Movie Review: Wolf (1994)

In 1994 the film Wolf hit the theaters to mixed reviews. For those expecting to see a standard blood and gore fest, they were disappointed. What Wolf was instead was less a man battling against an inner monster.

Wolf was released in 1994.

Wolf starred Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pheiffer.

Instead, it was a man watching everything in his life slipping away – his career, his wife – and he enters the twilight years. But suddenly, one fateful encounter on an icy Vermont road later, that same man is given a “gift” and suddenly finds himself revitalized. He also starts to reclaim his lost “territory”.

It was a refreshing change of pace to the standard Wolfman fare and certainly had the kind of star power needed to pull it off.

Will Randall Encounters A Wolf

Publishing Editor-in-Chief, Will Randall (Jack Nicholson), is driving along a snow-covered Vermont road trying to get home to New York City. He crosses paths with a black wolf and is bitten.

Once at work, Will is informed by his publishing house’s new owner, Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer), that he is being demoted from his position. Adding insult to injury, Will’s protege Stewart Swinton (James Spader) is being promoted to takes his job.

The demoted editor eventually learns that not only has Stewart begged Alden to be Will’s replacement, his protege is also sleeping with Will’s wife, Charlotte (Kate Nelligan). Will bites Stewart just before finding his half-naked wife in Stewart’s bed.

Will Seeks Help

This Wolfman was more brain and less brawn.

Nicholson as a werewolf.

Will starts to feel the early effects of the wolf’s bite – his eyesight and vitality improve – and he awakens one morning at a riverbank covered in the blood of a deer. Will visits Dr. Vijav Alezais (Om Puri) who knows something about werewolves and the symptoms Will is feeling.

The Doctor gives Will an amulet meant to limit how far he transforms into a wolf. He then asks Will to share his “gift” and bite him. Will takes the amulet but does not bite the doctor.

But the amulet does not fully prevent the transformation and Will is wolf enough to attack muggers who have him tabbed as an easy mark. Will bites the fingers off of one of the men. But when he wakes up in his hotel in the morning he has no memory of what he has done.

However, not all is lost for Will. He has caught the eye of Alden’s daughter, Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer). And he is now fighting for his job with the ruthlessness of a wolf. Organizing a mutiny of the house’s writers, Will gets his job back.

His first act is to fire Stewart after peeing on his protege’s shoes in a clearly canine way of marking one’s territory. But before he can celebrate too much, he finds the fingers of the mugger wrapped in a handkerchief in his jacket pocket. Realizing he is a danger, Will handcuffs himself to a radiator in his room, but Laura does not believe he is dangerous and uncuffs him.

The Morning After

The couple is awakened by the arrival of Detective Carl Bridger (Richard Jenkins). Bridger informs Will that Charlotte has been murdered. Canine DNA has been found within the ghastly wounds on her body. The news rattles the couple as they both wonder if Will is the killer. Neither realizes that Stewart, also now a werewolf, is the killer.

Michelle Pfeiffer wasn't feeling the love in Wolf.

James Spader was a very, very bad werewolf.

Laura goes to see Bridger, thinking Will is indeed the killer and encounters Stewart. His eyes and his wolf-like conduct convinces her that Stewart is the killer. She makes plans to get her and Will out of the country. But Stewart follows her and the two men battle for top wolf of the pack.

The final scene tells much in wonderful simplicity. Laura telling the Detective she can smell liquor on his breath. She hears his remark to her father despite being a great distance away. As Laura walks away, her eyes take on a wolf-like appearance. The last shot is of Will transforming into a werewolf.

If you are looking for a less gory Wolfman movie, you can’t do any better than watching this one.

About the author

Richard Paolinelli