Review: Wolf

Blu-ray: Wolf (1994)

Will Randall (Jack Nicholson) hits a wolf on a late night drive back home. Getting out of his car to inspect the prone body, the wolf suddenly leaps and bites him on his hand before running into the woods. As the days progress, Will begins to notice his senses becoming more acute and a subtle change in his body. This all happens as Will’s job is under threat by Stewart Swinton (James Spader), a smarmy little shit who will stop at nothing to get want he wants, including sleeping with Will’s wife Charlotte (Kate Nelligan). As his personal and professional world crumbles around him, Will forms a relationship with Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is the daughter of the boss of his firm. A battle for superiority at the firm, becomes a battle for survival as the full moon rises.

Do not go into Wolf expecting something along the lines of An American Werewolf in London or The Howling. Despite having the great Rik Baker on board to do the special make-up effects, these are much more subtle and involve just a few cosmetic appliances. This is also a movie which focuses more on the mental transformation which happens when being bitten, rather than the physical changes. Will’s attitude to his job and relationship with his wife takes a change in direction as his confidence and self-assuredness begins to grow as the wolf inside begins to control him.

Jack Nicholson is perfectly cast, his natural lupine qualities, both in his physical appearance and demeanour, coming to the fore in his performance as Will. A flick of those famous arched eyebrows and a twitch of the nose, says far more than it ever would should he be completely covered in latex, or God forbid, using the CGI available at the time.

James Spader oozes both his natural sexuality and a smugness that suggests there is more to his character than is initially shown as he does all that he can to take down Will, while all the time putting up a false sense of support to the man he has in his sights.

Michelle Pfeiffer rounds of the main triumvirate of the cast and plays her part well, going from an introverted and distant woman, to Will’s confidant who helps him through his physical and mental instabilities. All is not as it seems with any of the characters though, and a twisting narrative keeps unfolding right through until the very end.

Put aside your pre-conceived thoughts about Wolf being a werewolf movie, or indeed a horror movie. This is a character study of people dealing with changes in their work place and relationships, with the physical changes they are going through being just a small part of it, albeit the catalyst for spurning them on. Accompanied by a dreamlike score by Ennio Morricone and directed by the always reliable Mike Nichols, Wolf is a movie well worth spending some time with…just make sure that the moon isn’t full!

This Indicator Series release from Powerhouse Films contains a wealth of informative and entertaining special features, the highlight for me being a superb 54 minute documentary about the making of the movie.

• High Definition remaster
• 5.1 surround sound track
• Alternative stereo audio
The Beast Inside: Creating ‘Wolf’ (2017, 54 mins): a new documentary on the making of the film with new interviews from SFX legend Rick Baker, screenwriter Wesley Strick and producer Douglas Wick
• Never-before-seen archival interviews with actors Michelle Pfeiffer, James Spader and Kate Nelligan
• Never-before-seen archival interviews with director Mike Nichols, producer Douglas Wick and writer Jim Harrison
• Never-before-seen archival interviews with SFX maestro Rick Baker and production designer Bo Welch
• B-roll footage
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Brad Stevens, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and historic articles on the film
• UK premiere on Blu-ray
• Limited Blu-ray Edition of 3,000 copies

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Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Powerhouse Films.