Starring: Oliver Reed, Clifford Evans, Yvonne Romain, Catherine Feller
Written By: John Elder (screenplay)
Directed By: Terrance Fisher
Studio: Hammer Films
Original Year of Release: 1961
Rated: Not Rated
Run Time: 93 Minutes
When Hammer Films reinvented the horror wheel by reinterpreting well-known characters such as Dracula and Frankenstein, we were given the likes of Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Van Helsing as main characters along with the Count and a new creation. These spawned loosely based sequels and a plethora of films to both entertain and delight generations of fans.
Hammer’s take on the wolfman tale was a tad different. Initially they set out to make an inquisition big-budget picture but ultimately ended up making a werewolf picture at the last minute and based it on Guy Endore's “Werewolf of Paris” novel. Not the way to kick start a new character, to say the least. So what works for The Curse of the Werewolf is its production design, sets, costumes, and actors. What does not work is their own wolfman lore.
I’ve watched this film at least 3 times and I am still not sure exactly how Oliver Reed’s Leon was cursed with the wolfman gene. I say gene because he was not bitten by a wolf or a wolfman, but was born with the affliction. It takes over an hour for Oliver Reed to appear on the screen (there is a younger version of the actor who is spot on to play him though).
What we are given is a very tragic story that starts with Leon’s parents who are both simple and decent folk who are brought together by fate. Sadly, their meeting and act of love is not a good one. It’s all tragedy for the Werewolf and he’s not even out the womb yet.
So why watch, especially if you aren’t into considerably tragic tales? First and foremost, Reed is superb as the lead. It is a crime that he didn’t get to follow up on this origin tale in the way that Lon Chaney Jr. did over at Universal. We feel Reed’s anguish and frustration over the lack of control in his life, something that many of us can identify with (especially at the time of writing this review in the Spring of 2020). You will also want to see Reed’s make-up by Roy Ashton. Though unique and brutal, Ashton had the prefect actor and bone structure underneath to make his creation come to life. If you have ever seen Reed in Oliver Twist, you know just how much of a human monster he can portray. Thankfully, as it is with all of these Scream Factory Hammer releases, there is a fantastic look at make-up artist Roy Ashton in the special features, complete with personal stories and sketches that make him the Jack Pierce of Hammer.
If you have been growing your Hammer library through Scream Factory's recent releases, you have to pick up this one. The transfer is beautiful, the new and old special features are all here, and above all, you’ll howl at the moon watching Oliver Reed becoming a werewolf. Get it now before it is gone HERE at Scream Factory. Oh, and if you need a second opinion, the director of An American Werewolf in London talks up the film as well below.
THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Bonus Content:
- NEW 4K scan from the interpositive.
- NEW Audio Commentary with actress Yvonne Romain, special makeup effects artist Mike Hill and composer Leslie Bricusse
- NEW Audio Commentary with author/film historian Steve Haberman and filmmaker/film historian Constantine Nasr
- NEW The Men Who Made Hammer – Roy Ashton
- NEW Serial Killer – Benjamin Frankel, Serialism and THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF
- The Making of THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF – including interviews with actors Catherine Feller and Yvonne Romain, Mike Hill, art director Don Mingaye, art department member Margaret Robinson and filmmaker Jimmy Sangster
- Lycanthropy: The Beast in All of Us
- Censoring the Werewolf
- Theatrical Trailer
- Trailers From Hell with commentary by filmmaker John Landis
- Radio Spot
- Still Gallery