Full Moon High


1h 33m 1981
Full Moon High

Brief Synopsis

A teen becomes a werewolf after a family vacation in Transylvania.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
PG
Genre
Comedy
Horror
Release Date
1981

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m

Synopsis

A teen becomes a werewolf after a family vacation in Transylvania.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
PG
Genre
Comedy
Horror
Release Date
1981

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m

Articles

Full Moon High


Humor was always integral to the crime, horror, and science fiction films of Larry Cohen but it took the maverick independent writer-director-producer nearly a decade to make his first all-out comedy. Completed prior to the early 80s boom in lycanthrope movies typified by The Howling (1981), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Wolfen (1981), and Teen Wolf (1985), Cohen's Full Moon High (1981) had been shot in 1979 but was shelved due to the financial woes of its distributor, Filmways Inc. (In 1983, Filmways was acquired by Orion Pictures.) Released in October of 1981, months after those other films had redefined the werewolf movie, Full Moon High looked less to the undiscriminating moviegoer like a contender and more like a pretender.

Reassessed at the distance of more than thirty years, and within the context of his other motion pictures, Full Moon High can be seen to further Cohen's examinations of the American family in extremis. The former television writer's feature film debut as a writer-director, Bone (1972), had focused with blackly comic acuity on the tensions boiling within the crucible of the middle class American marriage, while his 1974 monster-on-the-loose movie It's Alive and its first sequel, It Lives Again (1978), spoke to the anxiety of parents as to the destructive potential of their offspring. As had Cohen's 1973 Blaxploitation two-fer Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem, Full Moon High is, in its own satirical way, about the complicated (to put it mildly) codependency of fathers and their sons, with the legacy of the past impinging on the future satirized in the curse of the werewolf.

Superficially akin to the drive-in classic I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), Full Moon High stars Adam Arkin as an Eisenhower era teen who, on a trip behind the Iron Curtain in 1958 with his government agent father (Ed McMahon, taking a breather from his standing gig as a sideman for late night talk show host Johnny Carson), is bitten by a werewolf - which renders him not only accursed in the Lon Chaney, Jr. tradition but immortal to boot. Steering clear of his hometown for twenty years, the ageless Arkin elects at last to return to his alma mater in the guise of the son he never had, and to conceal his monstrousness from former classmates who have matured into the town fathers. Cohen scored a casting coup in retaining the services of his leading man's real life father, Alan Arkin, as an abusive psychotherapist (Arkin had played Sigmund Freud only a few years earlier in Nicholas Meyer's The Seven Percent Solution, 1976) who is part Werner Erhard, part Don Rickles.

By the time that Teen Wolf rolled into the cineplex as an economic cash-in on the rising stardom of Michael J. Fox post-Back to the Future (1985), not enough people had seen Full Moon High to complain that it had stolen not only Larry Cohen's thunder but a number of his plot points as well. True to character, Cohen never looked back and plunged forward with one of his best efforts, Q: The Winged Serpent (1982), a smart send up of The Giant Claw (1957) and other monster-takes-Manhattan movies in which an ancient Aztec deity bedevils the NYPD and various roof-dwelling urbanites from its base of operations (a giant nest) in the Chrysler Building. Critical opinion, even among genre aficionados, remains divided on the merits of Full Moon High but Larry Cohen fans will find much to chew on as he reworks some of his pet themes in a loosely comic, borderline improvisational fashion.

A footnote to Cohen's overall career, Full Moon High remains of interest to classic film fans for offering the last on-camera appearance of Academy Award nominee Elizabeth Hartman. The fair-skinned, red-headed, and surpassingly delicate leading lady of Sidney Poitier in A Patch of Blue (1965), Alan Bates and Dirk Bogarde in The Fixer (1968) and Clint Eastwood in The Beguiled (1971) would provide vocal work for Don Bluth's The Secret of NIMH (1982) before worsening depression, a failed marriage, and a precipitous decline in the demand for her work as an actor drove Hartman to jump to her death from a window of her Pittsburgh high rise apartment in June 1987.

