Curse of the Werewolf
‘He had but one body – yet lived with two souls!’
‘Even the innocent girl who loved him was not safe… once the full moon rose!’
Director Terence Fisher
Writer Guy Endore (novel), Anthony Hinds (screenplay)
Stars Clifford Evans (Don Alfredo Corledo), Oliver Reed (Leon Corledo), Yvonne Romain (Jailer’s Daughter), Catherine Feller (Cristina Fernando), Anthony Dawson (Marques Siniestro) Richard Wordsworth (Beggar)
An old beggar stumbles on the wedding of the local Marques and his buxom wife (well, this is a Hammer film) After the rotter makes the hobo dance for his supper he promptly chucks him in jail. Years later, the beggar’s been left to rot, cared only by the jailer’s mute but (obviously) buxom daughter. He’s not alone for long though as, after the daughter resisted the Marques advances she’s also thrown in the clink where, to thank her for her years of kindness the beggar rapes her. On being released from behind bars she takes no time in stabbing the Marques and running off, only to nearly drown in the local lake. Found by Don Corledo she promptly has a baby and shuffles off this mortal coil to leave her cursed son in Corledo’s hands.
(Have you worked out this isn’t a happy film yet?)
After a trouble childhood of worrying sheep and therefore worrying his parents even more, young Leon grows up to be the spitting image of Olly Reed and promptly falls in love with a surprisingly not so buxom lass in all of 23 seconds. But can their love survive the fact that he gets a bit hairy when the moon is full?
Let’s make no bones about it – Curse of the Werewolf is one grim movie. Don’t be expecting much in the way of comic relief here. The, slightly overlong, introduction to Leon’s parentage reveals a succession of characters that are mad, bad or scuicidal. Then as poor Leon enters manhood the curse weighs heavy on every scene with the wolfy-one murdering left, right and centre and then torturing himself in the aftermath.
Unfortunately, for all its pathos, the film hardly rarely raises the interest levels. There are plenty of original ideas, such as the fact that the lyncanthropy is a result of a curse from heaven for an unwanted baby being born on Christmas day rather than the traditional bite, but these are lost in the general tedium of the affair.
And you have to wonder why Fisher decided to wait so long to finally reveal the werewolf itself. The iconic make-up only goes under the moonlight in the last ten minutes or so, wasting the monster in a pointless romp around spanishesque buildings in an obvious case of padding. Yes, the reason was probably so that the film examined a man wrestling with his internal demons and struggling with an unescapable fate, but at the end of the day this is a Hammer monster movie and the people would have flocked to the cinema to see the monster itself. It’s a little too little too late.
No-wonder the box-office results didn’t prompt Hammer to go down the werewolf route again.
- The film is based on Guy Endore’s 1944 novel, The Werewolf of Paris which was originally optioned by Universal who later subcontracted it to Hammer. The company had been working on The Inquisitor, a project concerning the Spanish Inquisition but had taken the decision to drop the production after threats of condemnation by the Catholic Church. However, to at least salvage the expensive sets, the werewolf was transfered from France to a decidenly Kent-like Spain.
- In one of the earlier drafts the beggar was also a werewolf but the censor decided that sex plus supernatural equaled one step too far.
“A werewolf is a body where a soul and a spirit are constantly at war. Whatever weakens the human spirit, this brings the spirit of the werewolf to the fore. And whatever weakens the spirit of the beast… warmth, fellowship, love… raises the spirit of the soul…”
The child with unnaturally hairy arms, the baptism’s ‘rejection’ of the cursed child, the iconic werewolf (don’t say Wolfman if you don’t want to be sued) make-up.
The fact that our anti-hero isn’t exactly known for his charm and yet manages to form a deep and meaningful relationship in less time that it would take Casanova to tie his shoe-laces. Hasn’t he heard that being too keen can scare aware a woman?
Skulls (out of five)