Hammer Horror Collection: The Curse of the Werewolf

christopherallen:

The Curse of the Werewolf (‘61) is another standout Fisher film, this one starring a young Oliver Reed as Leon, the winemaking werewolf. Actually, Reed’s character doesn’t show up for half an hour or so, as we first get to know a cruel Spanish Marques and his good-natured but willful young wife. They have a dinner party with the rest of the administration, which is interrupted by a cloddish and hungry beggar. The Marques humiliates him and gets him drunk on wine, making him dance before his wife insists the man be given some food. He buys up the remainder of the beggar’s dignity for ten pesetas, making him a pet for his wife. Tired of the fun, and pretty clearly more interested in bedding his wife, the couple retire for the night, but when the drunken beggar makes an innuendo about it, he’s promptly thrown in the dungeon.

For years he sits there, forgotten even by the Marquesa, and fed by the jailer’s kindly young daughter. She grows into a buxom young woman, and by this time the Marques is a wizened, bent old widower, with no friends. She resists his advances only to be thrown into the cell with the old beggar, who’s not too old to repay her years of kindness with rape. The next day, she is brought back to the Marques on the premise of being more agreeable, whereupon she stabs him and escapes into the forest. She awakens and is brought into the home of a charitable man and woman, brother and sister, I think. It’s discovered that she is pregnant, and there is much to-do over the idea of her possibly giving birth on Christmas Day, as it is seen as an insult to God. Maybe so, because she dies in birth and the boy, Leon, is raised by the man and woman. A good kid, except during the full moon, when he gets furry and loses his memory and his cool. 

It goes like this for years, until Leon is a man and ready to go out into the world to make his fortune. This would have been a good time to discuss with him that he needed a full moon plan, but nope.  A broad-shouldered man, he’s promptly hired by a winemaker to assist his one, oafish employee. Leon falls hard for the vintner’s daughter, and she for him, which is a problem, as she’s engaged to a local rich fella. Reed wants her to run away with him, but she’s unsure.

Payday comes, and Reed’s coworker convinces him to accompany him to a classy nightspot to spend their wages. It’s by definition not classy at all by allowing this drunken idiot to patronize it, not to mention that all the women are whores. Reed comes under the moon’s sway, which makes him susceptible to one of the whores inviting him up to her room. Bad idea, as he soon transforms and kills her. So far, we don’t see what he looks like as a werewolf.

Leon wakes up back in his old bed, having bent back the bars on the window. His adoptive dad knows what’s up, and despite having no memory, the blood on Leon’s hands tells him something bad happened. Despite this, he gets the girl to agree to elope with him, but he’s soon arrested for murder. The headstrong fiance goes to the jail, and Leon’s dad gets a silver bullet from the old goatherd, as he knows there’s probably no other solution for Leon. Fisher doesn’t spend any time on whether the dad feels any guilt over letting Leon roam free to kill people.

The full moon occurs more frequently here than we’re used to, so Leon transforms in jail and busts out. Townspeople corner him in the town square and he’s forced to climb onto a roof, then jumps over to other roofs or climbs down one building and up another as they keep setting fire to buildings and chasing him. Eventually, dad shoots him as his girl looks on. Fisher leaves the two in longshot, without even a reaction.

Overall, a pretty good movie, with similarly good cinematography and an even better score than The Brides of Dracula, but undone somewhat, again, by some goofy plotting and some missing shots or bits of scenes that would have added a bigger emotional payoff. Reed is very charismatic, but although he doesn’t appear until the movie’s a third over, the early section doesn’t drag at all, as it’s one lurid scene after another, the Marques stuff reminiscent of Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death, at least thematically. There are no bonus features.

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