By Richard Harland Smith

Sources:

Larry Cohen interview by Andrea June and V. Vale, RE/Search: Incredibly Strange Films, no. 10 (RE/Search Publications, 1987)
Larry Cohen profile by Dennis Fisher, Horror Film Directors, 1931-1990 (McFarland & Co., Publishers, 1991)
"The Short Life of Elizabeth Hartman: Instant Stardom in 'A Patch of Blue,' Then Unemployment, Then Suicide," by Sandra Hansen Konte, Los Angeles Times, November 22, 1987
Full Moon High

Full Moon High

Humor was always integral to the crime, horror, and science fiction films of Larry Cohen but it took the maverick independent writer-director-producer nearly a decade to make his first all-out comedy. Completed prior to the early 80s boom in lycanthrope movies typified by The Howling (1981), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Wolfen (1981), and Teen Wolf (1985), Cohen's Full Moon High (1981) had been shot in 1979 but was shelved due to the financial woes of its distributor, Filmways Inc. (In 1983, Filmways was acquired by Orion Pictures.) Released in October of 1981, months after those other films had redefined the werewolf movie, Full Moon High looked less to the undiscriminating moviegoer like a contender and more like a pretender. Reassessed at the distance of more than thirty years, and within the context of his other motion pictures, Full Moon High can be seen to further Cohen's examinations of the American family in extremis. The former television writer's feature film debut as a writer-director, Bone (1972), had focused with blackly comic acuity on the tensions boiling within the crucible of the middle class American marriage, while his 1974 monster-on-the-loose movie It's Alive and its first sequel, It Lives Again (1978), spoke to the anxiety of parents as to the destructive potential of their offspring. As had Cohen's 1973 Blaxploitation two-fer Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem, Full Moon High is, in its own satirical way, about the complicated (to put it mildly) codependency of fathers and their sons, with the legacy of the past impinging on the future satirized in the curse of the werewolf. Superficially akin to the drive-in classic I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), Full Moon High stars Adam Arkin as an Eisenhower era teen who, on a trip behind the Iron Curtain in 1958 with his government agent father (Ed McMahon, taking a breather from his standing gig as a sideman for late night talk show host Johnny Carson), is bitten by a werewolf - which renders him not only accursed in the Lon Chaney, Jr. tradition but immortal to boot. Steering clear of his hometown for twenty years, the ageless Arkin elects at last to return to his alma mater in the guise of the son he never had, and to conceal his monstrousness from former classmates who have matured into the town fathers. Cohen scored a casting coup in retaining the services of his leading man's real life father, Alan Arkin, as an abusive psychotherapist (Arkin had played Sigmund Freud only a few years earlier in Nicholas Meyer's The Seven Percent Solution, 1976) who is part Werner Erhard, part Don Rickles. By the time that Teen Wolf rolled into the cineplex as an economic cash-in on the rising stardom of Michael J. Fox post-Back to the Future (1985), not enough people had seen Full Moon High to complain that it had stolen not only Larry Cohen's thunder but a number of his plot points as well. True to character, Cohen never looked back and plunged forward with one of his best efforts, Q: The Winged Serpent (1982), a smart send up of The Giant Claw (1957) and other monster-takes-Manhattan movies in which an ancient Aztec deity bedevils the NYPD and various roof-dwelling urbanites from its base of operations (a giant nest) in the Chrysler Building. Critical opinion, even among genre aficionados, remains divided on the merits of Full Moon High but Larry Cohen fans will find much to chew on as he reworks some of his pet themes in a loosely comic, borderline improvisational fashion. A footnote to Cohen's overall career, Full Moon High remains of interest to classic film fans for offering the last on-camera appearance of Academy Award nominee Elizabeth Hartman. The fair-skinned, red-headed, and surpassingly delicate leading lady of Sidney Poitier in A Patch of Blue (1965), Alan Bates and Dirk Bogarde in The Fixer (1968) and Clint Eastwood in The Beguiled (1971) would provide vocal work for Don Bluth's The Secret of NIMH (1982) before worsening depression, a failed marriage, and a precipitous decline in the demand for her work as an actor drove Hartman to jump to her death from a window of her Pittsburgh high rise apartment in June 1987. By Richard Harland Smith Sources: Larry Cohen interview by Andrea June and V. Vale, RE/Search: Incredibly Strange Films, no. 10 (RE/Search Publications, 1987) Larry Cohen profile by Dennis Fisher, Horror Film Directors, 1931-1990 (McFarland & Co., Publishers, 1991) "The Short Life of Elizabeth Hartman: Instant Stardom in 'A Patch of Blue,' Then Unemployment, Then Suicide," by Sandra Hansen Konte, Los Angeles Times, November 22, 1987

Pat Morita (1932-2005)


Pat Morita, the diminutive Asian-American actor who found lasting fame, and an Oscar® nomination, as Kesuke Miyagi, the janitor that teaches Ralph Macchio the fine art of karate in the hit film, The Karate Kid (1984), died on November 24 of natural causes in his Las Vegas home. He was 73.

