Director: Terence Fisher
Writer: John Elder
Cast: Clifford Evans, Oliver Reed, Yvonne Romain, Catherine Feller, Anthony Dawson, Josephine Llewellyn, Richard Wordsworth, Hira Talfrey, Justin Walters, John Gabriel, Warren Mitchell, Anne Blake, George Woodbridge, Michael Ripper, Ewen Solon, Peter Sallis, Martin Matthews, David Conville, Denis Shaw, Charles Lamb, Serafina Di Leo, Sheila Brennan, Joy Webster, and Renny Lister
Composer: Benjamin Frankel
Release Date: 5/1/1961
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
An unwanted child born on Christmas Day, Leon Corledo (Oliver Reed) inherits a terrible curse due to the ominous circumstances of his birth. Initially restrained by the love of his adoptive father Alfredo (Clifford Evans) and fiancée Cristina (Catherine Feller), Leon transforms into a vicious werewolf when the full moon rises—with a fatal outcome for those around him.
Combining old superstitions with the werewolf legend, this film provides a unique and clever origin story for its title monster. Hammer horror buffs will therefore enjoy this offering, which also benefits from a rich Gothic setting, a haunting arrangement from Benjamin Frankel, and a compelling performance from Oliver Reed.
Presented here in his first starring role, Reed deserves praise for his conflicted portrayal of Leon—a young man who, though unaccountable for his actions, prepares to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to avoid spilling innocent blood. (On a similar note, classic horror fans will observe strong parallels between Larry Talbot—also known as the Wolf Man—and Leon Corledo, both of whom prefer suicide to living with the werewolf curse.)
Viewers may likewise appreciate the physical nature of Reed’s werewolf, who, by tearing through steel bars and scaling the walls of a giant cathedral, adds credibility to the strength, ferocity, and enhanced mobility of a man/wolf hybrid. (Chaney’s aforementioned Wolf Man, in contrast, occasionally struggles to convey the raw, beastly attributes that many associate with a typical werewolf, even failing to escape from his jail cell in House of Dracula.)
The Curse of the Werewolf is hampered by one significant logical flaw. Specifically, despite taking place in 18th century Spain, this film contains a number of characters—including the protagonist himself—who speak in pronounced British accents.
Depicting the werewolf as a victim of external factors, this film injects a poignant and tragic element into the backstory of its eponymous creature—a defining aspect of any well-written movie monster. (The werewolves featured in The Howling, on the other hand, seem to revel in committing violent and malicious deeds after transforming into animals, causing them to appear unsympathetic from an audience perspective—as opposed to Leon, who gives a laudable effort to quell his murderous instincts.)
This film is an epic and emotionally stirring adaptation of Guy Endore’s The Werewolf of Paris. Especially worth commending is the pathos of Reed, who offers a sensitive contrast to the bestial side of Leon.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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