Fright Fest: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
We were introduced to the beast in the form of the original The Wolf Man. Lon Chaney Jr. captured our attention at the age of five. We were intrigued by this seemingly average man who by a stroke of bad luck is cursed to become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright. After watching the stop-motion magic of his transformation there was no going back, we became lifelong werewolf fans. This article, however, is a tribute to another beast that reached out through our television screen to grip our hearts. We don’t hold back on this one, we absolutely love The Curse of the werewolf starring Oliver Reed. It has become a staple of our horror viewing, especially around Halloween. We sat back to enjoy it again with a few drinks, so here it is, our completely biased review and a rundown of a classic werewolf flick.
It’s a hammer horror classic, which should indicate that it’s going to be super amazing. It begins by opening on a view of beastly eyes as credits roll over them, tears fall from them signifying the torment in the monster’s heart. The story is set in Spain, telling the tale of a beggar in times long ago, over two hundred years ago in fact. The wanderer comes upon a village and is not well received. The beggar is refused food and drink and is sent to the castle to see if the Marques was in a charitable mood…of course, he’s not, that powdered wig wearing asshole!
The Beggar is humiliated before everyone at the Marque’s wedding feast. The Marque’s new bride isn’t impressed by his dickery as her new husband proceeds to get the poor homeless guy drunk and make him sing and act the fool for food. The beggar says some offhanded comments and is then thrown in the dungeon and time passes.
The only people who look after the poor bastard is the jailor and his daughter, who grows up to be a total babe. She fends off the Marques who tries to get touchy feely by biting the old turd but gets thrown in the dungeon. They force her into the same cell with the old beggar who by this time is animalistic from years of being on lock down. The ungrateful old shit-ass repays her years of feeding him by forcing himself on her. At this point we don’t feel sorry for him, it doesn’t matter how he was treated by the Marques it’s no excuse for attacking the poor girl. So when he dies right after violating her it actually makes us cheer on the grim reaper. She is then forced to “Apologize” to the Marques. He thinks it’s his lucky day until she stabs him to death! YEEESSSSSS!!
She flees into the night and lives in the forest until the narrator, Don Alfredo, finds her and takes her home so he and his housekeeper, Teresa, can care for her. They discover she’s pregnant and that she can’t speak. The baby is born on Christmas day; many who follow the mythology of werewolves will tell you that is a bad omen. The poor young woman dies soon after giving birth, leaving the child in the care of Don Alfredo and his housekeeper. When they try to baptize the baby, the bath of holy water gets all crazy…some serious foreshadowing as to the child’s future.
It flashes forward to a slaughtered goat, its throat was torn open. Young Leon has grown into a boy, who gets squeamish at the sight of blood and oddly doesn’t seem hungry though his adoptive aunt tries to coax him into eating. That night the watchman, Pepe, waits beneath a full moon hoping to kill the wolves or wolf that has been plaguing the village. A howl makes him jumpy and he shoots at something. The audience finds out that mysteriously the boy has been seriously injured. His aunt and uncle care for him and discover he was shot which seems impossible since they never saw the boy leave his bedroom the night before. They both know then that there is something strange about the boy. His uncle doesn’t want to believe he could be a werewolf so he questions the boy who swears he was in bed and had a bad dream. He tells his uncle he’s had many bad dreams after going hunting with Pepe and seeing a poor squirrel get shot. Leon admits to Alfredo he picked the dead animal up and kissed it, he could taste its blood and after that, he dreams of being a wolf and drinking blood. Alfredo is desperate and seeks advice from a holy man. The priest tells Leon’s uncle that sometimes people are possessed by evil at birth and that the boy may be a werewolf. The priest says they need to love the boy, their love could keep the beast at bay while he’s young and when he is older once he falls in love with a young woman that her love could save his soul if she truly loved him in return.
