Two Films Starring David Janssen
A murder has occurred on hillbilly island (or swampbilly island) not far from New Orleans. It's supposed to be Cajun country but most of the rustics are rejects from Li'l Abner's neighborhood, & actual Cajuns are probably just as glad it's so.
Local sheriff (David "The Fugitive" Janssen) & the local doctor (John Beradino) can't quite figure out if it was done by a left-handed man, or by wild dogs, the nature of such kills being generally so similar. This confusion turns out to be due to the murderer being an ambidextrous loup garou, or French werewolf.
The werewolf is Swampbilly Island's plantation heir, Andrew Rodanthe (Bradford Dillman). Werewolfism seems to run in his family as an inheritable disease; his great-granddaddy had it.
Make-up for the werewolf is minimalist, hardly more than "unshaved guy" with Halloween plastic fangs added. For this reason the dvd box & formerly the video tape box preferred paintings of better werewolfs unrelated to what is seen in the film.
The sheriff has a crush on the werewolf's sister (Barbara Rush), with a few other complications to stretch this turd out to 75 minutes (an hour & a half when originally shown on television with commercial breaks).
Moon of the Wolf (1972) never drums up any life beyond the level of the average nondescript telefilm. It's afraid to show anything gruesome. The bland acting is of a professional level, but never amounts to much, not even from sad-eyed Janssen who is usually a little closer to adequate.
Completists for werewolf films won't want to miss it. And if any die-hard David Janssen fans exist in this world nowadays, this is not a lot worse than the majority of his telefilm vehicles. It's based on Leslie H(unter) Whitten's 1967 novel of the same title, which if you could find a copy would be a better investment of time.
Although not another of Janssen's many telefilms, The Swiss Conspiracy (1976) is such a low key & low budget thriller that it seems like one, not least because director Jack Arnold was for three-fourths of his career a director of episodic television. Though he did also direct a few unusual B features of strong interest in the 1950s, by the 1970s he was a hack.
The Swiss Connection was an Independent production with American & German investors behind it, not released in the USA until a year after its European release. In its favor, the European connection gives it more the feeling of a British political thriller than your average American cheapy from the 1970s, though the plot's pretense of conspiratorial cleverness is all tone without reality.
David Christopher (Janssen), ex-agent for the U.S. Justice Department, now freelances as a specialist in banking crimes.
He's been hired by Swiss banker Johann Hurtil (Ray Millan) to find out who is behind the information leaks about who owns which secret bank accounts, which have led to blackmails & murders.
We're early on shown that banking vice-president Franz (Anton Diffring) & his girlfriend Rita (Elke Sommer) are at the heart of the conspiracy, but the film's first "twist" is that all their confessional dialogue to one another had double meanings, as their criminality was actually very slight. The real villain won't be revealed until very near film's end, but this whodunnit aspect is banal stuff.
The limited strengths of the film are certainly not to be found in the unclever conspiracy nor in the plot overall, let alone in the admixture of sex-scene-with-femme-fatale (Senta Berger), speeding race cars through Swiss alps, climactic shoot-out, & other elements completely interchangeable with a thousand similar films.
Rather the "best" this film has to offer is Janssen himself. He tries to present a gruff new character but he comes off once again as the quiet neurotic from The Fugitive. This recurring performance has a certain appeal, & though hardly a dynamic filmstar, Janssen does have sufficient force of talent to keep a film moderately entertaining.
One of the rote bits of thriller action is fairly successful. Early in the film one of the secret-account blackmailed banking clients is gangster Bobby Hayes (John Saxton) who is not at all happy to discover David Christopher is the investigator. He & Christopher have past baggage, from when Christopher still worked for the U.S. Justice Department.
Hayes therefore makes the stupid decision to kill the investigator. He not only fails, but he ends up with two assassins on his tail (played by Curt Lowens & David Hess). Their pursuit & murder of Hayes provides the film's only gruesome moment.
The Swiss Conspiracy is certainly no French Connection off which its title plays, but it's an adequate thriller.
For another werewolf movie, continue to:
Fury of the Wolfman (1970)
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