Saturday, September 29, 2012

Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf

I like to think that Christopher Lee has no shame. So he can look back at  Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf and feel okay about it. This movie is a fine example of the "so bad it's good" concept. I recall first watching this flick at my friend Jeremy's place in Los Angeles several years ago. We had just come home at around 1 a.m. with some last call In-n-Out, flicked on the TV for a brief, idle accompaniment to our double-doubles and landed square in the first ten minutes of Howling II. And we could not look away. Not until the very end. Not until we'd seen Sybil Danning rip off her top 18 times in succession.
The movie (i was going to write "film," but that seems wrong somehow) begins with Mr. Lee floating before a field of stars, intoning from the "Mother of All Whores" passage from the bible. It's kind of like the bit with Lilian Gish that opens The Night of the Hunter, except Christopher Lee has a skeleton next to him and is talking about whores -- and, of course, Lilian Gish is in a movie that all thinking people agree is a masterwork, as opposed to one where even the dimmest bulb in the sign can still tell that it sucks.
So, blah blah, funeral for Karen White, who was murdered. Her blonde denim-clad dunderhead brother is sad, Christopher Lee comes up to him and says some enigmatic shit about her death, then some dipshit blonde newslady runs up and announces, "Your sister is a werewolf!" and we cut to a new wave band in a graffiti-painted basement. A crowd of extras mimes enthusiasm. Get used to the band. They're called Babel and they will never be more than 90 seconds away from here on out. Which wouldn't be (quite as) objectionable if they had more than 1 1/2 songs and had shot more then two minutes of footage.
You know who else is in the crowd?
   Yup. Wearing wraparound new wave sunglasses.
This particular scene and this particular song will be revisited literally dozens of times during the movie. Marsha Hunt picks up some repulsive locals and lures them to an abandoned warehouse to rip 'em up and feed. It's kinda of like that scene at the beginning of The Hunger, where Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie pick up Ann Magnuson at a Bauhaus concert except nowhere barely even near as glamorous. Which is too bad. Marsha Hunt should have been able to pull off something -- she was best known in her day as a backup singer for a number of big British bands, Marc Bolan's paramour and collaborator, the woman who "Brown Sugar" was written about and Mick Jagger's original babymama.
So,Christopher Lee shows Denim and Dipshit some footage of sister turning into a werewolf, there's some tussling in the graveyard with some werewolves. I would like to note that, while Dispshit may try to come off all assertive career woman, when the chips are down, she's just an old-fashioned, stand-there-and-scream type of girl. Christopher Lee drops some yadda yadda about Stirba, the evil werewolf overlord (Overlady?) who Must! Be! Stopped!
So we all head for Eastern Europe. Marsha Hunt and her sunglassed co-wolves are picked up by two of the local werewolf sycophants and ride to the local castle. Now, i'm not the Queen of the Werewolves or anything, but even i travel under more luxurious conditions than in the back of a military surplus truck, carrying luggage that was a freebie with a Drakkar Noir giftset. And if i stop for road food it's a milkshake and some kind of ostentatiously garnished fries from Mad Greek or Sonic, not "food" in the form of a pair of lederhosen-sporting German tourist types.
Christopher Lee rides in the back of the minicar while Denim and Dipshit bicker and flirt. This is actually the only time he actually looks pained and/or mortified during the entire misbegotten debacle that is Howling II. Off to the tiny medieval town with its sinister, superstitious, pointy-toothed populace locked into their perennial festival of death, chortling at puppet shows and accordion music and inept dancing.

Meanwhile, the werewolves are having their own shindig, which resembles an HBO After Dark swinger's convention.
After some bullshit, they raise Stirba from the dead -- well, not dead, but really old, which is even worse for a blonde with big tits. Stirba is played by none other than Sybil Danning, who starred in the Giallo glamourslasher The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, the Roger Corman Star Wars knock-off Battle Beyond the Stars, Chained Heat with Linda Blair... and, yeah, under all of that, somewhere in the resume fine print is Howling II. Especially the fine work during the werewolf three-way.  I'm sure her Method training helped tremendously...
During this, we are treated to a simultaneous montage of Denim and Dipshit finally Doing It. I've never understood the whole idea of "We're surrounded by zombies/we're fleeing from Nazis/the Terminator is on his way--let's fuck!" The moment one is out of danger, sure, absolutely, with gusto. (This is one of the many reasons i enjoy the outstanding Romeo Must Die: Jet Li and Aaliyah have chemistry for days and some intense moments, but the "Let's go home," is saved until the bad guys are dispatched,) But as far as remembering to suck in my stomach or suppress my gag reflex or relax enough to enjoy it, no. Dipshit has no such problems. But she seems to be an exceptionally laid-back chick. I mean, i'd have to be married to a man for 30, 40 years before i'd let him see me in a Quacker Factory sweater. But Dipshit: Hell, right after the first bang, she rolls out of bed and puts on her best red n' green n' embellished acrylic knit.

And the werewolves continue to party down.
Impressively, they seem to have flown the band out.  Along with all of the band's fans. And the band's club. Wait... these sequences in The Howling II -- and there are many -- cut carefully back and forth between the Transylvakian palace werewolf orgy and the cheesily graffiti-ed "club" like they want us to believe they're in the same place. But, given that both sets look completely different and we've already seen all of this footage several times already. How could they expect us to believe it? Or do they think -- not incorrectly -- that by this point the audience has not suspended their disbelief, but is simply sitting on it to pad out the running time.

So, Christopher Lee and Denim and Dipshit and some other stooges go off to try to stop the werewolves from doing... whatever it is they're going to do. But i hear it's bad. We get some special effects that might be gruesome were they not so ridiculous. Lots of movies toss dwarves. But tossing an undead dwarf culminating in impalement? Sure, most movies have little demon puppets. But skull-fucking, egg-laying blasphemous demon puppets?
Let's just say we can be sure of one thing: At the end of The Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf, the band will still be playing. And we'll all be howling....

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