He was born Noriyuki Morita on June 28, 1932 in Isleton, California. The son of migrant fruit pickers, he contracted spinal tuberculosis when he was two and spent the next nine years in a sanitarium run by Catholic priests near Sacramento. He was renamed Pat, and after several spinal surgical procedures and learning how to walk, the 11-year-old Morita was sent to an internment camp at Gila River, Arizona, joining his family and thousands of other Japanese-Americans who were shamefully imprisoned by the U.S. government after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

His family was released after the war, and Morita graduated from high school in Fairfield, California in 1950. He worked in his family's Chinese restaurant in Sacramento until his father was killed in a hit-and-run accident. He eventually found work as a data processor for the Department of Motor Vehicles and then Aerojet General Corporation before he decided to try his hand at stand-up comedy.

He relocated to San Francisco in 1962, where at first, there was some hesitation from clubs to book a Japanese-American comic, but Morita's enthusiasm soon warmed them over, and he was becoming something of a regional hit in all the Bay Area. His breakthrough came in 1964 when he was booked on ABC's The Hollywood Palace. The image of a small, unassuming Asian with the broad mannerisms and delivery of a modern American was something new in its day. He was a hit, and soon found more bookings on the show. And after he earned the nickname "the hip nip," he quickly began headlining clubs in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Morita's stage and television success eventually led him to films. He made his movie debut as "Oriental #2," the henchman to Beatrice Lilly in the Julie Andrew's musical Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). Although his role, complete with thick coke-bottle glasses and gaping overbite, was a little hard to watch, it was the best he could do at the time. Subsequent parts, as in Don Knott's dreadful The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968); and Bob Hope's lamentable final film Cancel My Reservations (1972); were simply variations of the same stereotype.

However, television was far kinder to Morita. After some popular guest appearances in the early '70s on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Morita landed some semi-regular work. First, as the wisecracking, cigar chomping Captain Sam Pack on M.A.S.H. and as Ah Chew, the deadpan neighbor of Fred and Lamont Sanford in Sanford & Son. His success in these roles led to his first regular gig, as Arnold Takahashi in Happy Days. His stint as the owner of the soda shop where Ritchie Cunningham and the Fonz hung out for endless hours may have been short lived (just two seasons 1974-76), but it was Morita's first successful stab at pop immortality.

He left Happy Days to star in his own show, the critically savaged culture clash sitcom Mr. T and Tina that was canceled after just five episodes. Despite that setback, Morita rebounded that same year with his first dramatic performance, and a fine one at that, when he portrayed a Japanese-American internment camp survivor in the moving made for television drama Farewell to Manzanar (1976). After a few more guest appearances on hit shows (Magnum P.I., The Love Boat etc.), Morita found the goldmine and added new life to his career when he took the role of Miyagi in The Karate Kid (1984). Playing opposite Ralph Macchio, the young man who becomes his martial arts pupil, Morita was both touching and wise, and the warm bond he created with Macchio during the course of the film really proved that he had some serious acting chops. The flick was the surprise box-office hit of 1984, and Morita's career, if briefly, opened up to new possibilities.

He scored two parts in television specials that were notable in that his race was never referenced: first as the horse in Alice in Wonderland (1985); and as the toymaster in Babes in Toyland (1986). He also landed a detective show (with of course, comic undertones) that ran for two seasons Ohara (1987-89); nailed some funny lines in Honeymoon in Vegas (1992); was the sole saving grace of Gus Van Zandt's Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993); and starred in all of the sequels to The Karate Kid: The Karate Kid, Part II (1986), The Karate Kid, Part III (1989), and The Next Karate Kid (1994). Granted, it is arguable that Morita's career never truly blossomed out of the "wise old Asian man" caricature. But give the man his due, when it came to infusing such parts with sly wit and sheer charm, nobody did it better. Morita is survived by his wife, Evelyn; daughters, Erin, Aly and Tia; his brother, Harry, and two grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

Pat Morita (1932-2005)

