The Curse of the Werewolf

08/29/2015 22:10

 Film: The Curse of the Werewolf

Year: 1961

Director: Terence Fisher

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Clifford Evans, Oliver Reed and Yvonne Romain



This is a film that I never heard of until I started to delve into Hammer Horror films. I had just seen pretty much all of the Universal classics so this was the next step as they are also based on the same source material. This would also be one of the first ones I saw if memory serves as well. I was excited that first time to see Oliver Reed’s name in the opening credits, because I did know who he was at that time. This is also my second viewing as part of the Odyssey through the Ones to revisit these movies as well. The synopsis here in eighteenth-century Spain, an adopted boy becomes a werewolf and terrorizes the inhabitants of his town.

We start this movie getting voice-over narration of the back-story. It is done by who will learn later to be Alfredo (Clifford Evans). We have a beggar, Richard Wordsworth, come into a small village in Spain. The bells of the church are ringing and no one is around. He is confused and a soldier isn’t helpful in reading a poster. He goes into a local pub to learn that the Marques Siniestro (Anthony Dawson) has gotten married and the town is punished to pay for the feast. No one has anything to give in charity so he tries at the mansion.

The beggar is admitted so he can be mocked by all in attendance. He ends up in the dungeon. He is taken care of by the jailer and his mute daughter. The young girl grows up to be Yvonne Romain. After the Marques makes an advance on her that she rejects, she is tossed into the dungeon herself. The beggar takes advantage and rapes her. She is taken out and kills the Marques in her escape.

She is found in the woods and taken in by Alfredo. He takes her to his place where she eventually gives birth to her illegitimate son on Christmas day, a bad omen according to Teresa (Hira Talfrey). I originally thought this woman was Aflredo’s wife, but I think she is his maid as he lives alone aside from her. The two decide to raise the child as the servant girl passes away. They name the boy Leon (Justin Walters). There is an incident where he tastes blood and becomes a creature. Some local animals are killed and Pepe Valiente (Warren Mitchell), the local huntsmen, thinks it is a dog that he kills. Alfredo and Teresa know otherwise when a bullet is removed from young Leon.

Leon then grows up to be portrayed by Oliver Reed. He goes off to another nearby village for work. It is there he meets the lovely Cristina (Catherine Feller). She is engaged to be married to Rico Gomez (David Conville). She falls for Leon though. Things take a turn when he starts to feel changes as the full moon rises. As people are killed, can anyone keep him from changing and saving him from certain doom?

I believe that is where I’ll leave my recap of this movie. What I found interesting after seeing it this second time around is that it is based off a novel by Guy Endore. I believe it was title ‘Werewolf of Paris’ or something along those lines. I don’t much about it aside from that, but it might be one that I will seek potentially in the future.

Where I want to go with this movie here is that we really lean into the curse here. I find it interesting that Leon is a product of rape when his mother is attacked by the beggar. It is sad though for the fact that she was always kind to him. She is a mute so she has her own issues. It is hard to completely fault the beggar due to the torture he has sustained by being jailed for no reason other than seeking charity. It doesn’t give him a pass though. Teresa reveals that if the servant girl gives birth to her child on Christmas Day, when it is unwanted and at the time of Jesus Christ, it will be inverted and cursed. This is slightly problematic for the fact that I’m pretty Jesus wasn’t actually born on Christmas, but I will digress there. We get a lot of factors here that cause this curse and it is interesting folklore. I do wonder where this came from and if the novel can give more information there or not.

This being a Hammer horror movie, we get a lot of their troupes here as well. We don’t get the years, but this is a period piece. Leon is a good enough person and truly loves Cristina. He is below her in social standing as well. He really has done nothing wrong aside from being born so this curse is really something that makes him a tragic figure. He isn’t relishing in it either. For me, all of this makes me feel horrible for him and want him to break it if possible. What is also interesting with this is that we get a stand alone movie that isn’t following a more classic work as well.

What I do have an issue though with is the lack of story. Most of this movie is really filling in the back-story of Leon’s parents, his childhood and then briefly him as an adult. The movie runs 90 minutes, but the pacing still seems to be off. I will say though I never got bored so there is that. It just feels a lot like a Universal movie where we really only get to see the werewolf for the last like 20 minutes or so. It doesn’t ruin the movie, but something does feel off for me.

Now what I don’t have problems with though is the acting. Evans is solid as our narrator before he becomes one of our main characters. He is a good hearted person to take in this poor servant girl and in turn raise her child as his own. He seems like a lesser person when it comes to social standing, but has given Leon a good enough life. I think Reed is great here and in an interesting role that I’m not used to seeing. He usually plays more of a villain where here he is a quite tragic. Regardless, he plays it very well. Romain is gorgeous and it is interesting that she doesn’t have a speaking role here. Feller is also cute and I like her performance. Dawson is such a horrible human and really the catalyst here for all of the bad things that happen. I would also say that Wordswoth is solid as the beggar. He is interesting because he is tragic as well, but commits an unforgivable act. The rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed in my opinion.

Then really the last thing to go into would be the effects. I love the look that we get with Leon as the wolf man. He is really more of that than an actual werewolf. He is bipedal and I love the effect to make him into this creature. The only gripe there is that I want more. We don’t really get a transformation scene, but we do get a creepy thing where Leon is starring at his hands as they change. I liked what they did there. There isn’t a lot of blood here. It is bright, but I have a soft spot there. Aside from that, I do think that the cinematography was well done.

In conclusion here, I think this movie has an interesting concept and back-story. The only real problem there is that the movie limits itself to having this werewolf to be the last third or so. What they build though is aided by how good the acting is, especially from Reed. The rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed. The effects were well done and the soundtrack fit for what was needed. Hammer does an excellent job with the sets to feel like the era of the past it is set as well. I would say this is an above average movie, also going into the good range. The movie is just lacking a bit for me to really put there.


My Rating: 7.5 out of 10