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Wolfen, starring Albert Finney, Diane Venora, Gregory Hines, Edward James Olmos

Synopsis of Wolfen

In Wolfen, a real estate tycoon, his coke-binging wife and a slum wino have something grisly in common.  They’re the latest victims in a series of random murders. A veteran NYPD detective soon suspects the killings may be supernatural and deliberate: ages-old beings of cunning intelligence and incredible power, defending their turf from the encroachments of humankind.

Review of Wolfen

Wolfen is a different kind of werewolf movie – not bad, but different. Some positives include good acting by soon-to-be-discovered actors (Gregory Hines does a very good performance as the police CSI). The werewolves in the film are, in fact, actual wolves. This isn’t unique, but it’s very different from the traditional Hollywood treatment.

One thing that I didn’t like is the heavy-handed, political correctness of the movie. It’s as though the beleaguered villains are justified in cold-blooded murder, because of how their ancestors were treated. Because cold-blooded murder of winos and other “forgotten people” is totally justified.

I rate Wolfen at 2.5 stars out of 5 – not great, but not terrible either.

Cast of characters in Wolfen

  • Dewey Wilson (Albert FinneyAmazing Grace).  The New York City detective, investigating murders. By wolves, in the city.  But there’s something wrong here …
  • Whittington (Gregory HinesThe Cotton Club).  The CSI helping to investigate the murders.  A likable young man, who comes to an unhappy ending.
  • Eddie Holt (Edward James OlmosBlade Runner).  A Native American, one of the suspects in the murder – who couldn’t have humanly done it.

Editorial review of Wolfen courtesy of

Wolfen is definitely the oddest and most socially conscious of the three big werewolf movies released in 1981 (the others were The Howling and An American Werewolf in London). Rumpled detective Albert Finney is investigating some brutal NYC murders, which leads him to discover that the collapsing buildings of the South Bronx are home to a pack of very vindictive wolflike creatures. American Indian mythology and environmental issues are more to the point here than silver-bullet lycanthropy. As a police procedural, the movie’s a bust, its rhythms wrong and Finney’s tortured Brooklyn accent unconvincing. But as a horror-mood piece, it can get under your skin. Some trippy photography, plus a bunch of interesting actors at the beginnings of their film careers (Diane Venora, Gregory Hines, and a lean and hungry Edward James Olmos), outweigh the druggy pace and period hairstyles. Director Michael Wadleigh (Woodstock) never made another feature. –Robert Horton

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