Wolf (1994 film)

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Wolf
Wolf movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mike Nichols
Produced by Douglas Wick
Neal A. Machlis
Written by Jim Harrison
Wesley Strick
Starring Jack Nicholson
Michelle Pfeiffer
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Giuseppe Rotunno
Edited by Sam O'Steen
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • June 17, 1994 (1994-06-17)
Running time 125 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $70 million
Box office $131,002,597[1]

Wolf is a 1994 American romantic horror film directed by Mike Nichols and written by Jim Harrison, Wesley Strick, and an uncredited Elaine May, with music by Ennio Morricone and cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno.

The film featured Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer in the lead roles, alongside James Spader, Kate Nelligan, Richard Jenkins, Christopher Plummer, Eileen Atkins, David Hyde Pierce, and Om Puri.

Plot[edit]

Will Randall is bitten by a wolf while driving home through Vermont after it was seemingly hit by his car. Soon after, he is demoted from editor-in-chief of a publishing house during a takeover by ruthless tycoon Raymond Alden, who replaces him with Will's ambitious protégé Stewart Swinton. Will begins experiencing physiological changes ranging from increased appetites and libido to hair regrowth and sharper-than-human sensory perceptions. Catching an unfamiliar scent on the clothing of his wife Charlotte, Will rushes over to Stewart's house, bites Stewart during a brief physical altercation, and rushes upstairs to the bedroom where he finds evidence of Charlotte's infidelity. Will leaves his wife, takes up residence at the Mayflower Hotel, and as the moon ripens, takes on increasingly bestial aggressive characteristics.

With the help of Alden's rebellious daughter Laura, Will tries to adapt to his new existence. His first nocturnal escapade as a werewolf takes place at Laura's guesthouse on the Alden estate where he partially transforms and hunts down a deer by moonlight. In the morning, Will finds himself on the bank of a stream, with blood all over his face and hands, and, fearing notice, hurriedly departs in his Volvo.

He visits Indian paranormal scholar Vijav Alezais, who gives him a silver amulet believed to be proof against lycanthropy. Alezais, who has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness, asks Will to bite him, preferring "damnation" to death. Will refuses, but keeps the amulet in the hopes that it will cure or forestall his condition. Returning to his hotel, Will calls Laura to explain his nocturnal disappearance and asks to see her again. Later that evening, Will, again a wolfman, breaks into the zoo, escaping two police officers and taking their handcuffs. Muggers attempt to steal his valuables, but he springs upon his assailants, wounding them savagely. He wakes up in his hotel, with no memory of the night's events.

Threatening to lead a mass writers' exodus, Will successfully wrests his editor-in-chief position back from Alden, and negotiates for additional supervisory powers. Will surprises Stewart in the bathroom, notifies him of these office developments, fires him, and then urinates on Stewart's suede shoes so as to "mark his territory." While washing his hands, Will finds two of the muggers' severed fingers in his jacket pocket, and realizes the beast is gaining control. Horrified by this realization, Will returns to his hotel, where Charlotte stops him in the lobby to beg his forgiveness. Will rebukes his now-estranged wife and tells her to stay away. Laura surreptitiously witnesses this argument. After Will's recent outing, Laura makes her way upstairs to Will's room where the two begin a sexual relationship.

Detective Bridger visits Will's hotel room the next day to inform him of Charlotte's savage murder. Separately, Will and Laura both begin to harbor doubts concerning Will's possible involvement in the crime. Cutaway scenes between Stewart, Alden, and the police gradually inform the viewer that the former protégé is now trying to frame Will in an attempt to get his job back.

Disquieted by Will's superhuman hearing, dried mud on his shoes, and a phone call from Detective Bridger revealing that Charlotte's blood and tissue samples were contaminated by canine DNA, Laura comes to believe that Will is a murderous monster. Will voluntarily submits to being locked in the Alden horse-barn while Laura goes to the police station. There, she encounters an uncharacteristically feral Stewart, whose amber eyes and increasingly-bestial manner suggest that, having previously been bitten by Will, he has also begun the werewolf transformation. Laura fends off Stewart's sexual advances and hurries back to the Alden estate, now convinced of Will's innocence and intent on leaving the country with him.

Stewart follows Laura back to her father's estate, where he surprises and kills two security guards. A brief struggle in the barn ensues. Stewart tries to rape Laura, but Will intervenes, tearing off Alezais' amulet, escaping his stable cell, and giving into the full-moon transformation. Both werewolves are brutally injured in the fight. Will eventually gains the upper hand over his opponent. Stewart tries to back stab him with a set of hedge-clippers, but Laura picks up a dead guard's revolver and shoots him dead. Will, now quite lupine, shares a wordless moment with Laura before running into the forest.

