“You watch every night, you don’t care what I do…”
Hello again all you cwazy peoples! This time we have a flick based on the novel The Werewolf of Paris (1933) by Samuel Guy Endore. This was an influential tome for werewolf movie writers then as well as today. As you can tell from the title, the action took place in France in the 19th century. Tonight’s flick takes place in Spain in the 18th century. Why? Well apparently there were some Spanish style sets that were just begging to be used!
The Curse of the Werewolf
Hammer Film Productions, 1961, 91 minutes, NR
actors: Oliver Reed, Clifford Evans, Catherine Feller, Anthony Dawson, Ewen Solon, Richard Wordsworth, Yvonne Romain, Hira Talfrey, David Conville
writer: Anthony Hinds
director: Terence Fisher
producer: Anthony Hinds; executive producer: Michael Carreras
Taxonomy: Horror; werewolf flick; Hammerheads
Plot: There is something odd about Leon Corledo – can you guess?
This film consists of three parts, which I will refer to as The Prologue, The Introduction and The Climax. The Prologue: A filthy beggar (Wordsworth) arrives in a small town in Spain. Please understand, when I refer to him as filthy it is not a slight against the poor. The guy is covered in grime! Anyway, he hits up the local towns folk for coin or food and they tell him that they have none to spare. You see The Marques Siniestro (Dawson) is getting married today and has bled the town dry to pay for a feast – for nobles only. They tell him he should try his luck at the castle.
The beggar goes to the castle where Marques Siniestro and his blueblood toadys humiliate him. He is given to the Marques’ bride as a pet! And promptly thrown into the dungeon and forgotten. The only people he interacts with are the jailer and his young mute daughter.
Years pass, the Marques’ wife dies and he goes insane. The jailer has died and his grown daughter (Romain) now performs his duties and acts as a chambermaid. One day the Marques attacks her as she is cleaning his room, so she bites him. He has her thrown into the dungeon. The beggar, now also completely insane and more animal than man – ahem – “attacks” her. When she is released the next day, she is sent to the Marques’ room – where she stabs him to death with a wall sconce and flees the castle. She is eventually found by Don Alfredo Corledo (Evans) and nursed back to health by his servant Teresa (Talfrey). Well guess what? The mute girl is pregers. She dies during childbirth on Christmas day. Teresa takes this as a very bad sign. Which seems justified when the water in the baptismal font boils!
The Introduction: It is years later. Don Corledo has taken the mute girl’s baby boy as his son and named him Leon. Well it seems that the local shepherds are losing sheep. The sheep are having their throats ripped out by some kind of nasty critter – a wolf? The village watchman Pepe swears he shot the wolf one night. The same night Don Corledo has to dig a musket-ball out of little ten year old Leon’s leg! Leon says he dreams of being a wolf. He also tells of the time Pepe took him hunting and he got upset when Pepe shot a squirrel – so he tried to kiss it and make it better. He liked the sweet taste of the blood! Don Corledo also notices that Leon has rather hairy palms. Well don’t all young boys?
Don Corledo consults the local Catholic priest who tells him that Leon has an evil spirit in him that fights against his human soul. He is a werewolf. The evil spirit becomes stronger through evil: cruelty, hate, aggression, violence. The human soul becomes stronger through love and kindness. Don Corledo vows to shield Leon from the evil spirit by showering him with love. The attacks on the local sheep stop – after Pepe shoots a shepherd’s dog with a silver musket-ball he made from melting his wife’s crucifix which was blessed by the archbishop. Pepe digs the ball out and keeps it on a cord around his neck. Well it’s solid silver ya know!
The Climax: More years pass, and the adult Leon (Reed) leaves home to make his way in the world. He gets a job bottling wine for Don Fernando (Solon). “Saludos my friends!” He becomes friends with his lone coworker Jose. Leon also meets Cristina Fernando (Feller) and thinks she looks mavalus! Unfortunately Cristina is betrothed to Rico Gomez (Conville) who is a rich jerk. Well, it don’t take long for Leon and Cristina to become secret lovers!
Jose talks Leon into going out one Saturday night for some entertainment. That’s how they end up at a gambling club and whore house! Yep, lots ‘o vice going on! Leon feels uncomfortable – then the full moon comes out. The next day Leon is back at the Corledo villa and a ho and Jose are dead!
