DECEMBER 31, 2008
After Brides of Dracula and Evil of Frankenstein, I’ve decided to start checking whether or not any of the films on my Hammer set were sequels to films I hadn’t seen yet. Through this, I discovered that The Curse Of The Werewolf was actually the ONLY werewolf movie that Hammer ever made. I found that pretty surprising; how is it that with all of the movies they made during the 50s-70s, only one focused on one of the big three classic monsters? They actually had more about Jekyll and Hyde!
One reason it’s a shame is that this one, while pretty good, could definitely have benefited from 20/20 hindsight when it came time to make another. Oliver Reed is the werewolf, which is an incredible idea in theory (I had visions of a drunken wolf man trying to kill someone, but instead he just keeps laughing, tripping over himself, and generally just having a blood-free blast), but Reed doesn’t appear until nearly FIFTY minutes into the film! The reason for this is the rather involved setup; it’s not enough to just have a stranger come to town and bite Reed or whatever. No, a stranger comes to town, he gets tossed in a dungeon by the evil king, a little girl falls in love with him, and when she is a grown woman she gets tossed in the cell too, gets raped by the guy, kills the king, runs away, is taken in by a nice rich couple, has the stranger’s kid, and then dies. Then the kid is seen for a while as a tyke, before the movie’s four hundredth “time has passed” fade out occurs and Reed finally enters the film. Good lord!
And this presents a rather troubling issue: at this point there’s only a little over a half an hour left of the movie, so Reed kills a broad within minutes of his introduction. The best thing about the old Wolf Man movies is that you really felt bad for Larry Talbot, but here, even though he’s not a raving lunatic (well, relatively speaking, this IS Oliver Reed here), you don’t get to know him long enough before he does something deplorable, which makes it kind of hard to sympathize.
Still, all of the Reed stuff is top notch entertainment, almost making you forget the rather bland first hour. He runs around in a Mariachi suit, carries out what I believe to be the most upsetting and traumatic marriage proposal in cinematic history, and makes what can best be described as an “annoyed pigeon” sound when he growls. We are also treated to my favorite mob/torch moment in monster movie history. One of the townsfolk, as is dictated by law, tosses his torch at the monster, who is on a nearby roof. But instead of lighting him on fire or whatever, Reed picks up a bale of hay, which immediately engulfs in flame. Reed then tosses it back at the crowd, thus turning their own torches against them! Yeah! I bet the guy who sells them all the torches (I like to think he has a cart, like a New York hot dog vendor) felt pretty bad about that.
Director Terence Fisher (who else?) really botches what could have been the all-time best “monster’s dead, so the movie’s over” moment in Hammer history though. Reed’s character’s father puts a blanket over him, and momentarily covers the camera lens with it, leaving an all black image. It would have been fucking AWESOME if they cut right then to credits, but Fisher breaks Hammer protocol by inserting a quick shot of someone reacting to the tragic loss of a once human character (his fiancée, in this case). Hammer movies don’t usually bother with such sentimental nonsense, so I’m not sure why they thought outside the box for once when they had the perfect opportunity to wrap it up with the blanket thing. Oh well.
So, yeah, it takes a while to get to the actual werewolf part of it (plus the “curse” stuff never really has any payoff) but it’s still an above average werewolf movie. It’s a bummer Hammer never made another. Maybe the new Hammer studio will do one of their own if the Benicio Del Toro one (from Universal) takes a break from being delayed and turns out to be a big hit.
What say you?