Verussa is attacked

Werewolf By Night: Jack back in black and white

Riley Riley

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is seemingly endless.

Just when you think you have seen it all they find another obscure character to turn into prime time entertainment.

Enter stage left Werewolf by Night, an American television special directed by Michael Giacchino and written by Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron.

It’s based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name.

I’ve never heard of the Werewolf, but I don’t get out much. So let me share a bit of background.

The first appearance of the Jack Russell/Werewolf by Night character was in Marvel Spotlight #2 (February, 1972).

Then, he made a sudden return as Jake Gomez in Werewolf by Night #1 (October, 2020), no doubt planting the seed for what was to come?

The name Jack Russell is a tongue-in-cheek choice, because it is of course a breed of dog — get it?

Apparently, Werewolf by Night is the first Marvel “Special Presentation” to share continuity with the films and television series of the franchise (and that’s no mean feat).

The TV special tells the story of a group of monster hunters as they gather to compete against each other for the right to wield a powerful relic called the Bloodstone.

The gathering takes place after the death of master Ulysses Bloodstone, with five experienced monster hunters summoned by Ulysses’ widow Verussa to Bloodstone Manor, including Jack Russell.

Ulysses’ estranged daughter Elsa also arrives to compete for the stone, despite Verussa warning her against doing so.

The competition takes the form of a hunt in a large maze in the grounds of the manor, with a captured monster as their quarry that has been implanted with the Bloodstone.

Gael García Bernal stars in the special as Jack Russell/Werewolf by Night, along with Laura Donnelly and Harriet Sansom Harris.

Werewolf by Night is a surprisingly short 53 minutes, when most Marvel productions easily run to two or more hours.

Apparently, there were no hard and fast rules about how long it had to be, but the producers believed it needed to be around 60 minutes.

What makes this TV special even more special is that it is presented in black and white, just like the old days (although it was actually shot in colour).

Giacchino explained that he approached the special like an episode of the original Twilight Zone.

That is it is presented as “one night in the life of Jack Russell and Elsa Bloodstone” with a view to “see what happens.”

In this way he was able to avoid the need to provide much background, or to set the scene for what would happen after this series of events.

As it was Giacchino’s debut as a director, he had to push really hard to get approval for the black-and-white treatment.

Because Marvel wasn’t totally convinced, Werewolf by Night was filmed in color just in case it didn’t work out.

Giacchino explained he had a special monitor that allowed him to see what it was going to look like in the retro-Universal Pictures format.

By about the third cut, he said Marvel boss Kevin Feige eventually let him stick with black and white format.

The result is inspired, unexpected and entertaining.

Werewolf by Night is a wonderful homage to the old black and white creature features that we stayed up watching as kids on a Friday night.

Giacchino has managed to capture the look and feel, as well as getting the actors to deliver performances that match the format.

It’s uncanny, with lots of soft focus, interesting angles and deep shadows, and of course melodrama (and supporting melodramatic music).

And it’s all the more impressive as Giacchino’s first effort as a director.

Giacchino ha previously written scores for Doctor Strange (2016) and the Jon Watts-directed Spider-Man trilogy for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and was a co-composer on Thor: Love and Thunder (2022).

Jack Russell/Werewolf by Night is played by Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal, who has appeared in numerous film and television international productions since the 1990s.

He is probably best known for his 2004 portrayal as a young Che Guevara in Walter Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries.

His idols are Klaus KinskiDaniel Day-Lewis, and Marcello Mastroianni.

Laura Donnelly is Elsa Bloodstone, Ulysses Bloodstone’s estranged daughter who dislikes her family’s tradition of hunting monsters.

She was drawn to the character’s fighting capability and the fact that she was able to do the stunt work in her action scenes.

A Northern Irish actress, she is known for her lead role as Amalia True in HBO’s The Nevers (2021).

Harriet Sansom Harris is the histrionic Verussa Bloodstone, Ulysses’s widow and Elsa’s stepmother who leads the secret group of monster hunters.

One gets the impression that she wants the Bloodstone for herself and the power that goes with it.

The other monster hunters are: Kirk R. Thatcher as Jovan, Eugenie Bondurant as Azarel, Leonardo Nam as Liorn, and Daniel J. Watts as Barasso.

Al Hamacher appears as Billy Swan, the Bloodstones’ servant.

You can catch Werewolf By Night on the Disney+ streaming service.


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Time out score

Final thoughts . . .

Make sure you check this one out.


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