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The Curse of the Werewolf

Synopsis for  Curse of the Werewolf

Oliver Reed as the titular werewolf in Curse of the WerewolfCurse of the Werewolf Curse of the Werewolf begins with a beggar arriving at a deserted town, where a cruel Marques is celebrating his wedding at his castle.   After being humiliated by the Marques, the beggar is imprisoned in the dungeon and forgotten.  His only human contact is the jailer and his mute daughter.   After many years, the jailer’s daughter has become a beautiful young woman.  She is imprisoned by the cruel Marques and raped by the near-insane beggar.

After being released from the dungeon, she murders the Marques and escapes. She nearly dies in a forest, only to be rescued by a kind nobleman.   The nobleman takes the ill woman into his house.  Where the pregnant woman eventually gives birth to a son on December 25th, dying in childbirth.   The nobleman raises the boy as his own, but from an early age the boy is fighting against an evil wolf-spirit that tries to corrupt him …

Review of  The Curse of the Werewolf

Publicity photo of werewolf and mother in Curse of the WerewolfIn many ways,  Curse of the Werewolf is an excellent movie, on many levels. It begins with the origin of the curse of the werewolf, different from the traditional.  But very interesting. The poor mute woman dies shortly after childbirth, so she and the adult son — played well by Oliver Reed — never share any on-screen time, despite the various publicity photos that show them together. The nobleman raises the boy as his own, with his housemaid becoming the boy’s maternal influence. The boy’s childhood is happy, but not totally so.  A very violent incident foreshadows what may happen.  This leads the village priest to warn them that only love can hold the boy’s curse at bay. And the nobleman truly loves his adopted son, making the ending of the movie even more tragic.

Trivia for  The Curse of the Werewolf

  • The only werewolf movie made by Hammer Studios. Makeup-artist Roy Ashton based his makeup for this film on Jack P. Pierce’s makeup for The Wolf Man.
  • In an interview, Richard Wordsworth stated that in the original screenplay his beggar character was a werewolf. Hammer told him that the censor had problems with the notion of a werewolf/rapist, so out it went.
  • Over five minutes were cut by the censor for the British release.  Even more for the American version.

Editorial review of The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) starring Oliver Reed, courtesy of  Amazon.com

The Curse of the Werewolf, starring Oliver ReedAfter Hammer Studios rewrote the histories of Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Mummy it was only natural to take on the howling hirsute one. Discarding the cursed gypsies, blooming wolfsbane, and chanted legends that swirl through Universal’s  The Wolf Man, director Terence Fisher and screenwriter John Elder (a pseudonym for producer Anthony Hinds) returned to Guy Endore’s novel The Werewolf of Paris for inspiration. Switching locations to 18th-century Spain (to make use of standing sets from a canceled production about the Spanish Inquisition), this is a story of sex, sadism, and decadence, a curse produced from human evil.

Young orphan Leon, the progeny of a mad, animalistic prisoner and a ravaged young peasant, is plagued with nightmares while village sheep are slaughtered, but it isn’t until he grows into the stocky young Oliver Reed that his curse takes its terrifying toll. Reed cuts an intense figure as the brooding, serious young man and makes a marvelous werewolf, moving with a boxer’s grace under feral makeup that looks as much ape as canine. Curse of the Werewolf has all the cleavage and blood you’d expect from a Hammer film, but it’s Fisher’s eerie touches that make the film so gripping: a dog’s howl anticipates the crying of the newborn Leon, holy water ripples as if coming to a boil before his christening, and the wild-eyed, fanged boy struggles against the bars in his room consumed in a canine blood-lust. —Sean Axmaker

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