Pat Morita, the diminutive Asian-American actor who found lasting fame, and an Oscar® nomination, as Kesuke Miyagi, the janitor that teaches Ralph Macchio the fine art of karate in the hit film, The Karate Kid (1984), died on November 24 of natural causes in his Las Vegas home. He was 73. He was born Noriyuki Morita on June 28, 1932 in Isleton, California. The son of migrant fruit pickers, he contracted spinal tuberculosis when he was two and spent the next nine years in a sanitarium run by Catholic priests near Sacramento. He was renamed Pat, and after several spinal surgical procedures and learning how to walk, the 11-year-old Morita was sent to an internment camp at Gila River, Arizona, joining his family and thousands of other Japanese-Americans who were shamefully imprisoned by the U.S. government after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. His family was released after the war, and Morita graduated from high school in Fairfield, California in 1950. He worked in his family's Chinese restaurant in Sacramento until his father was killed in a hit-and-run accident. He eventually found work as a data processor for the Department of Motor Vehicles and then Aerojet General Corporation before he decided to try his hand at stand-up comedy. He relocated to San Francisco in 1962, where at first, there was some hesitation from clubs to book a Japanese-American comic, but Morita's enthusiasm soon warmed them over, and he was becoming something of a regional hit in all the Bay Area. His breakthrough came in 1964 when he was booked on ABC's The Hollywood Palace. The image of a small, unassuming Asian with the broad mannerisms and delivery of a modern American was something new in its day. He was a hit, and soon found more bookings on the show. And after he earned the nickname "the hip nip," he quickly began headlining clubs in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Morita's stage and television success eventually led him to films. He made his movie debut as "Oriental #2," the henchman to Beatrice Lilly in the Julie Andrew's musical Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). Although his role, complete with thick coke-bottle glasses and gaping overbite, was a little hard to watch, it was the best he could do at the time. Subsequent parts, as in Don Knott's dreadful The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968); and Bob Hope's lamentable final film Cancel My Reservations (1972); were simply variations of the same stereotype. However, television was far kinder to Morita. After some popular guest appearances in the early '70s on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Morita landed some semi-regular work. First, as the wisecracking, cigar chomping Captain Sam Pack on M.A.S.H. and as Ah Chew, the deadpan neighbor of Fred and Lamont Sanford in Sanford & Son. His success in these roles led to his first regular gig, as Arnold Takahashi in Happy Days. His stint as the owner of the soda shop where Ritchie Cunningham and the Fonz hung out for endless hours may have been short lived (just two seasons 1974-76), but it was Morita's first successful stab at pop immortality. He left Happy Days to star in his own show, the critically savaged culture clash sitcom Mr. T and Tina that was canceled after just five episodes. Despite that setback, Morita rebounded that same year with his first dramatic performance, and a fine one at that, when he portrayed a Japanese-American internment camp survivor in the moving made for television drama Farewell to Manzanar (1976). After a few more guest appearances on hit shows (Magnum P.I., The Love Boat etc.), Morita found the goldmine and added new life to his career when he took the role of Miyagi in The Karate Kid (1984). Playing opposite Ralph Macchio, the young man who becomes his martial arts pupil, Morita was both touching and wise, and the warm bond he created with Macchio during the course of the film really proved that he had some serious acting chops. The flick was the surprise box-office hit of 1984, and Morita's career, if briefly, opened up to new possibilities. He scored two parts in television specials that were notable in that his race was never referenced: first as the horse in Alice in Wonderland (1985); and as the toymaster in Babes in Toyland (1986). He also landed a detective show (with of course, comic undertones) that ran for two seasons Ohara (1987-89); nailed some funny lines in Honeymoon in Vegas (1992); was the sole saving grace of Gus Van Zandt's Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993); and starred in all of the sequels to The Karate Kid: The Karate Kid, Part II (1986), The Karate Kid, Part III (1989), and The Next Karate Kid (1994). Granted, it is arguable that Morita's career never truly blossomed out of the "wise old Asian man" caricature. But give the man his due, when it came to infusing such parts with sly wit and sheer charm, nobody did it better. Morita is survived by his wife, Evelyn; daughters, Erin, Aly and Tia; his brother, Harry, and two grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Louis Nye (1913-2005)


"Hi-Ho, Steverino," was the catchphrase uttered by Gordon Hathaway, the fey, rich snob who greeted Steve Allen during the golden age of television. The man behind it all was Louis Nye, a fine character comedian who for the past 50 years had been a unique, lively presence in film and television. Sadly, Nye passed away on October 9 after a long battle with lung cancer at his Los Angeles home. He was 92.