Pepe and many of the town folk are freaked out over what seems to be more than an ordinary wolf killing their livestock after a drunkard rambles on about how evil is afoot. Leon’s uncle puts iron bars on the boy’s bedroom window to keep him from killing and getting killed himself as well. Pepe makes a silver bullet and waits for the beast once more. He sits beneath the light of the moon and watches over his flock and kills a dog that he suspected in the first place. Young Leon tries to break through the bars on his window in a scene most might find creepy or cheesy but to us, the kid looks cute with his little wolf fangs bared. His uncle and aunt calm him and he goes back to sleep. Flash forward now to many years later. This is when Oliver Reed first appears in the movie, just before the forty-nine-minute mark. Their love seemed to cure him of his lycanthropy and now as a young man, Leon is ready to go out into the world. Oliver Reed is dashing as usual as he makes his way begin work at a vineyard.
Of course, poor Leon falls in love with a girl who’s wealthy father already has her betrothed to a stuck up douche bag. Leon asks his love, Christina, to run away and marry him but she says she can’t because her father would catch them and send Leon away forever.
Leon is talked into partying one night, why not, its payday. The place is a rowdy bordello, raucous and full of drinking and beautiful women…but it’s also a full moon and he’s in a terrible mood because Christina refused to run away with him. He begins to feel sick and goes outside for fresh air, a lady follows him and tries to talk him into banging but the beast he unleashes is one she didn’t expect even being a hooker. Unfortunately, she’s not the only causality of Leon’s wolf out, he also murders his friend and coworker that took him to party and that’s fucked up. Leon is soon after accused of the murders and is put in jail. He begs to be executed, not wanting to go on letting the beast take control but is denied. He gets all twitchy and sweaty and you know things are gonna get ugly again. He wolfs out, becoming in our opinions, one of the coolest looking werewolves ever to rampage across the silver screen. He then escapes running amok, causing a panic. Don Alfredo is forced to shoot his adopted child with a bullet made from a silver crucifix that was blessed by the archbishop.
The Curse of the Werewolf was released in 1961; its story was based on the novel The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore. It was the first big role for Oliver Reed. The cast in this Hammer film production is a fine group of actors, including Yvonne Romaine and Catherine Feller, as well as Clifford Evans a Don Alfredo Corledo. The werewolf makeup was spectacular and looked very real, a true art form especially when practiced in those times when they were still pioneering makeup and special effects techniques. The Curse of the Werewolf was also adapted into a fifteen-page comic strip for the January 1978 issue of The house of hammer, that’s something we’d like to get our paws on.
From the moment that sweat began to bead on Oliver Reed’s brow and he got all twitchy and had that paranoid look in his eyes, you knew shit was about to get crazy. In our minds Oliver Reed was the perfect man to play the role of a werewolf, he was ruggedly handsome with a dangerous air about him yet seemed to guard a passionate side that would attract any woman, a true big bad wolf. Fangirling and wolf crushing aside, we are confident that anyone who hasn’t seen this will definitely enjoy it. It is a classic and holds the same quality of old school horror as any of the other Hammer films and truly stands the test of time.
Sisters of Slaughter are no strangers to Machine Mean, having reviewed for us She Wolf of London (1946) during our Universal Monsters in Review series. Michelle Garza, one-half of the writing team based out of Arizona, and her sister, Melissa Lason, have been dubbed The Sisters of Slaughter by the editors at Fireside Press. Since a young age, they have enjoyed crafting tales of the dark and macabre. Their work has been included in anthologies such as WIDOWMAKERS a benefit anthology of dark fiction, WISHFUL THINKING by Fireside press and soon to be published REJECTED FOR CONTENT 3 by JEA. To be included in FRESH MEAT 2015 is an incredible honor for the sisters. Their debut novel, Mayan Blue, released with Sinister Grin Press. You can keep track of the Sisters of Slaughter’s budding writing career by following them on Twitter and Facebook. You can read their review of She Wolf here.
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This entry was posted on October 14, 2016 by Thomas S Flowers. It was filed under Horror, Reviews and was tagged with 1960's, 1961, Anthony Dawson, British, Catherine Feller, Clifford Evans, Curse of the Werewolf, dark, Don Alfredo, English, film, Fright Fest, fright fest 2016, full moon, Guest author, Halloween, Halloween Movie Marathon, Hammer, Horror, horror reviews, lycanthropy, movie reviews, Oliver Reed, Reviews, Sisters of Slaughter, Terence Fisher, The Curse of the Werewolf, werewolf, werewolves, Yvonne Romain.