Later that same evening, Laura is debriefed by police on the scene, and feigns horrified surprise. Both the Aldens reconcile. Detective Bridger opines that Will was "too tame" to make a good match for Laura, and is unnerved when Laura invites him in for a vodka tonic and notes that he has already had one this evening, and that she "can smell it a mile away." The final scene is a close-up of Laura's face who is now amber-eyed. It then transitions into Will howling at the moon as he completes his final metamorphosis into a full werewolf and then back to Laura where the screen fades out to her glowing no-longer-human gaze.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Mia Farrow was an early contender for the role of Charlotte Randall, but was apparently considered too controversial a choice by the film company due to the then-current Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn affair.[2]

Sharon Stone turned down the role of Laura Alden, eventually played by Michelle Pfeiffer.[2]

The film's release was delayed for six to eight months, in order to reshoot the poorly received ending.[2]

Reaction[edit]

Box office[edit]

Wolf grossed $65 million domestically and $66 million internationally, for a total of $131 million worldwide.[1]

Critical response[edit]

Wolf holds a score of 61% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 49 reviews.[3]

Janet Maslin in the New York Times wrote:[4] "So long as it stays confined to the level of metaphor, as it does in the first hour of Wolf, this idea really is irresistible. And Mike Nichols's own killer instincts as an urbane social satirist are ideally suited to this milieu... Only later, when the wolf motif is allowed to become literal, does Wolf sink its paws into deep quicksand... Mr. Nicholson, who actually totes a briefcase for this role and gives one of his subtlest performances in recent years, is well suited to the conversational savagery that marks Wolf at its best... Unlike Francis Ford Coppola, who revealed a surprising enthusiasm for horrific vampire tricks in Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mr. Nichols shows no great gusto for the supernatural... there are admirable performances from Mr. Spader, still turning the business of being despicable into a fine art, and Kate Nelligan, as Will's deceptively brisk and efficient wife... Ms. Pfeiffer's role is underwritten, but her performance is expert enough to make even diffidence compelling. Mr. Plummer, as he should, radiates a self-satisfaction so great it actually seems carnivorous."

Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times wrote:[5] "Wolf is both more and less than a traditional werewolf movie. Less, because it doesn't provide the frankly vulgar thrills and excesses some audience members are going to be hoping for. And more, because Nicholson and his director, Mike Nichols, are halfway serious about exploring what might happen if a New York book editor did become a werewolf... The tone of the movie is steadfastly smart and literate; even in the midst of his transformation, the Nicholson character is capable of sardonic asides and a certain ironic detachment... What is a little amazing is that this movie allegedly cost $70 million. It is impossible to figure where the money all went, even given the no-doubt substantial above-the-line salaries. The special effects are efficient but not sensational, the makeup by Rick Baker is convincing but wisely limited, and the movie looks great, but that doesn't cost a lot of money. What emerges is an effective attempt to place a werewolf story in an incongruous setting, with the closely observed details of that setting used to make the story seem more believable."

Hal Hinson in the Washington Post wrote:[6] "In its own delightfully peculiar way, the film is the only one of its kind ever made - a horror film about office politics... The movie isn't wholly great; it starts to unravel just after the midway point. Still, there are charms enough all the way through to make it the most seductive, most enjoyable film of the summer... The main attraction, though, is Nicholson - first, last and always - and it's his modulated suavity and wit that make the film so sublimely entertaining... Though Randall becomes more formidable as the movie progresses, Nicholson sustains his low-key, self-effacing style, and somehow the more he keeps his natural dynamism in check, the more his charisma increases... As the world-weary Laura, Pfeiffer doesn't have nearly as much to work with, and so, ultimately, she lends more of her beauty than she does her talent. But with beauty like hers it would seem churlish to complain. Even so, she does bring a ring of true emotion to this bad girl's jaded snarl. Chemistry between the two stars is essential here, and Pfeiffer makes us believe in this improbable love affair. It's Pfeiffer's combination of compassion and terror that carries the last section of the film and gives it class."

