The Werewolf of Washington
Notes: 90 minutes.
Werewolf (Jack Whittier): Dean Stockwell
Dr. Kiss: Michael Dunn
Also starring Biff McGuire, Clifton James, Beeson Carroll, Jane House.
Written and Directed: Milton Moses Ginsberg
Summary: “That it could happen in America,” ponders a voiceover, telling us that as the youngest member of the press corps and trying to put some distance between himself and his affair with the President’s daughter, he, Jack Whittier, spent some time in Budapest. After purchasing a wolf-headed cane and having deep talks with Giselle, he drives towards the airport but crashes his car when a gypsy obstructs the road. After a contentious and pointless meeting with the gypsies under the full moon, Jack encounters a wolf, who bites him but whom he kills by beating it to death with his cane.
Jack rages at the lack of bureaucracy allowing him to walk after realizing that it was a human body and not a wolf. But officer Thayer David (from Dark Shadows) does not wish to pursue this matter. The old woman gypsy acknowledges to Jack that it was her son he killed. She says Jack “released him.” Jack asks what this means: “Because of the communists? Secret police?” She tries to tell him about the sign of the pentagram, which he mistakes for another reference: “Ah,the Pentagon is behind this.” The gypsy woman gives him a charm and says that he can be killed only with a silver bullet or with a stick with a silver handle.
Back in the US, Jack flushes the charm down a toilet and rejoins a party. Pressure is on for him to talk to Marion, the President’s daughter, who is already engaged to a Navy psychiatrist. Mrs. Captree speaks her mind openly and is considered a political problem (like Martha Mitchell during Watergate times). Jack is charged with escorting Mrs. Captree, but he sees the sign of the pentagram on her hand. Later, walking home alone, she is attacked.
Behind-doors political chat focuses on a war against the media networks. Meanwhile, a shopper finds Mrs. Captree’s body in a shopping cart, with her “guts ripped open.” To ensure the success of Judge Captree’s appointment to the Supreme Court, the head of Jack’s newspaper is convinced to swing public opinion. Jack sees the pentagram in her hand now. He panics, locks himself in a closet, and howls. Soon, the woman pulls her car into a Mobil station, but Jack the werewolf has been on top of her car and he kills her.
Two witnesses, an African-American man and a white woman, are questioned about their glimpse of a running figure. Mention of him being “dark” sparks accusations of racism.
Jack finds his shoes in the bathroom, frets, and requests a leave of absence despite his worth as a speechwriter for the Vice President. Jack confesses his suspicions about himself to Marion’s psychiatrist fiancé. He makes the pentagram/Pentagon mistake too. “What does politics have to do with it?” asks a frustrated Jack. Jack shows him his bite scar: a star shape. But he is told it’s a matter of guilt and stress.
At his apartment in the Watergate, Jack calls Giselle Frennik, convinced he was brainwashed while in Budapest. He transforms into the wolf while on the phone. Outside, the woman witness from before makes a prank phone call. He boyfriend is killed outside the phone booth and she is terrorized by the werewolf until gunshots chase him off.
After a very bungled press conference, the President tries to show Jack how to bowl. He denies the existence of werewolves while Jack’s fingers swell and get stuck in a bowling ball. At a war-room conference come complaints of “complete civil disorder,” mostly due to press and the “circus of hippies” outside, for which martial law is considered appropriate. The President wants to end the war in Viet Nam but fears the “lunatic” right. Jack, starting to transform, hides his hands and backs out of the room. He kills a guard and stumbles upon some very peculiar looking experiments taking place under the direction of Dr. Kiss (played by dwarf Michael Dunn), who befriends the werewolf, presumably for future study. Jack wakes up in a graveyard and places an order for a silver bullet. Dr. Kiss reviews the surveillance film of the wolf.
Jack sees the pattern of the murders, a star pattern, and determines that the fifth will take place at his apartment at the Watergate. He’ll try to find that gypsy woman again after tonight, but demands to be chained up. The Navy psychiatrist does so and sets up a time-lapse camera. But Marion enters and tries to release him despite Jack’s protests. She asks, “Will you please stop barking at me?” He demands she keep with her the gun with the silver bullet.
The President is working out an arms limitation deal with China and doesn’t want it to seem like a cover for the imposed curfew. On a small helicopter, the Chinese delegate asks about the werewolf panic. The President plays dumb. Jack, in a nearby seat, transforms and as they are landing attacks the President. “Jack, you’re right. It is you. This is your President! Now sit, boy. Heal!” The President tries to speak to the press but nearly passes out and a nearby politician pleads, “He may be the President but he’s still a human being.” The President says he “want[s] to make one thing perfectly clear,” but falls unconscious.
The werewolf appears in Marion’s diningroom doorway. She is terrified but has the gun and shoots. Jack transforms back to his human form, dead. The political plan is to give him a hero’s funeral, claiming he took a sniper’s bullet to save the President’s daughter. The gun should be buried with last year’s nerve gas.
We learn that the President was bitten. But they “won’t have Jack Whittier to kick around anymore!” From the White House comes a howl.
Commentary: Many are the insistences that this film was a 1973 production, but quotations from Nixon’s final days requires a post-1974 date. It’s difficult to determine how the satire works beyond the recognitions of the Watergate-era parallels and references. Is the President actually a good guy, brokering arms limitations with China and trying to end the war, but is lamed by an unforgiving and conspiracy-minded press and public? Difficult to say what the point is otherwise, and impossible, so far as I know, to translate the werewolfism into any viable metaphor here.