Written by: John White on February 20th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1961
Director: Terence Fisher
Cast: Clifford Evans, Oliver Reed, Yvonne Romain,Catherine Feller, Anthony Dawson
DVD released: September 6th 2005
Approximate running time: 91 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: Not Rated
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Universal
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.98 (as part of Hammer Horror Series)
A beggar goes to the castle of an evil Marquis who is holding his marriage feast to ask for alms. Once there he is humiliated and incarcerated for years with only the kindness of the jailer’s daughter for succour. Once she grows up and makes the mistake of rejecting the advances of the elderly Marquis she is thrown to the mercy of the mad beggar who rapes her. Fleeing the castle, the now pregnant girl is taken in by Don Alfredo and a misbegotten child is born on Christmas day. Alfredo brings the child up as his own but becomes worried that Leon has the curse of the lycanthrope and is advised that only love can cure him. Alfredo does his best but when the time comes from Leon to enter the adult world his night visions come back to him and only the love of Christina can save him from falling back into his savage nature. Will Leon fall victim to the beast within or be saved by true love.
Curse of the Werewolf is a terrific script which takes the story of George Wagner’s Wolf Man mixes in a bit of the Hunchback of Notre Dame and some Iberian spirit. Against a hot Catholic backdrop, this tale of the eternal battle between God and beast is played out. Oliver Reed is a wonderful restless presence and brilliantly physical in the central role and the supporting cast forsake the usual comic sub-characters for a truly committed tale of man fighting his nature. Reed is also, to be frank, gorgeous and it is nice to be able to remember how handsome he was before the booze.
The religious overtones of the story are heavily emphasized by Fisher and even the eventual showdown takes place in the bell tower of a Church. The production values on this film are as good as any of the Hammer canon and the score by Benjamin Frankel is exceptional. The true star is the script though which allows all the actors to take matters seriously and for the major characters to be well defined, more importantly the central theme of evil needing to be tamed by love is delivered well.
Curse of the Werewolf is included on Universal’s Hammer Horror series box set with seven other Hammer pieces. The discs in the set are flippers with 2 films on each side. This has led to a little compromising of quality but surprisingly little really. Curse of the Werewolf is transferred to anamorphic widescreen from a very good print which has very occasional hairs visible on the frame. The transfer is sharp but occasionally there is some softness in deep focus shots. The audio is quite frankly breathtaking with incredible clarity and lack of any distortion, the score is served so well by this. The subtitles provided are in French, Spanish and English.
There are no extras.
The overall boxset of the Hammer Horror series is a must for any Hammer fans. Not only are there debut DVD releases for titles like this one but the quality and cost are amazing. It would be nice to think a single disc release may come about using the same print but for now this boxset is a must.