As you can probably guess from the title alone, "Werewolf of Washington" is basically a direct take on "The Wolf Man" story, shaped into a kind of political satire.
We join press secretary Jack Whittier on assignment in Hungary, where his girlfriend buys him a silver cane with a wolf's head handle. When his car breaks down he encounters some strange gypsies, and is attacked by a wolf which he beats to death with his cane. After the wolf is dead it changes back into human form, but the police don't even arrest him for murder. Jack is convinced that there is some kind of a government cover-up going on, but a gypsy woman tells him that he has become a werewolf, cursed with the sign of the pentagram ("Oh, so the pentagon's involved?"). He then returns to Washington, and finds that a series of people he meets are murdered in animal-like attacks ...
This movie does have a lot of very funny and memorable moments. The "phone booth" attack and most of the scenes with the president (particularly the bowling alley sequence) rank particularly highly, and this is certainly a film you won't forget in a hurry. It's one of the most original werewolf movies I've seen in a long time. The acting is surprisingly good considering how incompetent some aspects of the film appear to be, and that's where a lot of the comedy comes from. Dean Stockwell gives an excellent, nervous performance reminiscent of Lon Chaney Jr, and Biff McGuire as the president is just great.
However, it isn't all good news ... it was directed by Milton Moses Ginsberg, who seems primarily to have worked as an editor but has directed several obscure movies (his first movie "Coming Apart" actually appears quite popular critically). The filmmaking isn't terrible, but it's not really of professional quality -- in some scenes you can even catch that elusive shadow of the cameraman. Considering it was made by an editor, the movie is slow-moving and doesn't flow as well as it should, and some of the cuts just don't work at all. The dialogue is pretty clunky most of the time, although there are some clever plays on words. It's a political satire made at a time when it was fashionable to attack the administration, so of course there's plenty of topical humour going on.
Yes, it's silly and it's cheap and it's pretty incompetent, but it's also a lot of fun. I'm even tempted to give it a higher rating, but I might not live that down. Just see it if you want some quick laughs.
There are several smart references to "The Wolf Man" in this movie, particularly at the very start where he is given the silver cane with the wolf's head handle. The mark of the pentagon ... I mean, pentagram ... is also employed, as are silver bullets. Here, Dean Stockwell's character see's the mark on the hand of his next victim, as well as the mark appearing on his own chest. In true Larry Talbot style, he fights to control the monster (see third photo down), but is unable to do so due to his political responsibilities. Exactly what this is supposed to be a metaphor for I don't know ...
The transformation scenes are achieved with simple cross-fading (see top photo), which are done well enough but not really even up to the same standard as the original Wolf Man movies. There are two such scenes in the movie, which are shot from exactly the same angle. Another transformation effect which is used is showing that the backs of his hands have become covered in grey hair, right before he changes into the beast.
The makeup effects are about average for a werewolf movie of this time, in the decade before Rick Baker finally came along and created something different for us to enjoy. It seems to borrow more from AIP's "I Was A Teenage Werewolf" than it does from "The Wolf Man", but I guess that's because this kind of makeup is easier and less expensive to achieve. Dean Stockwell's performance as the werewolf is ... okay I guess, but it probably could have done with less panting. I mean, is this a werewolf or a dog?
The wolf is largely portrayed as a mindless, murderous beast with the exception of one scene, featuring the obligatory B-movie dwarf character who isn't at all related to the story (see bottom photo). In this scene, the dwarf manages to somehow calm down the monster and put him into playful mode.