The year 1985 was a pretty big one for Michael J. Fox. His hit TV series, Family Ties, was in the middle of its third season on NBC when he starred opposite Nancy McKeon in the network’s rom-com Poison Ivy. Come on, I know you remember this …
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I know what you’re thinking: “How the hell was Fox able to top that brilliant film? That had to have made him a big star!”
Yes, it’s hard to grasp that costarring in a TV movie about camp counselors with Jo from The Facts of Life wouldn’t be the spark that started the fire of the young actor’s career. But Fox still managed to shoot two movies released in the summer of ’85 that weren’t made for the small screen and that were even bigger than Poison Ivy — Back to the Future and Teen Wolf.
Back to the Future debuted at #1 over the Fourth of July weekend, grossing more than $11 million, which was a nice chunk of change back then. It went on to spend 11 weeks at the top of the box office and ended up being the top-grossing film of the year, with successful sequels following in 1989 and ’90. Not too shabby, right?
Well, as if the combined megasuccess of Back to the Future and Poison Ivy wasn’t enough, a third film starring Fox was unleashed upon the public in late August. Teen Wolf debuted at #2 — behind that other movie, of course — and eventually earned $33 million, or about a seventh of what Back to the Future earned.
So, to recap, first he gets to be in a romantic comedy with Nancy McKeon, then he gets to star in a movie about time travel featuring a Huey Lewis theme song, and THEN HE GETS TO PLAY A TEENAGE WEREWOLF.
Oh, and I’d totally forgotten that he also starred in a kick-ass Pepsi ad that year (I’m serious — I fucking love this commercial):
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Michael J. Fox totally won 1985, right? RIGHT.
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One fun fact about Teen Wolf that you may or may not know is that it used many of the same shooting locations as Back to the Future. For example, in Teen Wolf the house Scott (Fox) and his father (James Hampton) live in was located on the same block as both George McFly (Crispin Glover) and Lorraine Baines’s (Lea Thompson) 1955 houses in Back to the Future. Furthermore, the Howards’ house is the exact same one used for the Baines residence.
Teen Wolf was shot before Back to the Future — Fox replaced Eric Stoltz in the role of Marty McFly four weeks into filming — but since the latter came out first, many countries decided to capitalize on its success by altering aspects of Teen Wolf. For instance, in Italy Scott’s name was changed to Marty, and in Brazil the movie was released under the title O Garoto do Futuro, which translates roughly to “The Boy From the Future,” even though Teen Wolf has nothing to do with time travel.
The movie not only spawned a Saturday-morning cartoon in 1986 but a sequel in ’87 called Teen Wolf Too, starring Jason Bateman as Scott’s cousin, Todd. (Get it? “Too” instead of “two”! So clever …) And because Hollywood can’t leave well enough alone, MTV announced last June that it has plans to adapt Teen Wolf into a TV series; they claim that their version will have “a greater emphasis on romance, horror and werewolf mythology.” Methinks they’re more interested in jumping on the Twilight bandwagon than rebooting Teen Wolf, but we’ll see.
As far as the soundtrack goes, I kind of love it. It’s comprised mostly of synth-heavy power-pop songs, many of which make me wonder if teenagers in 1985 would actually have listened to them, but they seem to work for Teen Wolf‘s fictional high schoolers.
If you ask me, a few of these tracks are as iconic in the world of ’80s film soundtracks as anything you’d find in a John Hughes flick. For example, Mark Vieha’s “Way to Go,” which sounds like a Randy Newman castoff, is played during the montage showing the Teen Wolf’s rise to popularity.
Then there’s Mark Safan’s “Win in the End.” It’s heard during the final basketball game and is right up there with Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best,” from The Karate Kid, in the realm of “songs played during the climactic ‘big game,’ when the underdog proves he can really kick ass.”
And of course there’s the film’s final song, Amy Holland’s “Shootin’ for the Moon,” which breaks a tense silence as Scott shoots the final basket of the game. Is it good? No, not really. But it’s the perfect song to end Teen Wolf.
Even Miles Goodman’s score is pretty memorable, with “Transformation” being the most recognizable cue. True story: every time I hear the beginning of that piece I think it sounds a lot like the Cure’s “Hot Hot Hot!!!”
My personal favorite of all the songs on Teen Wolf‘s soundtrack is the Wolf Sisters’ funky “Big Bad Wolf,” which is played at the big school dance; it sounds very Pointer Sisters-esque and makes excellent use of the talk box. I wonder if it was ever played on Soul Train so the dude who always dressed in a mascot outfit could get his groove on.
The official soundtrack album is out of print, but I’ve got the whole thing for you right here, including the non-LP Beach Boys track heard during the van-top surfing scenes.
The Beach Boys – Surfin’ U.S.A.
David Morgan – Good News
David Palmer – Silhouette
Miles Goodman – Transformation
Miles Goodman – Boof
Mark Vieha – Way to Go
The Wolf Sisters – Big Bad Wolf
James House – Flesh on Fire
Mark Safan – Win in the End
Amy Holland – Shootin’ for the Moon