Tony's uncontrollable temper needs to be stopped. This leads him into the hands of a devious doctor out to make a name for himself. Dr. Brandon decides to use Tony for an experiment and gives his patient a shot that regresses him so far back in time that he turns into a werewolf. But Tony has plans of his own. "I Was A Teenage Werewolf" was a good 1950's science fiction film that did really well at the box office.
The Oct./Dec. 2007 issue of Filmfax Plus magazine celebrates the 50th Anniversary of "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" with articles, pictures and interviews with Cindy Robbins, Kenny Miller, Dawn Richard, Yvonne Lime and Michael Rougas.
Tony, the teenage werewolf...Michael Landon
Arlene, Tony's girlfriend...Yvonne Lime
The devious Dr. Alfred Brandon...Whit Bissell
Detective Donovan...Barney Phillips
Vic, bongo player at party...Ken Miller
Chief Baker...Robert Griffin
Tony Rivers the teenage werewolf (Michael Landon), Dr. Alfred Brandon (Whit Bissell)
American International Pictures was an independent company and rented studio space whenever and wherever possible. The interiors of "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" were shot at Goldwyn Studios on Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood (now West Hollywood). The opening scene in the movie was shot behind the studio in a small park area. Most of the exterior scenes were shot around the Hollywood area - mostly on the streets. My death scene was shot in Griffith Park in Hollywood (more on that later). The death of the girl in the gym was shot in a school near Goldwyn Studios.
About my death scene in the woods...as originally shot, we see Michael (dressed in drag) in werewolf make-up - chasing me through the woods and forcing me up against a tree, screaming....fade out. The following day (the last day of shooting) we met to shoot the final club house scene - the scene ends with my leaving and take a short cut through the woods to go home. Michael saw the earlier rushes and told me he thought I was great...I had my doubts. When the producer, Herman Cohen, came on the set that final day of shooting I asked how the death scene went. He didn't answer and he walked away. An iceberg would have been a better friend. Later he called me into his office and told me they had to shoot the scene over. I thought it was my fault, that I had screwed up, and he told me that wasn't the case at all. He reminded me that when he hired me he told me that the death scene would be a solo bit. The scene would be all mine....the camera was to be the werewolf, following me though the woods, causing me to react to the camera as if it was the beast and then the camera closing in for the kill as I backed away screaming and pleading into a slow fade out. That is not the way it was originally shot and I'm glad I had a second chance because I think the scene plays better. Michael Landon was not there for the final shoot and he didn't see it until we had a sneak preview in Pomona or West Covina or somewhere around that area, and when he saw the movie he told me how much he loved my death scene - and the truth is he became a fan of mine. I was very flattered. The movie was scheduled to be shot in 8 days and went over budget when they had to reshoot the death scene. But the picture was an enormous success at the box office. It cost $300,000 to shoot and I'm told it took in over a million at the box office.
I saw Michael a few times after the sneak preview. I stopped by his house in Los Feliz. He worked out with his weights and did push ups and we talked for hours about our dreams and ambitions. I had finished touring in "Desk Set" with Shirley Booth and I was anxious to get back to my roots in New York City. I flew back and forth from L.A. to N.Y. more times than I can remember, but we would always manage to catch up with each other.. Eventually big things began to happen for him and we lost touch with each other. I remember feeling very happy for Michael and his enormous success.
Many years later I was touring with another play and when it closed and with no immediate plans I decided I would move to San Francisco. I played 2 months in San Francisco before getting the "I Was A Teenage Werewolf" job, and always felt I'd like to live there. And that's what I did for a year. Restless and without a rudder I found myself back in Hollywood. I got a job at Palm Restaurant, it had just opened and was an enormous success. Stars, producers, agents and directors were clamoring to get in, and I was in the thick of it. One night a waiter mentioned how well Michael Landon looked. I saw where he was sitting, and when I saw it would not be intrusive I went up and said hello. (This is no lie.) Michael jumped up and said where have you been? I've been thinking about you. I didn't go into any details, I know better than to go into details with dining guests. I excused myself and went to the back of the restaurant and sat and had a cup of coffee. In a short while Michael saw me sitting alone and came over and sat with me. He asked me what was going on? and I said what you see is what it is. He said if I wanted to get back in the business I should call him at his office at Paramount Studios. A few days later I called and his secretary said that Michael would get back to me. Within a week Michael had cast me in a 90 minute opening season special of "Little House on the Prairie". It was a very good part and I got very good billing. I was flown up to the location in a private plane and worked for 5 days. Michael was generous and kind. I have never known anyone who was as thoughtful and caring as he was. I started working again. A couple of years later I was working on "General Hospital" and an actor told me he was working with Michael on "Highway to Heaven". I asked where they were shooting and he told me. I drove out to Culver City hoping I could catch his eye. When the opportunity allowed I approached him and asked if he could get me a days work so that I could continue to cover my pension and welfare benefits. He came through and again was generous. When I got through with the scene he asked would that cover me, I said yes, and thanked him. He said we'll do it again. I personally believe that Michael was feeling the early signs of his illness. That was the last time I saw Michael..
This is the story of the first break in Hollywood for Michael Landon which opened the gates to his enormous success.
Michael Landon, anxious to get started in Hollywood and wanting to showcase his talent, hung around the Players Ring, which was a 99 seat theatre and showcased undiscovered actors. The popular play "Tea and Sympathy" had just begun rehearsals. Also unknown at the time, Dennis Hopper, had the lead role. Word was that Dennis felt unsure of himself and left rehearsals. Michael Landon was offered the part. He opened the play, got excellent reviews and the attention of top casting directors. The professional life of Michael Landon was born.
This happened in 1956. That was the year I moved from New York to Hollywood. I was cast in the road company of "Desk Set" with Shirley Booth. I didn't meet Michael until February of 1957.
The Players Ring is no longer there. They rebuilt a new 99 seat theatre which is now called Coast Playhouse. It's still a showcase for actors and writers.
There is an interview with Michael Rougas in the Filmfax Plus magazine, the Oct./Dec. 2007 issue.
"I Was A Teenage Werewolf" is available on VHS at amazon.com
According to this page on amazon.com, "I Was A Teenage Werewolf" is not on DVD yet. (accessed 10/30/09)
Michael Landon's real life story is told in "Michael Landon: Memories With Laughter And Love". It's on the season 1 DVD set of "Highway To Heaven", that is available from amazon.com.