Don Corledo, Teresa and the priest tell a terrified Leon that he is a werewolf. The priest says he may be able to get Leon into a monastery where he will be cared for and protected, but until then he will have to be chained. Leon flees to the Fernando estate and is preparing to run away when Cristina shows up – and the full moon comes out. No doubt about it, the lunar cycle is just altogether different in werewolf flicks! Leon feels the transformation coming upon him and begs Cristina to leave, but she holds him and comforts him until he falls asleep. Cristina stays with Leon all night – and he does not change! The love of a good woman, don’t ya know! They plan to run away together and marry. Oh how romantic! Then Leon is arrested for the murder of Jose. The ho don’t count I guess.
Then … well, remember Pepe’s silver musket-ball? Remember how The Wolfman (1941) ended? Remember how to add two plus two?
Babeage: Catherine Feller is quite cute, but she is the innocent girl to go with Reed’s innocent guy. The babes are Yvonne Romain and the assorted hos. Hammer always included at least one well endowed lady for the boys in the audience.
Sleazeploitation: Go back and read The Prologue – mmmkay?
Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Leon in werewolf form, the beggar and Marques Siniestro – great name that!
Violence: Mostly off-screen. Except right at the end.
Gore & FX: Nice bright red Hammer blood! The transformation is done via a combination of fades, quick cuts and scenes where the werewolf moves between areas of light and darkness. Well done and I would imagine not too expensive. Reed’s grey werewolf looks darn cool. Very much the man-beast wolf that walks as a man, but different from Chaney’s and unique in coloring.
Priest: “A werewolf is a body with a soul and a spirit constantly at war. The spirit is that of a wolf.” But, what if I have the spirit of a kangaroo inside me? Or the spirit of a salamander in my pocket?
Pepe upon finding that he has shot the shepherd’s dog: “So it was you all along.” Yeah, and you melted a holy relic to kill a frickin dog! Jerk!
Rico Gomez: “It’s very unfair. This is the third evening running you’ve had a headache and we’ve had to come home early.” Cristina: “I can’t help having headaches, Rico.” Rico: “No but it’s beastly inconvenient all the same. I was winning!” Gee, that’s too bad Rico, but I need me some monster lovin!
Jose telling Leon about the whore house: “There’s this place I know just outside town. It’s a quiet place, very respectable.”
Leon to Cristina when he wakes up in her arms: “Tell me – I must know .. did I change?” Did you ever bigboy!
Teresa: “Pepe’s silver bullet! So it has come to that at last.”
Moral: Parents of young boys must be ever vigilant of hairy palms!
Conclusion: Many werewolf flicks are rather fairytale like. Ya know, the original Grimm versions with lots of blood and retribution! Sexual symbolism is also common. “The change”, lust, blood, monthly cycles, etc. Curse of the Werewolf has these elements but it also has some traditional folkloric attributes that other werewolf flicks ignore. Leon becomes cursed because he is the result of violence and cruelty against two innocents – the jailer’s daughter and the beggar. He is born on Christmas day – an old Christian sign of ill portent. His transformation occurs during the time of the full moon, but he can control it by leading a virtuous life of love and kindness. The love of a good woman can “cure” him. All in all a very Christian, very Catholic, take on werewolves. Surprisingly the priest is a good character! Usually we see religious figures leading the crazed mob or wanting to burn the protagonist at the stake. Here he is a spiritual adviser trying to save Leon. Oh yeah, and the bit about little Leon tasting the squirrel’s blood? Well, historically many rabies victims were persecuted as werewolves. Nice touch. A good film that I recommend, but don’t expect a thrill a minute gore fest. Curse of the Werewolf is more about how people treat each other than about blood. Give it a try.
Hammer Horror Flick Checklist:
Gothic style sets
set in a bygone era
cobwebs – lots of cobwebs
creepy old castle
creepy old aristocrats
buxom babes in low cut dresses
red red blood
everybody speaks with English accents – no matter where the location
torn clothing (on Leon)
One to Ponder: Do my eyes deceive me? I did not notice Leon taking his shoes off before he transformed! Uncouth Spaniard!
Well, that’s another one down for 2007. Catch ya next time!
Remember: Comments, questions, requests and contributions (reviews not money) welcome!