Peter Travers in Rolling Stone wrote:[7] "The writer and director are an odd coupling. Harrison, the Michigan poet and novelist (Legends of the Fall), hunts his dinner. Nichols, the urban sophisticate (The Graduate, Working Girl), dines out... No one puts more wicked zest into playing yuppie scum than the gifted Spader - he's a roguish delight... Nichols is a master of the telling detail, and his vision of the New York publishing world as an urban jungle is elegantly stylized and bitingly funny... Nicholson is amazing, finding humor and poignancy in a role that could have slid into caricature. His scenes with Pfeiffer, who gives a luminous performance, have a welcome edge, aided by some uncredited scripting from Nichols' former comedy partner Elaine May... a rapturous romantic thriller with a darkly comic subtext about what kills human values."

Desson Howe in the Washington Post wrote:[8] "The movie - a reunion of Carnal Knowledge alums Nicholson, director Mike Nichols and cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno - works beautifully when it's rooted in reality, when the Werewolf Thing functions as a multiple metaphor for unleashed-id sexuality and the law of the corporate jungle. It's the underlying threat of Nicholson's transformation that provides the atmosphere. What happens thereafter is best left unrevealed. There are no prizes for guessing that the moon will loom large in Nicholson's life, or that special make-up superstar Rick Baker (who did the hairy-man stuff for An American Werewolf in London) was hired for a reason. Unfortunately, as Nicholson loses his Darwinian foothold in life, the movie takes a backslide too... Pfeiffer's presence seems more the result of agent negotiation than organic storytelling; her character is semi-believable at best - a frigid princess, misunderstood by everyone but instantly amenable to Nicholson partly because there's schizophrenia in her family. Nelligan, Nicholson's wife, has a surprise development (no, she doesn't turn into a werewolf) that's nothing more than plot-convenient. Spader is creepily effective as the ladder-climbing opportunist. He ought to be the poster boy for that T-shirt slogan "Die Yuppie Scum." As for Jack, nobody does it better... Nichols has allowed Wolf to evolve from a well-mounted, supernatural drama to goofy camp."

Todd McCarthy in Variety wrote:[9] "The studio must convince the horror/special-effects crowd to attend a Jack Nicholson / Michelle Pfeiffer / Mike Nichols picture and persuade the film-makers' fans to see a genre pic... But no matter how snazzy the trappings, when you get down to it, this is still, at heart, a werewolf picture... Nicholson begins his performance in a low key and cranks it up only by degrees... By contrast, Pfeiffer's Laura comes across as very hard and brittle. It's not a rewarding role and, given the grandly romantic goal the film fails to achieve, her character needs more shading and generosity of heart. Spader is back playing the sort of loathsome yuppie he excelled at earlier in his career... Nelligan has little to do as the unfaithful wife... Eileen Atkins and David Hyde Pierce as Will's loyal publishing underlings, are dead perfect."

Time Out wrote:[10] "Quite frankly, it's hard to fathom why exactly anyone would have wanted to make this slick, glossy, but utterly redundant werewolf movie... Overall, this is needlessly polished nonsense: not awful; just toothless, gutless and bloodless."

Awards and nominations[edit]

Wolf won a Saturn Award for Best Writing for Jim Harrison and Wesley Strick's screenplay, and it was nominated for a further 5 Saturn Awards, in the categories of Best Horror Film, Best Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer), Best Supporting Actor (James Spader) and Best Make-up (Rick Baker).

Ennio Morricone was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television.

Awarding Body Award Nominee Result
Grammy Awards Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or Television Ennio Morricone nomination
Saturn Awards Best Horror Film nomination
Best Actor Jack Nicholson nomination
Best Actress Michelle Pfeiffer nomination
Best Supporting Actor James Spader nomination
Best Writing Jim Harrison, Wesley Strick winner
Best Make-up Rick Baker nomination

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Wolf (1994)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved January 2, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Wolf (1994) - Trivia". imdb.com. Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  3. ^ Wolf at Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on 2009-10-09.
  4. ^ Maslin, Janet (June 17, 1994). "Movie Review - Wolf - Review/Film; Wolf Bites Man, Man Sheds His Civilized Coat". movies.nytimes.com. 
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 17, 1994). "Wolf :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". rogerebert.suntimes.com. 
  6. ^ Hinson, Hal (June 17, 1994). "'Wolf' (R)". washingtonpost.com. 
  7. ^ Travers, Peter (July 14, 1994). "Wolf : Review : Rolling Stone". rollingstone.com. 
  8. ^ Howe, Desson (June 17, 1994). "'Wolf' (R)". washingtonpost.com. 
  9. ^ McCarthy, Todd (June 13, 1994). "Wolf Review". variety.com. 
  10. ^ "Wolf Review. Movie Reviews - Film - Time Out London". timeout.com. Retrieved 2009-11-19. 

External links[edit]