THE BASEMENT BOOKSHELF: Joe Dante’s THE HOWLING: Studies in the Horror Film by Lee Gambin



To this day the debate continues. Which werewolf movie from 1981 is the superior one, John Landis’ AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON or the subject of this blog, Joe Dante’s THE HOWLING. To say that I am a fan of both is an understatement and to be honest, I do not understand why there is even a debate! They are both fantastic movies in their own right and credit must be given to all involved for bringing these films to the screen.

Both movies are completely original, feature top notch casts and fully take advantage of the best of the best when it comes to practical special effects bringing human to werewolf transformations to the screen in ways that had never been seen before and just cannot be matched by todays CGI. These movies will undoubtedly go down in history as not only two of the best werewolf movies of all time but also two of the best horror movies of all time.


In 2018 a book was released by Lee Gambin called “Joe Dante’s THE HOWLING: Studies in the Horror Film.” Being a fan of the movie, and since there really hadn’t been a book like this yet, I wanted to read it as soon as possible. I had no idea what to expect but I can say this…do not hesitate to get a copy for yourself!


Everything about “Joe Dante’s THE HOWLING: Studies in the Horror Film” is about as perfect as can be, from the beautifully painted wraparound cover (which would make an amazing poster) to the very detailed movie synopsis to the comments from many of the people involved in the making of film, this is one book that once you pick it up you will not be able to put it down.


Let’s start with the synopsis of the film. The first beat of the heart of the book is the retelling of the movie in printed word. This is not a hack job either; it is very detailed and manages to bring back the feelings and emotions you feel actually watching the film. The second beat are the comments from the actors and creators of this amazing movie. The only downside here is that some have since passed away as it would’ve been interesting to hear what John Carradine, Patrick Macnee, Slim Pickens and Elisabeth Brooks had to say about their participation in this film.


One of the many highlights of this book feature stories concerning Dee Wallace and how she brought such an innocence, but strength to the role. The discussions of how difficult it was for her to work in the XXX district of Los Angeles while meeting Eddie Quist shows not only what a trooper she is, but also what a professional she is as she was able to take  her very real discomfort of where she was and use it to add a new dimension to the character of Karen White.


Another trooper was John Carradine who was not only getting up there in age but was also suffering from severe arthritis. Going into this film he had not read the script and came right out and said during shooting that he had no idea what the film was about. When he found out he was very excited and not only worked through his physical pain but also worked without complaint during the very cold nights filming the opening sequence at The Colony.


 “Joe Dante’s THE HOWLING: Studies in the Horror Film“, though over 350 pages long, is a very fast read and features full color, as well as black and white, behind-the-scenes photos throughout. The book is published on coated stock and the pages are sewn in as opposed to the standard gluing. There is an introduction by Dee Wallace and features interviews with Joe Dante, Dee Wallace, Belinda Balaski, Dick Miller, Don McLeod, John Hora, John Sayles, Robert Picardo, and others.


This is without a doubt the definitive work on this movie and this book, in my opinion, sets the standard of how all film books should be done. It is a compact, fun read that you will revisit again and again.


Lastly I wanted to add that this book also features a fun flip-book feature in the upper right hand corner of every page. When you flip through the pages quick you will see Eddie Quist transform into the werewolf! I have always been partial to the two-legged werewolves and they are seen at their best in this film!

Don’t forget to read the other blogs in my BASEMENT BLU-RAY REVIEW series. To order your own copy of “Joe Dante’s THE HOWLING: Studies in the Horror Film,” just click on the image below.

~David Albaugh

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