Sunday, May 9, 2010

Curse Of The Werewolf, The - 3/5

Executives at Hammer productions went down their Universal horror icon checklist - Frankenstein: Check, Dracula: Check, The Mummy: Check, The Wolf Man: oh yes, here is an icon we haven't touched on yet. Don't be fooled as this is not a complete reworking of Universals classic The Wolf Man because even though it contains a werewolf, it is a very different story.

The film has an extremely long build-up and we are first introduced to a beggar thrown into an arrogant king's dungeon. Staying in there for decades he loses his mind and one day, a deaf and dumb servant is thrown in (due to not pleasing the king sexually) and so she is raped. She escapes by killing the king and then is picked up by a young couple in a village where she gives birth to a bastard son. The son, it seems, is going to be evil because he is going to be born on Christmas. It gets even worse when they try to baptize the little bugger. He grows to a young boy and suddenly sheep in the village start to be slaughtered in the night. His adoptive father catches the boy in the act and with the help of his adoptive mother are able to stop his transformations.

Halfway through the film he grows to a young man in the for of Oliver Reed, who shines in the role. He goes to work at a mill, falls in love with a woman already to be wed, and suddenly his transformations begin to take effect again.

The main problem of this film is that there is far too much back story, especially with Oliver Reeds character's real parents. Much more time could have been spent on his childhood or even how he deals with this pesky lycanthropy as an adult. By the time the film really kicks into gear it's over an hour into it. The film also doesn't delve into the werewolf myth very well and the word werewolf isn't even mentioned other than the title. Again why does a beggar's rape of a servant warrant a child to be born a werewolf? We are given no answers! I would have been totally lost if it weren't for me being extremely familiar with the werewolf legend thanks to the umpteen other werewolf films I have seen. The werewolf makeup also leaves a lot to be desired, again not holding a candle to the original Universal make-up designs.

By far the best thing here is Oliver Reed and he is exceptional in his part. He captures all the emotions and torment of the character perfectly. I just wish there was more of him in the picture because due to so much back story, he doesn't arrive until over halfway through the film. I also liked how the film took inspiration from many films not just Universal's The Wolf Man. Elements of Werewolf in London and The Hunchback of Notre Dame can also be seen.

This may be a classic Hammer film but compared to the likes of other classics of the company like Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula, this one falls short. If only it's plot flow could have been tweaked up a bit would it have been as good as those. No sequels followed further showing this film did not have the power for our beast to carry on into a series like Baron Frankenstein and Dracula.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

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