The film “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” produced by Herman Cohen was released at the height of an interesting point of American history known as the Cold War in 1957. In the Cold War, there was a lot of anxieties and fears towards not only the growing Soviet Union of Russia but also the expansion of communism. These anxieties and fears played a big role in the state of mental health among many of the American people and many historically notorious treatments were prevalent such as lobotomies and electroshock therapy which were both very harsh treatment options for mental illness. On top of this, there were many mentally unstable soldiers following the aftermath of World War II. In 1955, the amount of mentally patients actually peaked in number which only led to the quality of care for these mentally ill patients to decline. Another important piece of context historically was the introduction and invention of anti-psychotic drugs in the 50’s as well that also began to treat anxiety and depression and control the symptoms of many people.
This is all relates quite interestingly to the main character in the film “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” as following his fight in the first scene and his display of aggression and stubbornness to Detective Donovan, the police officer brings up his record of aggression and his several recent fights, including a scuffle in the supermarket with a clerk. Donovan eventually states to Tony Rivers, “You need help,” and tries to refer Tony to a psychologist named Dr. Brandon who ultimately is responsible for turning Tony into a werewolf. The interesting part is that Tony’s condition worsens after seeing the psychologist and receiving so called treatment serums, which could reflect the idea that mental health treatment wasn’t very great in the 50’s and that some were often left more monstrous than before.
This relationship between mental instability and the werewolf character can also be seen in the Slovakian folk tale of “The Werewolves Daughter” in which the main character—the werewolf—tries to entice all of his daughters into a pit for slaughter. This main motivation of the story reveals mental instability again in the werewolf figure as well as common traits such as aggression and taste for killing that could also be seen in Tony’s character in the film.
In Class Resources:
I Was a Teenage Werewolf. Dir. Gene Fouler Jr. Sunset Productions, 1957. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
A Folktale From Slovakia. The Werewolf's Daughter. Ed. D. L. Ashliman. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.
Brown, Reynold. "I Was a Teenage Werewolf Movie Poster." Wikipedia. American International Pictures. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Was_a_Teenage_Werewolf#/media/File:I_Was_A_Teenage_Werewolf-poster.jpg
I Was a Teenage Werewolf. Digital image. RedTree Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2017. <https://redtreetimes.com/2010/10/31/i-was-a-teenage-werewolf/>.