too early” and that nothing else in the movie ever reached that point.
32. Its later sequel, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare is based on the same novel that this movie is, but is a much more accurate adaptation.
33. The film was made on the low budget of $1.5 million, but managed to gross $17.9 million, making it a success and spawning several sequels.
34. Because of the success of f, it convinced Warner Bros. to hire Joe Dante to directed Gremlins 4 years later.
35. There are a grand total of 7 sequels, turning The Howling into an 8 movie franchise. There’s even a 9th installment (a remake) being developed by Netflix which will be directed by Andy Muschietti (Mama, It, It: Chapter 2).
36. Despite the many sequels, this first movie is the only one with a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
37. In 2017 there was a comic books series published, titled “The Howling: Revenge of the Werewolf Queen”, which serves as a direct sequel to this original movie.
38. Won the Saturn Award for Best Horror movie, beating out Fade to Black, The Fog, and The Shining.
39. Despite its groundbreaking makeup effects, it lost the Best Makeup Saturn Award to Dick Smith, who won for his work on Altered States and Scanners.
40. Ranked #81 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments.
Which of these did you already know? Which ones surprised you? What’s your favorite Saw movie? Let us know in the comments!