Saturday, October 14, 2006

31 Days of Halloween - Day 14 Movie 1

What's amazing about "Curse of the Werewolf" (1961) is that it's actually a rather enjoyable movie despite it's odd structure. The movie has three very distinctly divided acts, each taking up about a third of the movie. The first act is about the wicked Marques Siniestro (Anthony Dawson) who on his wedding night, mistreats a beggar (Richard Wordsworth), then has the poor unfortunate man banished to his dungeon where he is forgotten by all, save the mute servant girl who feeds him as he declines further and further into a feral state. When the adult serving girl (Yvonne Romain) deflects the attentions of the widowed Marques, she is thrown in the cell with the beggar who rapes and impregnates her. Released from the dungeon, she kills the Marques and escapes, to be taken in by the kind Don Alfredo Corledo (Clifford Evans) and his servant, Teresa (Hira Talfrey). The mute woman dies shortly after her son is born --on Christmas Day, a bad day for unwanted children to be born on, and Don Alfredo and Teresa raise the boy, Leon, as their own.

The second act involves a series of livestock killings by a wolf and young Leon (Justin Walters) bouts of sleepwalking. Don Alfredo and Teresa figure out what's going on, when the boy wakes up in bed with a bullet in his leg. Their love, and steel bars in Leon's bedroom window seem to cure him, for the time being, and a goatherd's dog takes the fall for the killings. Justin Walters is one of those perfect castings of a child who looks like he could easily have grown up to become Oliver Reed.

The third act brings in the adult Leon (Oliver Reed) nearly an hour into the movie of which he gets top billing. Leon goes of to find his way in the world finding a job and love, as well as the reemergence of his werewolf side. Human murders are committed this time, and in Werewolf form, Leon is hunted down and killed with a silver bullet.

The majority of this movie is a narrated set up, of Leon's origin story, with his father a beast-like man, and the curse of his birth on Christmas day (a familiar motif in several cultures) dooming him to becoming a werewolf. Unfortunately, the repercussions of the origin take place in the shortest, and most rushed final third of the movie. The werewolf itself is a wonderful design. Oddly, in all the publicity materials for this movie there are images of the werewolf menacing Yvonne Romain, who plays the werewolf's mother, who not only never appears in the movie with him, but dies shortly after he is born. Hammer clearly thought that having a busty babe in the publicity material who draw in more viewers. Directed by Hammer regular, Terence Fisher, "Curse of the Werewolf" is not one of Hammer's best (it never spawned a sequel) but is still a fun movie.

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