The Curse of the Werewolf


1h 31m 1961
The Curse of the Werewolf

Brief Synopsis

The story of a young man in Spain who faces the challenges of becoming a werewolf.

Film Details

Genre
Horror
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
New York opening: 7 Jun 1961
Production Company
Hammer Film Productions, Ltd.; Hotspur Films, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Universal--International Films
Country
United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore (New York, 1933).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 31m

Synopsis

In 18th-century Spain, the sadistic Marqués Siniestro imprisons a beggar in a dungeon and treats him as a dog, naming him Fido. Ten years later the poor creature is joined by a deafmute servant girl who is being punished for rejecting the marqués' advances. Maddened by his long confinement, the beggar savagely molests the girl and then perishes, a victim of his own metamorphosis into an animal. The ravished girl escapes, kills the marqués, and then tries to drown herself in a river. She is saved by a kindly professor, Alfredo Carido, who takes care of her until she dies giving birth to the beggar's son. Carido christens the child León and adopts him as his own son. As the years pass it becomes apparent that the lad has werewolf tendencies, and by the time he reaches manhood he is responsible for several brutal murders. Realizing the awful truth about himself and fearful that he may someday harm his beloved Cristina, León begs Carido for help. Carido has him sent to a monastery, where he is kept in chains; but eventually León escapes, attempts to elope with Cristina, and is captured and jailed by the police. On the night of the next full moon, León breaks out of his cell and scrambles to the rooftops of the village. The grief-stricken Carido finally kills him with a special bullet--a silver pellet carved from a blessed crucifix.

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The Curse of the Werewolf - Lobby Card
The Curse of the Werewolf - Lobby Card

Videos

Movie Clip

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Horror
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
New York opening: 7 Jun 1961
Production Company
Hammer Film Productions, Ltd.; Hotspur Films, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Universal--International Films
Country
United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore (New York, 1933).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 31m

Articles

The Curse of the Werewolf


The Curse of the Werewolf, a 1961 release directed by Terence Fisher, takes its nineteenth-century setting and basic themes from The Werewolf of Paris, a 1933 novel by Guy Endore that begins with an appropriately spooky old adage declaring that werewolves require no normal food since "night, winter and death" provide all the nourishment they need. The hunger for death is what makes werewolves a threat to ordinary mortals, and it's no wonder that they've been starring in horror films since at least 1913, when Henry MacRae's silent two-reeler The Werewolf, a Canadian production shot at the Universal Pictures studio in Los Angeles, initiated the subgenre.

Although screen werewolves have never been as numerous as vampires or zombies, a few werewolf movies have proven very popular over the years. The best is George Waggner's classic The Wolf Man (1941), with Lon Chaney, Jr. in the first of five appearances as the title character, whose murderous activities under the full moon's influence give him a self-loathing shame that sets him apart from the great majority of movie monsters.

The Curse of the Werewolf resurrects the idea of the reluctant werewolf who feels guilty and remorseful about the need to kill when the moon is full. The tale begins three centuries ago, when a wandering beggar offends a nasty aristocrat and is condemned to a horrible dungeon, where his only friend is a jailer's daughter who lacks the ability to speak. Eventually the beggar rapes and impregnates his mute companion, and she dies after giving birth to a baby boy, who is named Leon and adopted by a generous noble.

A few years later, local peasants discover that their animals are being slain by a predator no one can find. A priest in the devoutly religious village realizes that the culprit is Leon, whose unhappy birth has resulted in a war between his "soul," which is that of a human being, and his "spirit," which is that of a ravening wolf. Leon is blissfully unaware of the conflict raging inside him until he becomes a man and discovers sex, which somehow unlocks the deadly instinct that periodically conquers him. Unable to resist the urge to kill, he finally begs for the silver bullet that can put an end to his cursed existence. (And the silver bullet works, even though a minor character in Stephen King's sprawling 1986 novel It says that a silver bullet would just "tumble" rather than blast out of a gun barrel.)

The Curse of the Werewolf gains most of its dramatic power from Fisher's richly detailed visual style, enhanced by Arthur Grant's widescreen Technicolor cinematography, which conveys a surprisingly large number of grim details with the tact and restraint necessary to get such a bleak narrative past the censors in the early 1960s. The picture's philosophical interest comes from the screenplay by Anthony Hinds, who adapted Endore's novel under his screenwriting pseudonym, John Elder, and produced the picture under his own name.

