Tales of human-wolf transformations have frightened people for centuries. As with many other folktales and legends, it didn’t take long for werewolf stories to be adapted for the screen. Lon Chaney Jr. famously played the title character in the classic Universal horror film The Wolf Man. Though he starred in many other things, including a number of TV Westerns, Chaney will forever be tied to his iconic werewolf role.
But what about actors who donned a furry face and fangs onscreen in far more obscure projects? Here are seven recognizable actors from TV and film who you may not know played werewolves at one point in their careers.
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More than a decade before playing the AI holographic doctor in Star Trek: Voyager, Robert Picardo made his feature film debut in the creepy 1981 horror film The Howling. The werewolf flick was directed by Joe Dante, who would go on to make Eighties favorites Gremlins, Explorers and The ’Burbs. Picardo plays a serial killer with a dark secret who terrorizes a reporter in a small town. The movie boasts great scares, unique werewolf makeup design and a supporting cast featuring character actor legends John Carradine and Slim Pickens.
Adam Arkin has guest starred in everything from Happy Days to Monk and played reclusive chef, Adam, in Northern Exposure. More than two decades after I Was a Teenage Werewolf but four years before Teen Wolf, Arkin starred in Full Moon High. The early Eighties horror comedy about a high school football player who undergoes an animalistic transformation doesn’t quite land despite a great cast including tonight show sidekick Ed McMahon, Adam’s dad Alan Arkin and Roz “Pinky Tuscadero” Kelly.
Two years before his breakout role as Little Joe Cartwright in Bonanza, Michael Landon played rebellious teen Tony Rivers in I Was a Teenage Werewolf. Interestingly, Tony sprouts hair and fangs after experimental treatment from an evil doctor, not from the bite of another werewolf. Despite the cheesy high school setting, the raving creature is definitely creepy. Landon later poked fun at this early role in his Eighties series Highway to Heaven with the episode “I Was a Middle-Aged Werewolf.”
The award for scariest human-wolf transformation goes to Chuck Connors for his horrifying portrayal of Janos Skorzeny in the short-lived 1987 show Werewolf. Best known as loving father Lucas McCain in The Rifleman, Captain Skorzeny is a long way from North Fork. The show only lasted one season but remains a cult favorite.
Gunsmoke fans know him as friendly bartender Sam Noonan but Glenn Strange had many horror roles as well. He played Frankenstein’s monster multiple times, including opposite Abbot and Costello. In the 1942 flick The Mad Monster, Strange plays a handyman who becomes a ferocious beast after his mad scientist employer conducts experiments on him.
Anyone who has seen the 1946 film She-Wolf of London knows the title is a bit of an overstatement, but to reveal anything more would spoil the movie’s twists. June Lockhart plays heiress Phyllis Allenby who fears she has fallen under her family’s storied werewolf curse. Several gruesome murders occur nearby and she wakes up with blood on her hands. This lesser-known Universal horror offering plays more like a psychological thriller than anything truly scary.
Fans know John Rhys-Davies for his roles in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but a few years after working with Harrison Ford in Egypt, Rhys-Davies starred in the cult gem Waxwork. He plays a werewolf in a wax exhibit that comes to life. Or at least an exhibit that teleports unsuspecting visitors into another dimension. Or is it all imaginary? The plot may not make a lot of sense, but what is clear is that this funny and scary film should make any cult movie fan’s watch list.