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Posts tagged “Hammer

Fright Fest: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

And as always, if you enjoyed what you’ve read here on Machine Mean, please subscribe to our author mailing list by clicking on the FREE BOOKimage below to not only receive updates on sales and new releases, but also a free anthology of dark fiction.

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Universal Monsters in Review: The Mummy’s Tomb (1942)

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Shambling from the tombs of Cairo comes our next monster in our series reviewing Universal’s classic monster movies. Hard to believe we’re almost already six months since this adventure began. Most of the monster pillars were knocked out within the first two months, and now…well, now we’ve been slowly working our way through the sequels of those lovable legendary baddies, such as Dracula, The Wolfman, Frankenstein, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Mummy. Some of the sequels have been extraordinarily good, others interesting enough to be okay, some only reaching the level of meh, and there have been a few that were just plain awful. I’m not going to pussyfoot around, The Mummy’s Tomb does not sit on my top ten list of Universal Monster Movies. There are some lows with how the movie was made, and I mean some really low-lows, but there are also some highs notes as well, perhaps not entirely about the film itself, maybe the stories the movie eventually inspired down the road, however, they are positive reflections of the movie nevertheless. Yours truly will be your host for this evenings event. So join me as we discuss, The Mummy’s Tomb!

Here’s a synopsis to jog your memory of the movie we’re about to discuss:

The Mummy’s Tomb picks up the story thirty years after the conclusion of the previous last film. It begins with Steve Banning (Dick Foran) reciting the story of Kharis to his family and evening guests in his Mapleton, Massachusetts home. Footage from The Mummy’s Hand appears as Banning tells his tale. As he concludes his tale of the successful destruction of the creature, the scene switches back to the tombs of Egypt. Surviving their supposed demise, Andoheb (George Zucco) explains the legend of Kharis (Lon Chaney, Jr.) to his follower, Mehemet Bey (Turhan Bey). After passing on the instructions for the use of the tana leaves and assigning the task of terminating the remaining members of the Banning Expedition and their descendants, Andoheb expires. Bey and Kharis leave Egypt for the journey to the United States. Bey takes the caretaker’s job at the local cemetery, sets up shop and administers the tana brew to Kharis. The monster sets out to avenge the desecration of Ananka’s tomb. His first victim is Stephen Banning, whom the creature kills as the aging archaeologist prepares for bed. As the Sheriff (Cliff Clark) and Coroner (Emmett Vogan) can’t come up with a lead, newspapermen converge on Mapleton to learn more about the murder. Babe Hanson (Wallace Ford) arrives on the scene after learning of his friend’s death. When Jane Banning (Mary Gordon), Steve’s sister, is killed, Hanson is convinced it is the work of a mummy.

Meeting with the Sheriff and Coroner, Hanson is unable to convince them of the identity of the culprit. He tells his story to a newspaperman at the local bar, but is himself dispatched by Kharis almost immediately afterwards. John Banning enlists the help of Professor Norman (Frank Reicher) to solve the puzzle of the “grayish mark” found on the victims. Norman’s test results prove that Hanson was right, the substance was indeed mold from a mummy. Meanwhile, Bey has plans of his own. Knowing that Banning and his girlfriend, Isobel Evans (Elyse Knox) are planning to marry, he sets out to disrupt their nuptials. Bey himself has become smitten with Isobel, and sends Kharis on a mission to bring her to him. Kharis initially balks, but finally adheres to Bey’s command.

In an effective sequence, the monster stealthily enters the Evans’ home and abducts the girl. At the cemetery, Bey unveils his plan to the reluctant Isobel, explaining that she is to become the bride of a High Priest of Karnak, and bear him an heir to the royal line. Banning and the rest of the townspeople have become convinced that their recent Egyptian transplant may be involved in the crimes. Arriving in force, they confront Bey at the cemetery. Kharis slips away with Isobel unbeknownst to the horde, and Bey attempts to shoot Banning, but is himself gunned down by the Sheriff. The creature is observed heading toward the Banning estate, and the group begins pursuit. Inside the home, Banning manages to rescue Isobel from Kharis with the aid of the Sheriff and Coroner. The townspeople set fire to the house, and the monster perishes in the flames. Banning and Isobel wed, and the curse is brought to an end. –Brought to you by Wikipedia.

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Okay, for starters, I included a much longer synopsis than I typically do with my reviews. I did this to highlight one particular aspect of the movie I wanted to make mention of. While reading the synopsis, did you feel in any way that there was some measure of excitement going on? Did you grasp an action paced story of revenge and loss? Well, I certainly did, which is why I included this synopsis. The story seemed to have had every intention of being an action packed thriller. HOWEVER, sad to say, any action intended was left in the editors booth. The first ten minutes of the movie was nothing more than a cut and paste of the predecessor film, The Mummy’s Hand. Having reviewed The Mummy’s Hand personally, I walked into The Mummy’s Tomb with little to no expectations. I’d learned my lesson from before, let me tell you. But even with no expectations, the movie failed to captivate the imagination. The pace was never realized, the movie simple went from scene to scene. And don’t tell me I’m not giving Mummy’s Tomb a fair shot, I sat through this sucker twice, just to make sure I wasn’t just having a “case of the Monday’s” or whatever. Thankfully, the film was mercifully only a little more than an hour long.

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The only noteworthy casting was of course with Mr. Lon Chaney Jr. Though, you’d be hard pressed to recognize him. And apparently, according to many sources, Mr. Chaney did not care very much for the heavy makeup and hated the role of Kharis. And I believe it showed on screen. Covered almost completely and unable to speak, Chaney bumbled his way from scene to scene just as painfully as the script would allow. Looking at most of the actors and actresses, it didn’t seem as if any of them wanted to be on the set. On a positive note, there were a few scenes in which you could tell the mummy did not want to have any part in Bey’s diabolical plan to kidnap Isobel. In fact, he reaches for Bey’s throat, struggling against (and I’m assuming a lot here) the tana potion that is controlling his actions. Had they capitalized on that notion the story was somewhat implying towards, perhaps something could have been salvaged, it would have, could have been a better movie, making much better use of a talent such as Lon Chaney, who given his sad-tragic portrayal as Larry Talbot in The Wolfman and Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men (1939), should have been perfect for the role of lost-loved Kharis.

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The one great positive I can take away, having seen the Hammer production of The Mummy (1959) first, The Mummy’s Tomb seems to be the source material. And let me tell you, The Hammer production is amazingly wonderful, if you haven’t seen that one, you ought to. Like today. Right now. GO! Okay, I don’t want to talk it up too much, but what Terence Fisher was able to do with that mummy movie…wow, it almost makes me want to judge Harold Young much more harshly. And so I shall….

My Rating: 1/5 stars

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Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of terror. He grew up in the small town of Vinton, Virginia, but in 2001, left home to enlist in the U.S. Army. Following his third tour in Iraq, Thomas moved to Houston, Texas where he now lives with his beautiful bride and amazing daughter. Thomas attended night school, with a focus on creative writing and history. In 2014, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from UHCL. Thomas blogs at machinemean[dot]org where he reviews movies, books, and other horror related topics.