It must be plenty darn difficult to create a credible werewolf movie. Though he is without doubt one of film and folklore's truly fascinating creations, we're hard pressed to cite more than a few really fine werewolf movies. Here are ten shaggy sagas that nevertheless make the cut:

Honorable mention: An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Makeup ace Rick Baker won an Academy Award for the startling special effects featured in this film. Like Joe Dante, director John Landis' film also serves as a partial tribute to past horror films. Though it contains several markedly frightening moments, Landis' sardonic approach is none too subtle and the movie's comedic elements may leave purists cold.

10. Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
An interesting counterpart to the thoroughly American "Hollywood" Werewolf, this Technicolor Hammer horror-fest features brooding Oliver Reed as the stricken lad who fears the full moon. Opulent sets, creepy makeup and bosomy women, Hammer trademarks all, don't save the film from being overtly morbid and rather dull.

9. Return of the Vampire (1943)
This wartime oddity from Columbia features Lugosi in full Dracula regalia as Armand Tesla, a vampire revived during the London blitz when Nazi bombs disturb his tomb. His hairy henchman is a werewolf played with extra pathos by Matt Willis. The actor seems determined to milk lycanthropy for even more sympathy than Lon Chaney was able to evince as Larry Talbot. Sadly, he's betrayed by makeup that comes off a tad comedic.

8. The Howling (1981)
Joe Dante's breakthrough thriller functions as both good scary fun and as a tribute to the films Dante himself grew up on. Packed with a gaggle of cameos by B film notables (Ken Tobey, Forry Ackerman, Dick Miller, Roger Corman), even the characters are named for figures from horror film history. The transformation scenes are among the most convincing ever shot, and most of the shock scenes are vividly effective.

7. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Terrific cornball fun. This queer blend of horror and flat-out burlesque works in spite of itself. The monsters, particularly The Wolf Man, are ridiculed relentlessly without diluting their scariness. The effects vary from marginal to weak, but heck, it's Abbott and Costello.

6. Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943)
The first film in Universal's venerable series to earnestly exploit the werewolf's bipolar predicament for sympathy. In subsequent films (House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula), it is Lawrence Talbot's desperate search for a cure that initiates the action. As directed by Roy William Neill, Lugosi is rather distracting as the monster, and Chaney's misery is strained but passable.

5. Werewolf of London (1935)
For years, this film was overshadowed by Universal's other, more full-blooded thrillers but it undoubtedly holds its fair share of chills. Henry Hull as the tormented werewolf is a leading man not to everyone's taste, but his hairy metamorphosis is handled cleverly and maybe a little too subtly for contemporary audiences.

4. The Undying Monster (1942)
Director John Brahm (The Lodger, Hangover Square) demonstrates his undeniable flair for the fantastic with this, arguably his best film. Misty shots of a loping man-wolf and the shrouded confines of a family crypt are standout sequences. Inspector James Ellison seeks to determine whether Fox matinee player John Howard has fallen heir to his family's lycanthropic curse. Underrated and well worth seeking out.

3. The Werewolf (1956)
Few remember this threadbare film, but many of those who caught it at an impressionable age have never forgotten it. An uneasy mix of 50s sci fi and traditional horror elements, this dubious gem packs one or two scenes of genuine fright into its abbreviated running time.

2. The Wolf Man (1941)
Lon Chaney Jr. came into his own as the hulking, haunted heir to Talbot Castle. Nibbled by gypsy werewolf Bela Lugosi, he's also heir to the horrific curse of the lycanthrope. This remains one of the more influential films of Universal's horror heyday. Chaney, who later played Dracula, The Mummy and Frankenstein's monster, made this role, originally intended for Karloff, unmistakably his own.

1. I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957)
Undoubtedly the best-remembered film of Herman Cohen's prodigious output (Teenage Frankenstein, Horrors of the Black Museum, Blood of Dracula, Trog), it also qualifies as one of the most-parodied of all film titles. Scenery-munching Michael Landon is remarkably effective as the snaggle-toothed teen, hypnotized into his hirsute state by malevolent doctor Whit Bissell, who is terrific as usual. Dig the hopelessly out-of-sync song warbled by Kenny Miller at the local kid's Halloween soiree.

And the worst werewolf films?

Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory (1961)
A truncated version of this oddball Euro-fright flick was once a late-night TV staple. A muddled Italian-Austrian co-production, it details the sobering story of a girl's school headmaster who is, in reality, the slobbering werewolf of the film's title. Of special note is the swingin' teen theme "Ghoul in School."

Or ...

Any of those broadly acted, terminally mordant Spanish horror productions starring Euro-schlock star Paul Naschy. Possessing all the atmosphere of a boardwalk spook house, the dubbed, echo-laden audio of these films -- like incompetent rockabilly recordings -- renders them nearly indecipherable. They nevertheless maintain a devoted following.

"The fiend that walks lovers' beach!"
Monster of Piedras Blancas

"Not since Eve gave the apple to Adam has the world seen such sin!"
The Devil's Messenger

"A mad surgeon's mind in a woman's body!"
Lady Frankenstein

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