Nye was born on May 1, 1913, in Hartford, Connecticut to Russian immigrants. He began his career in theater in his native Hartford before moving to New York City to break into radio. After a stint in the Army during World War II, Nye returned to find a new medium dawning, television. His start was inauspicious, just a few appearances on the Cavalcade of Stars, but little did he realize that when he was picked up for The Steve Allen Show in 1956 that he, along with other talented comedians like Don Knotts, Tom Poston and Bill Dana, were courting stardom. The program was one of the first sketch series to take off on television. It was justly celebrated for the wacky characterizations that the cast invented, and Nye's Gordon Hathaway was no exception. Sure, his take on the country club elite was a touch prissy and effete, but Nye injected Gordon with a raffish charm and child-like sensibilty that never made the character offensive. If anything, Gordon Hathaway was endearing.

His stint on Steve Allen opened up the movie offers, the first of which, the garish Mamie Van Doren vehicle Sex Kittens Go to College (1960), was not exactly a highpoint in cinema comedy, but he soon settled into some good supporting parts in a slew of films: The Facts of Life (1960), The Last Time I Saw Archie (his best film role, a terrrific comic foil for Robert Mitchum, 1961), The Wheeler Dealers, Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (both 1963), Good Neighbor Sam (another great part as an inept detective, 1964), and A Guide for the Married Man (1967).

Nye's career cooled in the '70s, with an occasional television appearance (Laverne & Shirley, Fantasy Island) and mediocre flicks (Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), Harper Valley P.T.A. (1978). Eventually, he found solace in voice work for many animated shows, the most popular of them being his long run on Inspector Gadget (1985-99). Still, just when you thought he was out of the limelight, he returned as a semi-regular in the critically acclaimed HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm where for two seasons (2000-2002), he was hilarious as comic Jeff Garlin's sardonic father. Give Mr. Nye his due, he left the stage near the top of his game. He is survived by his wife, Anita; and a son, Peter.

by Michael T. Toole

Louis Nye (1913-2005)

"Hi-Ho, Steverino," was the catchphrase uttered by Gordon Hathaway, the fey, rich snob who greeted Steve Allen during the golden age of television. The man behind it all was Louis Nye, a fine character comedian who for the past 50 years had been a unique, lively presence in film and television. Sadly, Nye passed away on October 9 after a long battle with lung cancer at his Los Angeles home. He was 92. Nye was born on May 1, 1913, in Hartford, Connecticut to Russian immigrants. He began his career in theater in his native Hartford before moving to New York City to break into radio. After a stint in the Army during World War II, Nye returned to find a new medium dawning, television. His start was inauspicious, just a few appearances on the Cavalcade of Stars, but little did he realize that when he was picked up for The Steve Allen Show in 1956 that he, along with other talented comedians like Don Knotts, Tom Poston and Bill Dana, were courting stardom. The program was one of the first sketch series to take off on television. It was justly celebrated for the wacky characterizations that the cast invented, and Nye's Gordon Hathaway was no exception. Sure, his take on the country club elite was a touch prissy and effete, but Nye injected Gordon with a raffish charm and child-like sensibilty that never made the character offensive. If anything, Gordon Hathaway was endearing. His stint on Steve Allen opened up the movie offers, the first of which, the garish Mamie Van Doren vehicle Sex Kittens Go to College (1960), was not exactly a highpoint in cinema comedy, but he soon settled into some good supporting parts in a slew of films: The Facts of Life (1960), The Last Time I Saw Archie (his best film role, a terrrific comic foil for Robert Mitchum, 1961), The Wheeler Dealers, Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (both 1963), Good Neighbor Sam (another great part as an inept detective, 1964), and A Guide for the Married Man (1967). Nye's career cooled in the '70s, with an occasional television appearance (Laverne & Shirley, Fantasy Island) and mediocre flicks (Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), Harper Valley P.T.A. (1978). Eventually, he found solace in voice work for many animated shows, the most popular of them being his long run on Inspector Gadget (1985-99). Still, just when you thought he was out of the limelight, he returned as a semi-regular in the critically acclaimed HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm where for two seasons (2000-2002), he was hilarious as comic Jeff Garlin's sardonic father. Give Mr. Nye his due, he left the stage near the top of his game. He is survived by his wife, Anita; and a son, Peter. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1981

Released in United States 1986

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1981

Formerly distributed by Stablecane Home Video.

Released in USA on video.

Released in United States 1981

Released in United States 1986 (New York City)

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1981