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I think that more than anything, "The Curse of the Werewolf" does what
too many werewolf movies fail to do: offer an explanation of how the
first werewolf got created. Apparently, if someone is conceived under
rather unpleasant circumstances, that person is a lycanthrope. After a
beggar gets imprisoned in 18th century Spain, he rapes the jailer's
daughter. She dies in childbirth, but her son Leon is raised by a
nobleman. Sure enough, Leon is a werewolf. As an adult, Leon (Oliver
Reed) tries to control himself, but unfortunately can't.
This is another addition to Hammer's cool filmography. It shows Leon's inner torment, knowing what will happen every full moon. As for associating Spain with werewolves, that country of course produced actor Paul Naschy, who has made a career out of playing werewolves; Portland's own Movie Madness even has a section devoted to him.
It's Spain and a beggar walks through a deserted town forced into public festivities at the marriage of a miserly, degrading Marqis. He goes to the palace in search of food, and instead is given life imprisonment. This is the opening of one of Hammer's best monster films, and easily one of the best lycanthrope films ever made. The beggar through a raping of a servant girl spawns a baby werewolf. The film is about this boy and then man living with his affliction and finally succumbing to its eventual fate. Terrence Fisher has done a superb job with his direction, creating atmospheric sets, wonderful, rich costuming, an impressive musical score highlighting key dramatic moments, and most notably creating a story of a beast in man with compassion, understanding, and depth. The acting all around is excellent(once you get past the notion of Britishers playing Spainards), and Oliver Reed stands out as the young protagonist literally being torn apart inside. The make-up for the beast, while not as grand as Universals, is top-notch and harrowing to the eye. The film is a sight to see and it again affirms that many of the monsters of the movies are tragic heros not in control of what they do.
A very involving Hammer production that chronicles the history and life of Leon (Reed) who becomes cursed at birth causing him to turn into a werewolf when the moon is full. This is a story driven movie. The action and violence is sparse, but that's not what this movie is about. Playing out like a historical drama, Curse of the Werewolf details werewolf mythology like I have never seen. The performances are fine, and the film has an ambient feel to it that makes it even more appealing. Don't sit down to this movie expecting a bloodbath, Curse of the Werewolf is a well written, brilliantly conceived, and nicely plotted thriller.
A modest werewolf "epic" that never feels formulaic in the hands of
director Terence Fisher and writer Anthony Hinds. The film is one of
Hammer's most accomplished and deals with the subject of lycanthrope
with some imagination. Young Leon (Justin Walters), the consequence of
a rape, is born with what appears to be a dormant werewolf gene that is
awakened when he tastes the warm, "sweet" blood of a bird. Unable to
resist his true nature, he starts killing livestock in a small rural
community. His juvenile rampage doesn't last long because the local
priest (John Gabriel) identifies his condition and encourages his
adopted parents to shower him with love and affection, convinced that
it is love that will keep the boy's desires at bay. Clearly, the
priest's faith in love is not misplaced, because, ten year's later, the
adult Leon (nicely played by Oliver Reed), who has just left home, is
only a wolf with the women. He falls hard for the daughter of his
employer, but when he is deprived of her love, his lycanthrope surfaces
and the killings begin again, only this time he leaves the livestock
The film is a character drama in werewolf clothing, and, though it references genre classics such as "The Wolfman", "The Werewolf of London", and even "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" in its climax, it is still very much its own animal. There is a welcome depth to the performances and Reed's acceptance of his condition and desire to be destroyed gives the piece a fine sense of tragedy.
Unlke the genre films of today, which make this feel like something made on another planet, "The Curse of the Werewolf" really takes its time to establish a solid foundation for its horror and is a refreshing product of far less cynical times in which human warmth was seen as essential, not "uncool".
The last shot, in my opinion, is flawed. When the dead werewolf is flipped onto his side by his adopted father, he is not shown, in death, as having returned to his former state as represented by Oliver Reed.
A fine achievement.
On certain days I consider The Curse of the Werewolf to be my all-time
favorite horror film. In my opinion it was Hammer's best effort except,
possibly, for the highly underrated Phantom of the Opera with Herbert Lom.
The story is most unique and carries a strong, yet very Catholic,
The cinematography is excellent as well as Terence Fisher's direction.
of the most outstanding qualities of the movie is the immaculately
and powerful music score by Benjamin Frankel. I've never heard of this
composer before or since, but I would love to find this score on CD.
