I remember when I first saw the 1994 movie Wolf, starring Jack Nicholson. Back then I loved the movie as it seemed to cross a threshold that presented something of a slow journey between man and werewolf. I had a story and a decent fulfillment of my need for a decent fantasy monster film.
The movie opens with Will Randall, played by Jack Nicholson, driving down a snow covered road when he hits an animal in the road. When he stops to check out the animal, it turns out to be a wolf. It lays there until he gets close enough and then it jumps up and bites him in the hand and runs off.
Before Randall runs away, he notices several wolves on the side of the road, watching the event unfold. Nothing more. For me, looking back at that scene, is a wonderful touch that sets the tone of what’s to come.
From there, we follow Will in his life as a struggling publisher, and we meet Stewart Swinton (James Spater), as the annoyingly obvious schmoozing and aggressive fellow employee of Will’s.
We then are introduced to a lovely Laura Alden, played by the beautiful Michelle Pfeiffer. The rebellious, low-keyed yet worldly experienced daughter of Will’s boss.
For its day, the approach to Will’s slow transformation is a wonderful journey through the day of a victim of a werewolf bite. From developing a renewed physical draw to his wife, to reading without his glasses and his ability to start smelling things from a distance is a great journey we all take with Will.
After the bite, nothing happens immediately but the following day or two we see subtle changes in Will… in one instance, the only real clue is when he gets near a horse and it starts to get nervous around him. Or later when he discovers his wife is cheating on him because he sniffs the other man’s scent on her clothes. That other man being Stewart. Of course, that sets him up for his hooking up with Laura in a slow and smart developing relationship.
His first kill comes when the moon is only half full, and still as a man, but with more facial hair, yellow eyes and fangs, he chases down a deer.
They could not have had a better actor than Nicholson to fill the part with those focused, intense eyes and eyebrows. All they had to do was had some shaggier sideburns in his first semi-transformations while Spater was his perfect antagonist… a bad, greedy and consequently evil man who also turns out to have been infected. When these two finally meet in the end, it’s a perfect match-up.
Wolf is directed by Mike Nichols, who later goes on to direct such hits as Charlie Wilson’s War & Closer. It was co-written by Jim Harrison, who later wrote the novella Legends of the Fall. Wesley Strick, the other writer, who went on to write The Saint, The Glass House, Doom & 2010′s A Nightmare on Elm Street. The producer for Wolf was Douglas Wick from Red Wagon Entertainment. After Jack Nicholson’s Wolf, he went on to produce The Craft, Girl, Interrupted, Gladiator, Peter Pan, Jarhead & Memoirs of a Geisha.
If you enjoy older movies, Wolf is a great genre film that still can entertain those who are on the fence about the genre but still enjoy great stories that evolve at just the right pace to make it feel believable enough to enjoy the trip. For the longest while it was my favorite werewolf movie… that is, until I was treated to 2002′s incredible Dog Soldiers, from Neil Marshall. You can see what I had to say about that with my review of Dog Soldiers.