Drive-In Classic: Eight Things You Didn’t Know About “I Was A Teenage Werewolf”
Long before he became one of TV’s most beloved fathers, Pa Ingalls on NBC’s Little House on the Prairie, television icon Michael Landon was an angsty, violent teenage lycanthrope. In 1957’s I Was a Teenage Werewolf, the first in a series called Drive-In Classics produced by B-movie king American International Pictures (AIP), Landon plays Tony, a high school student with a serious attitude problem. Tony is placed into the care of what he thinks is a psychiatrist for “re-socializing,” but the doctor uses a special serum to turn the teen into a werewolf. That’s a far cry from worrying about crops and growing season.
Here are eight things you (probably) didn’t know about I Was a Teenage Werewolf:
AIP was part of a relatively new trend to make movies targeting a teenage audience, and this was the first film that it produced to have the word “teenage” in the title.
In keeping with drive-in tradition, it was originally released as a double feature with Invasion of the Saucer-Men. They were promoted with the tagline, “We dare you to see the most amazing motion pictures of our time!”
One of Tony’s unfortunate victims was Theresa, a gymnast who he finds practicing in the gym. She was played by Dawn Richard, a 21-year-old Playboy centerfold who appeared in the magazine’s May 1957 issue, which hit newsstands about two months before the movie’s release.
According to drive-in expert Joe Bob Briggs, the movie was extremely profitable. Shot over six days on a budget of $125,000, it made $2 million in less than a year. A sequel, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, was released five months later.
Landon was a fan of his werewolf adventure and watched the movie regularly. In a 1979 interview he said, “I have a tape of it. I run it all the time. I think it’s a good movie. I like it. My kids like it. They better like it, their dad’s in it.”
The song “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” was on punk rock band The Cramps’ 1980 debut album Songs the Lord Taught Us. It’s a parody of the movie and includes lyrics like, “I was a teenage werewolf/braces on my fangs.”
Stephen King was a big fan as a kid. In It, the novel and the made-for-TV movie, several members of the Losers Club watch I Was a Teenage Werewolf. Pennywise then takes the form of a werewolf to terrorize them.
Landon himself poked fun at the movie on his NBC series Highway to Heaven. The Season 4 episode “I Was a Middle-Aged Werewolf,” written and directed by Landon, aired on Oct. 28, 1987. In it, his character turns into a werewolf on Halloween to help out a scared trick-or-treater.