I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF. American International Pictures, 1957. Michael Landon, Yvonne Lime, Whit Bissell, Barney Phillips, Guy Williams. Director: Gene Fowler Jr.

   I watched this movie last week — available only on collector-to-collector DVD — and I deliberately put off writing this review until now. I might have seen this movie back when I was in high school, but if I did, I found only the first five or ten minutes to be even remotely familiar. After that I remembered only nothing.

   And I was disappointed. The movie made its makers millions of dollar on only pocket change, and it’s a cult classic right up there with the best of them. And I was disappointed. What’s all the fuss about, I wondered. The acting is straight out of high school drama productions, and the story is stalled in first gear for most of the first half.

   The special effects are OK — i.e., the werewolf costume — but no better than that, and the story simply that of high school rebellion, if not incipient juvenile delinquency, both themes that were very common in second-rung movie theaters and drive-in’s of the day.

   Maybe you had to have seen it back then, I thought, and there’s probably some truth to that.

   But here it is a week later, and many of the scenes are still with me, vividly so — flashes of the movie here and there, even the parts that I thought were slow and unwieldy. The sudden outbursts of anger on the part Michael Landon as Tony Rivers, the teenager of the title. The smugness of Whit Bissell, as the town psychiatrist who thinks that Tony will make a good subject for his experiments in regressing patients to the past by means of a serum he has developed. The innocence and unwavering crush on Tony by Yvonne Lime as his high school sweetheart. The matter of factness of Barney Phillips as the police detective who handles the case in solid nuts-and-bolts Dragnet-style.

   Filmed for peanuts and against all of the odds, the men and women who made this movie somehow managed to trap lightning in a jar. It took me a while, but now I’m convinced. This one’s a classic.