AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Hammer’s Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

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Today I’m journeying back to the heady days of October 2010 when I covered werewolves for Halloween. My intention that year was to actually watch and review Hammer’s 1961 werewolf film, Curse of the Werewolf. It was supposed to go right there during that last week after I covered Universal’s Wolf Man movies. However, plans got away from me and I was not able to cover it that year.

Now, I have that chance back. Plus, I haven’t had a Hammer movie review on AWESOME-tober-fest since 2013’s review of The Plague of the Zombies. So, let’s do this.

Curse of the Werewolf poster

Hammer’s Curse of the Werewolf starred Oliver Reed and Catherine Feller.  It was the only werewolf movie Hammer ever made.  It’s very gothic and tragic, lots of sexual subtext and, kind of all over the place.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Hammer Films card COTW card
Title cards for this movie. Not quite as cool as the Horror of Dracula cards.

Marques and wife
This is the Marques Siniestro and his new bride. In this opening scene the movie goes out of its way to show you how mean and cruel this Marques can be.  Even his wife is looking at him like, “You’re such an asshole.”

Chef 01 Chef 02
The chef brings out some roasted goose for the newlyweds.  The Marquesa says she doesn’t like goose, so the Marques actually gets up out of his chair, yells at the chef for not knowing the Marquesa doesn’t like goose and throws the entire tray of goose on the floor. Then while the chef cleans up the mess the Marques pushes the chef down into the mess.

Beggar 01 Beggar 02
After the chef debacle, a lowly beggar comes to the Marques’ table to beg for food and drink.  The Marques offers him a handful of gold to be the Marquesa’s pet.  Then, he completely humiliates the beggar by making him dance in front of everyone for some food and wine.  Then the beggar is sent to the dungeons anyway.

Marques leering
Here’s the Marques leering at his wife before sending the beggar to the dungeons. He just informed her it’s time for them to “retire”. Ugh, shivers went up my spine the way he said it.  She’s clearly re-thinking her life choices at this point.

Beggar 03 Dungeon keeper and daughter
While the beggar is in the dungeons only the dungeon keeper and his young, mute daughter are nice to him.

Dungeon master daughter cleavage
Flash forward many years, the dungeon master dies, and the now grown up daughter takes over the job, as I imagine that’s how all medieval castles operate. And that dress is what she wears to deliver food to the prisoners.

Old Marques daughter in dungeon
The Marquesa has died, so the lecherous Marques gropes the mute woman, she refuses his advances and he has her thrown in the same cell as the old beggar.  Notice, we get another cleavage shot here.

Actually we get lots of cleavage shots of this mute servant girl.

beggar werewolf vlcsnap-00257
And despite the fact she was nice to the beggar, the old man viciously rapes her.

The servant girl escapes and kills the Marques. She runs away and is taken in by a Don later on and she gives birth to a child, presumably the beggar’s child.

Oliver Reed hairy palms
Oliver Reed plays the handsome, grownup beggar’s child, Leon.  Leon begins to show signs of lycanthropy.  One of those signs, of course, being hairy palms. The subtleness at play here is actually not very subtle at all. Clearly the filmmaker wants to equate men’s sexual desire with turning into a werewolf.  Anyway, at first it’s sort of confusing why the young man is becoming a werewolf. But, if you realize that the beggar, from the beginning of the movie, who raped the mute servant, is also supposed to be a werewolf, it becomes much clearer. That was not spelled out in the movie at all, but if you look at the pictures of the beggar before the rape he’s all hairy-ed up like a wolf.  And the filmmakers have said as much.

strangling 01 strangling 02
So, our young werewolf starts to hunt for victims during the full moon and you see him start strangling people. STRANGLING THEM. A WEREWOLF.  It was so odd and mixed with the fact you don’t really see him transform, I thought we were going to find out at the end of the movie it was all in Leon’s head. That he wasn’t turning into a wolf at all.

top hats
This is a Hammer production, so you get LOTS of shots of men in top hats and ornate goatees and beards.

Hairy palms 02
More hairy palms. During the two or three transformation scenes, the palms are the first things to get hairy. They really want to hammer home this masturbation imagery.

Wolf! vlcsnap-00280
FINALLY, an hour and ten minutes in we get FULL WOLF.

torch carrying mob 01 vlcsnap-00279
It’s a horror movie, so yes, we get a torch carrying mob.

And that’s about it. I didn’t love this movie. I REALLY wanted to love it, but I didn’t. It wasn’t as fun or smartly written as other Hammer classics like Horror of Dracula or Curse of Frankenstein. Plus, I missed the absence of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. One of them in here would have been nice.

Overall, I didn’t really like this movie.  I’d maybe recommend it to a horror fan simply because the filmmakers do take a few risks with the material, but overall I don’t think they succeeded.

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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.


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