There are already plenty of write-ups detailing thoughts on the story, so I won't go there. The acting is adequate to superb, and Oliver Reed does an outstanding job portraying a tormented soul protractedly possessed by the raging spirit of unbridled destruction. I've notice one goof in the movie that is actually rather glaring when you notice it... The movie starts off with narration, "Some two-hundred years ago in a village in Spain, blah blah blah...", and as the story develops to the end of the narration, the servant girl is in the swamp as Clifford Evans approaches and the narration ends with, "and that is how I found her."
The movie is filled with powerful scenes and the story keeps the viewer involved at all times. It slips a bit when the wolf hunter, Pepe, finds a dead sheep and says, " Hello, what's this then?" A bona-fide Spanish Limey! Despite the movie's low-budget production and the era it was created, it ranks as an excellent horror film even by today's standards. If you are a person who has to have graphic violence and lots of running and screaming to keep you entertained, then this movie is not for you. If you enjoy a good, original story and interesting characters then this movie will suffice.
Title: Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
Director: Terence Fisher
Cast:Oliver Reed, Clifford Evans, Catherine Feller
Review: Hammer films is known for making many vampire films, many Frankenstein films, and even a few Mummy films...but for some reason Curse of the Werewolf was their one and only werewolf film ever made. Even though they only made one Werewolf film, I'm happy because at least the only one they did make is really really good.
The story is about a beggar who gets thrown into a dungeon by a despotic marquis who takes pleasure in demeaning other human beings. The beggar spends years upon years in prison until he becomes almost animal like. A young and beautiful servant girl is thrown into the same cell as the insane beggar is because she rejected going to bed with the same marquis. The beggar decides to rape her and the offspring of that rape is Leon Corledo. A young boy who is cursed to become a werewolf because he was born on Christmas Day. And on this movie, being born on Christmas Day means you are forever cursed to become a werewolf when the full moon comes.
I enjoyed this movie immensely and I have to say that one of the things that enhanced my enjoyment of it was Oliver Reeds portrayal of Leon Corledo. He is magnificent in this movie. He has a great presence and a roughness to him that is perfect for playing a man cursed with lycanthropy. He has some very intense moments in which we can see that he is torn between letting his animal side loose or keeping it under control.
Terence Fisher, one of Hammers prime directors did a fine Job in bringing to life the tale of the werewolf. Hes done many fine Hammer films in the past and this one is just another jewel in his crown of great horror films. The movie is heavy on atmosphere and creepy visuals. A standout moment for me was when the young Leon has turned into a werewolf in his room and cant escape it because his stepfather has barred the windows in his room so he cant escape at night. The look on the kids face and the music is a real horror movie moment. Fisher made sure there's plenty of cool shots of the fool moon hovering over the dark sky as we hear the howling of a wolf in the distance. Or the scene in which the are going to baptize young Leon and the water in the altar starts to boil.... Its nice touches like those that make a Hammer/Terence Fisher film special.
I also liked how they treated the origin of the werewolf. The really go back and explain how it all started. Its not just a movie about a werewolf running amok killing people in a little town. Here we get the whole back story as to how the whole thing started. I liked that. It gave the film lots of depth. Its a story covering a few decades of history. Another thing that made the story special was the idea that love and compassion towards Leon could help him control the beast inside of him.
Then there's the werewolf transformation, which is after all one of the big things about watching a werewolf film. There's always a spotlight on the transformation sequence. Its always a showstopper in films like "American Werewolf in London" and "The Howling" and even in "The Wolfman". Here I must say that for the time it was made, the make up is really excellent. I'm guessing that it was for budgetary reasons that hey held the transformation all the way till the very ending, but when it does happen its very good. I was amazed that for the time it was made (1961) it turned out as good as it did. In fact I think this look was the one that Fredd Dekker was paying homage to when he directed his monster film The Monster Squad, in which The Werewolf teams up with Dracula, Frankensteins monster, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Mummy to bring the forces of darkness to earth. The look of the werewolf in that movie is exactly like the one seen on Curse of the Werewolf. I don't blame Fred Dekker for wanting to pay homage to such a cool creature.
The only downside to this movie? Watching English actors playing Spaniards. It was kind of funny to see that the only thing that they added to their acting to make it look Spaniard was saying "Señor" at the end of every sentence.
