It drives me nuts when movies are known by several different titles! Take today’s movie, the 1987 entry in The Howling series. The Internet Movie Database lists the film as “Howling III.” Other sources refer to the film as “Howling III: The Marsupials,” yet the actual title screen calls the film “The Marsupials: Howling III.” While we’re at it, there’s probably folks out there who call it “Howling III: Electric Boogaloo,” and let’s not forget “Howling III based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” Geez, make up your minds already!
This PG-13 rated entry in the long running werewolf series has virtually nothing to do with the other films. It concerns a gorgeous young woman named Jerboa (Imogen Annesley) who lives in some sort of weird hippie commune in the small Australian outback town of Flow. Flow, you say? Odd name! But see when you spell it backwards it’s…ah yes! See that clever thing they did there? You seem unimpressed…oh well. Jerboa decides that she’s had enough of this Manson Family down under and their leader, Mr. Clean impersonator Thylo (Max Fairchild), so she hops a bus for Sydney.
After just one night of sleeping on a park bench, Jerboa is spotted by Donny (Leigh Biolos), an assistant director on a horror movie shooting in town. He thinks Jerboa is just right for a small part in the film he’s working on and he manages to convince the eccentric director (Beyond Thunderdome’s Frank Thring) to hire her.
Donny and Jerboa quickly begin a more intimate relationship. He’s attracted to her wild qualities and doesn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that where her belly button should be, there appears to be a pouch. Things seem to be going well for the couple, until Jerboa reacts strangely at the film’s wrap party. The flashing disco lights seem to cause her to begin to transform into a wolf-like creature. She runs out of the party into the night with Donny in hot pursuit. A short time later, three werewolf women, disguised as nuns, show up at the party looking for Jerboa. When Donny finally locates his marsupial sweetie, she’s lying in the middle of the road, victim of a hit and run.
She’s taken to a hospital where her unique anatomy is immediately spotted. Professor Harry Beckmeyer (Barry Otto), who has been investigating the presence of werewolf-like creatures in Australia, is brought in to have a look. Beckmeyer and his pals are intrigued by Jerboa and deduce that she represents a species of half human half wolf creatures that evolved along the lines of marsupials. They also notice that she’s pregnant.. But, it doesn’t take long for the three wolf-nuns to bust Jerboa out and haul her back to Flow (wolf backwards, remember).
This leads us to one of the film’s strangest scenes, where Jerboa sneaks off to a ramshackle barn and strips off all her clothes…since this is PG-13, she has strategically placed patches werewolf hair covering her werewolf naughty bits. She then lays back in the hay and gives birth to a hairless gerbil which crawls up her belly and into the pouch. If you’re having trouble with the logic of this then you may want to find an Animal Planet documentary on baby kangaroos before you watch this.
This is all just the beginning folks. There’s also a Russian were-ballerina (Dagmar Blahova) who wolfs out during a rehearsal and then goes to seek out her were-mate, Thylo, of course. This leads Beckmeyer right to the gang of were-hippies who are then captured and studied. Meanwhile Donny finds Jerboa and roams the outback with her and their little were-baby. Then Beckmeyer falls in love with the were-ballerina…werewolves fight the army…and loads more craziness.
I gotta admit, “Howling III” has a certain silly charm to it. It’s not scary in the least. But, it also doesn’t take itself seriously. Tongue is planted firmly in cheek for much of the film, which is in keeping with the tone Joe Dante set with the first film, “The Howling.” The whole concept of marsupial werewolves is just so crazy. I’ve certainly got to give the filmmakers some credit for originality.
But even the craziest material can be enjoyable if it’s executed by the right performers. That being said, Imogen Annesley’s performance as Jerboa does a lot to keep the film appealing. She certainly has a “wild” quality about her. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but she is believable as marsupial werewolf woman. Her performance could have very easily gone over-the-top, but she approaches it with the right tone. The same cannot be said of Dagmar Blahova, who must’ve been given a steady diet of crazy pills throughout the filming. Barry Otto’s performance as Beckmeyer is also well done, and Frank Thring steals the show as the pompous film director.
Now, don’t be fooled by my praise, “Howling III” is not a good film. The story is bizarre and it wanders off in several different directions. By the time it reaches its end, the story starts to resemble a sappy 70’s TV drama rather than a horror movie sequel. But the film is campy fun…no matter what version of the title it has.