If there’s one earthly creature that should also get a mention during this lunar week, it’s the werewolf. After all, no other living earthling is affected more by the Moon. Because of this special week, I wanted to watch a werewolf movie I hadn’t seen. It may sound shocking to some, but that was Curse of the Werewolf, Hammer’s entry in the werewolf saga.
The chance to play a werewolf went to Oliver Reed, whose acting skills were only matched by his drinking problem. Normally we wouldn’t have brought that up, but ironically the first job Reed gets in this movie is in a brewery.
By this time, Leon (Reed) is a grown man and you’re already half an hour into the film. For those wanting to seek a distrought werewolf feasting on victims, please go elsewhere (we recommend Paul Naschy‘s films). Curse of the Werewolf plans to tell a story and so it begins with a long historical look back. The film opens with a wandering beggar who wants some food, drink or money. He’s sent to a castle where a wedding is taken place. There the man is deeply humiliated and so the story begins… it’ll take quite a while before Reed will devour his first victim.
Or doesn’t he? The film tries to leave you guessing as to whether Reed is a werewolf or not: as a young boy, it isn’t quite clear whether the sheep were butchered by young Leon or a dog. (Narcoleptic fits could explain the bullet in Leon’s leg.) In a way, that’s odd: every poster of the film portrays Reed as a werewolf, so you’d be foolish to think otherwise.
It does work for the other characters in the film, though: Reed could stay unnoticed thanks to people believing in other explanations.
Weirdly enough, there’s also a while Leon doesn’t change into a werewolf and even this is explained. This makes it all the odder that, towards the climax of the film, this is abruptly forgotten and it’s off to a long chase scene with Reed on many rooftops.
One of the reasons this film wasn’t on my A-list is because I’ve always had problems with Reed’s make-up. To me, it’s on the same level as the lesser convincing disguises of Paul Naschy. During the credits, Reed’s face even reminded me of Jaani Duschman, the Bollywood werewolf classic. And that isn’t a compliment.
During the opening credits we see Reed crying. This is another thing that doesn’t get much attention during the film: surely the thought of becoming a werewolf every month and being unable to change this must be excruciating. This is something that the werewolf movies starring Lon Chaney Jr. are much better at: Chaney’s werewolf is a much more tormented character.
All in all there’s too much talent present present (the director is Hammer veteran Terence Fisher) to turn this into a turkey, but I found it one of the lesser fulfilling Hammer movies. I loved that they were trying to give the character some depth by opening with a large family history, but sadly that’s what this film missed: depth.