Overlapping traditional Christianity and peasant superstition in unexpectedly complex ways, sometimes borrowed directly from the novel, the film suggests that Leon's predatory instincts are a kind of original sin stemming from the corrupt circumstances of his birth; although he is born on Christmas Day, his name resembles "lion," hinting that his animal nature is fundamental to his being. At the same time, however, the story holds out the possibility that self-sacrificing love might ultimately bring redemption. The film doesn't say for sure whether Leon's human "soul" triumphs over his bestial "spirit" in the end, and this ambiguity - underscored by the absence of a return to human form at the moment of his death - is one of the picture's many artful touches.

In an unusual move for a monster movie, the title character of The Curse of the Werewolf doesn't make an appearance until about halfway through, when Leon finally becomes an adult. He's played by Oliver Reed, who has magnetism to spare in his human moments and displays plenty of ferocity in the monster scenes, although his werewolf costume (complete with plastic fangs and ears that can only be described as cute) is less than convincing when it bursts into view during the climax. This was the first lead performance of Reed's career, which continued for four more decades and spanned a long list of genres, with occasional returns to horror in pictures like David Greene's The Shuttered Room (1967), Dan Curtis's Burnt Offerings (1976), and David Cronenberg's The Brood (1979). Standouts in the supporting cast include Richard Wordsworth as the unfortunate beggar, Anthony Dawson as the sadistic aristocrat, Yvonne Romain as Leon's ill-starred mother, and Clifford Evans as his adoptive father.

Fisher directed The Curse of the Werewolf for Hammer Films, which had launched its golden age of horror with two of Fisher's finest pictures - The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula - in 1957 and 1958, respectively. Different takes on lycanthropy have surfaced in other well-known movies, from Gene Fowler Jr.'s I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) and Joe Dante's The Howling (1981) to John Landis's An American Werewolf in London (1981), Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves (1984), and John Fawcett's Ginger Snaps (2000), all of which left clear marks on the subgenre's development. While The Curse of the Werewolf is not the greatest specimen of its breed, and its equation of sexuality with brutishness is an overused horror-movie cliché. This notwithstanding, Fisher's carefully crafted fantasy stands with the most thoughtful of its kind.

Director: Terence Fisher
Producer: Anthony Hinds
Screenplay: John Elder, based on The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore
Cinematographer: Arthur Grant
Film Editing: Alfred Cox
Art Direction: Don Mingaye
Music: Benjamin Frankel
With: Clifford Evans (Alfredo), Oliver Reed (Leon), Yvonne Romain (Servant Girl), Catherine Feller (Cristina), Anthony Dawson (The Marques Siniestro), Anne Blake (Rosa Valiente), Warren Mitchell (Pepe Valiente), Michael Ripper (Old Soak), Peter Sallis (Don Enrique), Ewen Solon (Don Fernando), Hira Talfrey (Teresa), George Woodbridge (Dominique), Richard Wordsworth (The Beggar), Josephine Llewellyn (The Marquesa), Justin Walters (Young Leon), John Gabriel (The Priest), Martin Matthews (Jose), David Conville (Rico Gomez), Denis Shaw (Gaoler), Charles Lamb (Chef), Serafino Di Leo (Senora Zumara), Sheila Brennan (Vera), Joy Webster (Isabel), Renny Lister (Yvonne)
Color-93m.

