The Curse of the Werewolf

The Curse of the Werewolf is a 1961 British horror film based on the novel The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore.[1] The film was made by the British company Hammer Film Productions and was shot at Bray Studios on sets that were constructed for the proposed Spanish inquisition themed The Rape of Sabena, a film that was shelved when the BBFC objected to the script. The location of the story was adjusted to Madrid to save building new Parisian sets. The leading part of the werewolf was Oliver Reed's first starring role in a film. Benjamin Frankel's score is notable for its use of twelve-tone serialism, rare in film music.[2]

The Curse of the Werewolf
UK theatrical release poster
Directed byTerence Fisher
Produced byAnthony Hinds
Written byAnthony Hinds (aka John Elder)
StarringClifford Evans
Oliver Reed
Yvonne Romain
Catherine Feller
Anthony Dawson
Michael Ripper
Narrated byClifford Evans
Music byBenjamin Frankel
CinematographyArthur Grant
Edited byAlfred Cox
Production
company
Distributed byUniversal-International
Release date
1 May 1961 (UK)
7 June 1961 (U.S.)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish

The film was heavily censored in the UK on its initial release and was first shown in a restored print on the BBC in 1993. The planned premiere TV screening of the restored print on Oct 31st 1992, during an all night horror film marathon hosted by Dr. Walpurgis (later named Dr. Terror) Guy Henry unfortunately resulted in the censored version being aired by mistake.

Plot

The story is set in 18th century Spain. A beggar is imprisoned by a cruel marquis after making inappropriate remarks at the nobleman's wedding. The beggar is forgotten, and survives another fifteen years. His sole human contact is with the jailer and his beautiful mute daughter (Yvonne Romain). The aging, decrepit Marques makes advances on the jailer's daughter while she is cleaning his room. When she refuses him, the Marques has her thrown into the dungeon with the beggar. The beggar, driven mad by his long confinement, rapes her and then dies.

The girl is released the next day and sent to "entertain" the Marques Siniestro. She kills the old man and flees. She is found in the forest by the kindly gentleman-scholar Don Alfredo Corledo (Clifford Evans) who lives alone with his housekeeper Teresa (Hira Talfrey). The warm and motherly Teresa soon nurses the girl back to health, but she dies after giving birth to a baby on Christmas Day, a fact that Teresa considers "unlucky", because a child born on Christmas Day would become a werewolf.

Alfredo and Teresa raise the boy, whom they name Leon. Leon is cursed by the evil circumstances of his conception and by his Christmas Day birth. An early hunting incident gives him a taste for blood, which he struggles to overcome. Soon, a number of goats are found dead, and a herder's dog is blamed.

Thirteen years later, Leon as a young man (Oliver Reed) leaves home to seek work at the Gomez vineyard. Don Fernando Gomez (Ewen Solon) sets Leon to work in the wine cellar with Jose Amadayo (Martin Matthews) with whom he soon forms a friendship. Leon falls in love with Fernando's daughter, Cristina (Catherine Feller), and becomes despondent at the seeming impossibility of marrying her, and allows Jose take him to a nearby brothel, where he transforms and kills Vera and Jose, then returning to Alfredo's house. Too late, he learns that Cristina's loving presence prevents his transformation, and he is about to run away with her when he is arrested and jailed on suspicion of murder. He begs to be executed before he changes again, but the mayor does not believe him. His wolf nature rising to the surface, he breaks out of his cell, killing an Old Soak and the Gaoler. Shocked and disgusted by his appearance, the local people summon his scholarly stepfather, who has obtained a silver bullet made from a crucifix blessed by an archbishop. Though torn with grief, Alfredo shoots Leon dead and tearfully covers his body with a cloak.

Cast

Reception

Howard Thompson of The New York Times wrote that some of the color photography was "beautiful," adding that "for a werewolf yarn this Hammer Production has a Gothic type of narrative that is not uninteresting, if broadly acted."[3] Harrison's Reports graded the film as "Good," finding the production values "a big asset" although the review felt there was "not enough action."[4] Variety called it "an outstanding entry of the horror picture genre. Although not a particularly frightening or novel story treatment of the perennial shock film topic (werewolves ranking second only to vampires in cinema), it is a first-class effort in other respects."[5] The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "Even by Hammer standards, this is a singularly repellent job of slaughter-house horror ... Surely the time has come when a film like this should be turned over to the alienists for comment; as entertainment its stolid acting, writing, presentation and direction could hardly be more preclusive."[6]

Home video release

In North America, the film was released on 6 September 2005 along with seven other Hammer horror films on the 4-DVD set The Hammer Horror Series (ASIN: B0009X770O), which is part of MCA-Universal's Franchise Collection. This set was re-released on Blu-ray on 13 September 2016.

In other media

The film was adapted into a 15-page comic strip for the January 1978 issue of the magazine The House of Hammer (volume 1, # 10, published by General Book Distribution). It was drawn by John Bolton from a script by Steve Moore. The cover of the issue featured a painting by Brian Lewis as Leon in human and werewolf forms.

Many of the characters in Joe Dante's 1981 werewolf movie The Howling are named after the directors of werewolf films. Belinda Balaski's character "Terri Fisher" is named for Terence Fisher, who directed The Curse of the Werewolf.

The Curse of the Werewolf is also referred to obliquely in John Landis's 1981 werewolf movie An American Werewolf in London when David Kessler (David Naughton) asks Alex Price (Jenny Agutter) "Did you ever see The Wolf Man?" and Alex replies, "Is that the one with Oliver Reed?"

References

  1. Clemens, Carlos (1968). Horror Movies: An illustrated Survey. London: Panther Books. p. 208.
  2. David Huckvale, Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde, Introduction, p.4
  3. Thompson, Howard (8 June 1961). "Screen: 2 British Horror Films Open". The New York Times: 40.
  4. "'The Curse of the Werewolf' with Clifford Evans, Oliver Reed, Yvonne Romain, Catherine Feller". Harrison's Reports: 68. 29 April 1961.
  5. "The Curse of the Werewolf". Variety: 7. 3 May 1961.
  6. "The Curse of the Werewolf". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 28 (329): 81. June 1961.
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