Friday, May 13, 2022

WOLF (1994)


PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *psychological, sociological*

The first time I watched WOLF, I was underwhelmed. The script-- written by two scripters, one of whom worked on BATMAN RETURNS-- had almost zero interest in playing with the rich mythopoeic tradition of lycanthropy. However, this time around, I found I appreciated the film as a decent romantic drama, patterned more after an "erotic thriller" than a typical horror narrative.

Will Randall (Jack Nicholson) is a fifty-something editor who works for a book publisher and is married (without children) to forty-something wife Charlotte (Kate Nelligan). Will suspects that he's being edged out of his position of relative authority and forced into a less desirable job. On his way to a party given by his new boss Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer), he hits an animal with his car. When he investigates, a black wolf springs up, bites him, and runs into the forest. Not being severely injured, Will attends the party anyway. He has the unexpected treat of meeting Raymond's rebellious daughter Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer), but finds it distressing when some of the millionaire's horses appear to be terrified of Will's mere presence.

Soon Will finds that the bite of a wolf is like Instant Viagra: he has more energy and all of his senses are enhanced. He becomes suspicious that a junior member of his team, Stewart (James Spader), has been acting behind his back, though Stewart (like Laura, roughly in his thirties) acts the part of an unctuous lackey. When Will smells the odor of his wife on Stewart, he nurtures suspicions that Stewart wants more than his job, and he soon finds this hunch confirmed when he catches the two together. Because of the lupine influence, Will doesn't deck Stewart, but bites him on the hand instead.

Will doesn't seem to miss his wife's company that much, as his new energy makes it possible for him to court the lovely Laura. But then Charlotte is murdered, apparently by some savage beast. Is Will the guilty party, or is there another wolf in the hen-house-- one who got the same werewolf-curse transferred to him?

WOLF is fairly predictable in ticking off its plot-points, and one of the writers, Jim Harrison, protested that director Mike Nichols had gutted the intentions of the original script. Still, compared to some of the terrible romantic dramas made on this older man-younger man competition theme, WOLF is at least watchable.

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