Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wolf Whistle and I'll come to you

Hammer completed a foursome of horror archetypes with Curse of the Werewolf in 1961. Terence Fisher directed again and Oliver Reed making his first credited film appearance as the unlucky lycanthropic Leon.

This time they turned to the ur-text for the Wolf man mythos, The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore, but decided to relocate the action to Spain. And there is an awful lot of back story to get through before we finally see Reed in his full shaggy glory. So we have an evil Marques tormenting a poor beggar who turns a bit lupine after a long stay in the dungeons. In the process he attacks Leon's poor mute mother who then has to escape the rapacious clutches of the ageing Marques before she gets taken in by a friendly couple who discover she is pregnant. Then we have the boyhood of a werewolf as her strange child howls at the bars of his bedroom window, and may be responsible for tearing the throats out of a nearby herd of goats.

Of course this is a Hammer horror so we get some familiar faces turning up, including the ever reliable Michael Ripper, and Warren Mitchell as the local gamekeeper with a Spanish accent direct from the east end of London. Once Leon has grown into lean and hungry looking Oliver Reed we get plenty of Kensington gore and glimpses of some hairy hands but it's not until the last 15 minutes or so that we get the full wolf man make up.

Sadly it's probably the weakest of the first four of the classic Hammer horrors. The strange Spanish setting doesn't really add anything, and the delay in getting to the full Werewolf is rather tedious. But Oliver Reed does make Leon a sympathetic and rather pathetic figure who at the end is begging for the silver bullet to end his rampage, and of course there are plenty of heaving bosoms and Kensington splatterings along the way which do help a bit. Let's give it a middling 2.5 out of 5 great dane ears and move on to the return of the Count.

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