The Curse Of The Werewolf (1961 United Kingdom)

cursewerewolf By the early 60s director Terence Fisher was still regarded as Hammer’s best director, and his remarkable work here is definitely on par with the previous classics he had made at that point. Fisher puts to great use the lavishly built sets and makes this one of his most beautiful looking films despite the budget constrains, he creates a Gothic atmosphere of impeding doom that suits perfectly Anthony Hinds’ story.

Speaking of his take on the script, this is probably the film that better represents Fisher’s obsession with the dual nature of evil, and he takes full advantage of his character’s dilemma to create powerful scenes of suspense, drama and even eroticism. Oliver Reed is simply perfect as Leon, as his natural charm and powerful presence really enhance his character’s beastly nature. It’s a great performance as a man who tries to be good despite having a beast inside. While Reed is without a doubt the star, the highlight of the movie is Clifford Evans, whose performance as Leon’s uncle, Don Alfredo, is heartbreaking in its delivery, and  brings back good memories of Claude Rains in “The Wolf Man” (1941). As many have pointed out, Catherine Feller is probably the weakest link in the cast, although this doesn’t mean she gives a bad performance, but her presence is easily overshadowed by her peers. Hira Talfrey and John Gabriel make an excellent job in the supporting roles of the film, giving the film a heart and completing the main cast of the film. “The Curse of the Werewolf” is one of Hammer’s most enjoyable motion pictures, combining perfectly period drama with horror.  This gives the film that classic “Hammer look” with brilliant colours and haunting atmosphere.

love 10However, it’s also safe to say that the production suffers from some quibbles that lessen the film’s power. The main flaw is the fact that the film is too short for the kind of epic story the script attempts to narrate; it starts very nicely, slowly developing the tragic events but some scenes feel a bit too rushed. Certainly the budgetary constraints had a hand in this, and it’s a shame that the flow of the story is not constant as it does feel like a lot was missing. Modern viewers may not be used to Roy Ashton’s work of make-up, but I found it very appropriate and remarkably well done. Anthony Hinds does a very good job at writing this excellent werewolf story, while his story lacks the lurid details of Guy Endore’s 1933 novel, “The Werewolf Of Paris.” He manages to keep the essence of the novel intact despite being really a loose adaptation. The most captivating element of “The Curse of the Werewolf” is the way it handles the tragedy of the curse, set as a irremediable dark fate that awaits for Leon as a brutal change that eventually he will have to make.

love 3Leon suffers from a “disease” he didn’t asked for, that he simply was born with it, and Hinds plays with that tragedy without excessive melodrama, almost making the film a horror version of a Greek tragedy. Hinds’ way to introduce his audience to Leon’s story may be excessively slow (the entire first third is dedicated to the events previous to Leon’s birth), but in the end it really pays off as one can’t help but feel captivated by the epic tale of this cursed man. The standout performance for me must come from the ravishingly sexy Yvonne Romain. She was the most provocative of all the Hammer women. As the tragic serving wench, she fights off a would – be aristocratic rapist only to be ravished by a filthy, insane prisoner in a dungeon. When she is freed she gets revenge on the nobleman who still fancies ravishing her, despite his knowledge that she has been violated by the lowest ranked man in the kingdom. This is perhaps the most lurid sequence Hammer ever filmed. Talk about kinky!

curse-of-the-werewolf-5       (There there Oliver, you’re career won’t go downhill after this…its just a bad dream)


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