by David Sterritt
The Curse Of The Werewolf

The Curse of the Werewolf

The Curse of the Werewolf, a 1961 release directed by Terence Fisher, takes its nineteenth-century setting and basic themes from The Werewolf of Paris, a 1933 novel by Guy Endore that begins with an appropriately spooky old adage declaring that werewolves require no normal food since "night, winter and death" provide all the nourishment they need. The hunger for death is what makes werewolves a threat to ordinary mortals, and it's no wonder that they've been starring in horror films since at least 1913, when Henry MacRae's silent two-reeler The Werewolf, a Canadian production shot at the Universal Pictures studio in Los Angeles, initiated the subgenre. Although screen werewolves have never been as numerous as vampires or zombies, a few werewolf movies have proven very popular over the years. The best is George Waggner's classic The Wolf Man (1941), with Lon Chaney, Jr. in the first of five appearances as the title character, whose murderous activities under the full moon's influence give him a self-loathing shame that sets him apart from the great majority of movie monsters. The Curse of the Werewolf resurrects the idea of the reluctant werewolf who feels guilty and remorseful about the need to kill when the moon is full. The tale begins three centuries ago, when a wandering beggar offends a nasty aristocrat and is condemned to a horrible dungeon, where his only friend is a jailer's daughter who lacks the ability to speak. Eventually the beggar rapes and impregnates his mute companion, and she dies after giving birth to a baby boy, who is named Leon and adopted by a generous noble. A few years later, local peasants discover that their animals are being slain by a predator no one can find. A priest in the devoutly religious village realizes that the culprit is Leon, whose unhappy birth has resulted in a war between his "soul," which is that of a human being, and his "spirit," which is that of a ravening wolf. Leon is blissfully unaware of the conflict raging inside him until he becomes a man and discovers sex, which somehow unlocks the deadly instinct that periodically conquers him. Unable to resist the urge to kill, he finally begs for the silver bullet that can put an end to his cursed existence. (And the silver bullet works, even though a minor character in Stephen King's sprawling 1986 novel It says that a silver bullet would just "tumble" rather than blast out of a gun barrel.) The Curse of the Werewolf gains most of its dramatic power from Fisher's richly detailed visual style, enhanced by Arthur Grant's widescreen Technicolor cinematography, which conveys a surprisingly large number of grim details with the tact and restraint necessary to get such a bleak narrative past the censors in the early 1960s. The picture's philosophical interest comes from the screenplay by Anthony Hinds, who adapted Endore's novel under his screenwriting pseudonym, John Elder, and produced the picture under his own name. Overlapping traditional Christianity and peasant superstition in unexpectedly complex ways, sometimes borrowed directly from the novel, the film suggests that Leon's predatory instincts are a kind of original sin stemming from the corrupt circumstances of his birth; although he is born on Christmas Day, his name resembles "lion," hinting that his animal nature is fundamental to his being. At the same time, however, the story holds out the possibility that self-sacrificing love might ultimately bring redemption. The film doesn't say for sure whether Leon's human "soul" triumphs over his bestial "spirit" in the end, and this ambiguity - underscored by the absence of a return to human form at the moment of his death - is one of the picture's many artful touches. In an unusual move for a monster movie, the title character of The Curse of the Werewolf doesn't make an appearance until about halfway through, when Leon finally becomes an adult. He's played by Oliver Reed, who has magnetism to spare in his human moments and displays plenty of ferocity in the monster scenes, although his werewolf costume (complete with plastic fangs and ears that can only be described as cute) is less than convincing when it bursts into view during the climax. This was the first lead performance of Reed's career, which continued for four more decades and spanned a long list of genres, with occasional returns to horror in pictures like David Greene's The Shuttered Room (1967), Dan Curtis's Burnt Offerings (1976), and David Cronenberg's The Brood (1979). Standouts in the supporting cast include Richard Wordsworth as the unfortunate beggar, Anthony Dawson as the sadistic aristocrat, Yvonne Romain as Leon's ill-starred mother, and Clifford Evans as his adoptive father. Fisher directed The Curse of the Werewolf for Hammer Films, which had launched its golden age of horror with two of Fisher's finest pictures - The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula - in 1957 and 1958, respectively. Different takes on lycanthropy have surfaced in other well-known movies, from Gene Fowler Jr.'s I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) and Joe Dante's The Howling (1981) to John Landis's An American Werewolf in London (1981), Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves (1984), and John Fawcett's Ginger Snaps (2000), all of which left clear marks on the subgenre's development. While The Curse of the Werewolf is not the greatest specimen of its breed, and its equation of sexuality with brutishness is an overused horror-movie cliché. This notwithstanding, Fisher's carefully crafted fantasy stands with the most thoughtful of its kind. Director: Terence Fisher Producer: Anthony Hinds Screenplay: John Elder, based on The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore Cinematographer: Arthur Grant Film Editing: Alfred Cox Art Direction: Don Mingaye Music: Benjamin Frankel With: Clifford Evans (Alfredo), Oliver Reed (Leon), Yvonne Romain (Servant Girl), Catherine Feller (Cristina), Anthony Dawson (The Marques Siniestro), Anne Blake (Rosa Valiente), Warren Mitchell (Pepe Valiente), Michael Ripper (Old Soak), Peter Sallis (Don Enrique), Ewen Solon (Don Fernando), Hira Talfrey (Teresa), George Woodbridge (Dominique), Richard Wordsworth (The Beggar), Josephine Llewellyn (The Marquesa), Justin Walters (Young Leon), John Gabriel (The Priest), Martin Matthews (Jose), David Conville (Rico Gomez), Denis Shaw (Gaoler), Charles Lamb (Chef), Serafino Di Leo (Senora Zumara), Sheila Brennan (Vera), Joy Webster (Isabel), Renny Lister (Yvonne) Color-93m. by David Sterritt

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Opened in London in April 1961; running time: 88 min. John Elder is a pseudonym for Anthony Hinds.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1961

Re-released in United States on Video August 6, 1996

Formerly distributed by MCA Home Video.

Released in United States 1961

Re-released in United States on Video August 6, 1996