Finally, Id say that this is one of the best Hammer films ever made and that this movie deserves a whole lot more recognition then it gets. It should be out on DVD, because as it is, its one of the best werewolf films ever made.
Rating: 5 out of 5
This is second only to the wonderful original starring Lon Chaney, Jr.
twenty years earlier. Oliver Reed brings a more pronounced character to the
ravenous tippy toed terror of the night. This is a top notch project from
director Terence Fisher and one of the best from Hammer
Rounding out the play bill are Clifford Evans, Yvonne Romain, Hira Talfrey and Michael Ripper.
This was a highly unusual werewolf film and I am actually surprised
that Hammer films went on to make many Dracula sequels but not werewolf
ones, since this film was well made and quite enjoyable.
The film begins with a very long prologue--telling a sad tale about an evil man who was responsible for the curse that eventually made poor Oliver Reed become a werewolf. The entire story was quite interesting and VERY different from the Universal Studios vision of how one becomes a werewolf. Instead of being bitten by another werewolf, it was a rather convoluted curse. The only problem with this story, though, is logical. You see, Oliver Reed's adoptive father narrates the prologue BUT how he knew most of the details is quite impossible--as Reed's mother was a mute and didn't have communication skills to explain most of the story. Plus, parts of it she couldn't have known! I guess the narrator just read the script, because there was no other way he could have been privy to the information! Despite this serious logical flaw, the rest of the film was very compelling--with Reed making a very sympathetic creature. Plus, like the old Universal films, Hammer did a good job of not showing too much--only letting you see the creature near the very end of the film.
Excellent acting and production values combined with a very interesting though flawed script make this an excellent movie for fans of Gothic horror.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
On the surface this could easily be dismissed as just another hammy
Hammer horror film and to a degree does contain many of the trademarks
. Let's see now
Monster - check
Most foreigners are dangerous scum - check
Inherited wealth and social standing equals cruel sadism - check
Most young woman have big boobs - check
You can't help thinking if Benny Hill was a communist he'd be making Hammer horrors as propaganda films and despite as insane as it sounds this is exactly how much of THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF plays out and yet the film does it brilliantly . Class division and a slightly conscious mild xenophobia are in evidence and yet that is what makes this film one of the studio's finest productions . It might be tame today but there's more to it than Oliver Reed putting on a furry mask and false teeth
The story is probably best in the first third set in 18th Century Spain where a begger arrives at the wedding reception of the local Marques who after publicly humiliating the begger has him thrown in to the dungeon below the castle . Years pass and the jailer's daughter is imprisoned and becomes a rape victim of the begger . This section illustrates very well a running theme of Hammer horrors where the European locale is hostile to outsiders and positively cruel towards any sort of underclass , and you think perhaps this film might be a firm favourite with Marx . Lenin and Orwell . The cast are very good in these scenes especially Richard Wordsworth as the begger and Anthony Dawson as the Marques who plays the role with shades of Franco
If there's a problem with any of this it is that the rest of the film pales in comparison and a film that has Werewolf in the title we don't see much werewolf action . Oliver Reed is .... well no prizes for guessing the first thing you think off when the late legend is mentioned and it is amusing that his character Leon is sent away to work in a vineyard and in some scenes it looks like Reed might have been sampling the goods a bit too much . That said he does have presence and brings a pathos to Leon that is always needed in a character who is cursed by lycanthropy
This is a very good film from the Hammer Studios , a company that high brow critics often scoff at but whose output was very popular with the British public , possibly because the films appeal to the working class " little Englander " mentality and it's probably this post war Briton world view that makes the film so enjoyable
This film, more by accident than design, has become one of my most-watched Hammer films. Actually, I liked it immediately and, therefore, I return to it willingly...though I wouldn't really rank it among their top films! Still, for being the studio's only stab at the werewolf legend, the plot is pretty stacked with fanciful lore which differs quite a bit from what Universal came up with in the 30s and 40s...or, for that matter, anything that we've seen since! Truth be told, it's highly improbable and even rather silly but, then, the film is so thick with atmosphere throughout (belying the typical low budget) that it doesn't matter at all! Oliver Reed essays his most significant starring role for Hammer with dignity and a brooding quality, in my opinion, and the supporting cast does pretty well by their roles but, again, the film's main asset is its beautiful look (including the wonderful werewolf make-up). I also don't mind the fact that we see the fully-fledged transformation only once as the build-up to it is terrific and the film, on the whole, emerges as one of Fisher's most assured efforts.
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