Monday, September 10, 2012

LET'S GET HAMMER'D: The Curse of the Werewolf


The Curse of the Werewolf
Director: Terence Fisher
Year 1961
 
The Curse of the Werewolf is a haunting tale spun by the masters of the macabre, Hammer Film Productions. Centered on a curse born from one single evil event, the film focuses on the ill effects and unexpected results that come from that one fateful day. In usual Hammer fashion, the production is drenched in atmospheric imagery and foreboding scenery, which in this particular case enhances this werewolf tale to unparalleled heights. With its exceptional cast and highly effective make-up work, The Curse of the Werewolf makes for a creepy monster movie that doesn’t shy away from making its lead protagonist sympathetic as well as tragic. This is one howl of a sick flick. Damn that line was lame, but let’s press on anyway and tackle this classic yarn.
 
The film opens up in wild fashion as we follow an intriguing tale that results in the raping of a mute chambermaid by the hands of a wrongly imprisoned and now wild and crazed hairy beggar. After escaping the clutches of the Wildman and murdering her cruel employer, the woman sets off into the wilderness in hopes of starting a new life. Lost and exhausted, she fortunately crosses paths with a nobleman named Don Alfredo Corledo and he takes it upon himself to bring her back to his chateau, where he and his servant Teresa can nurse her back to health. Upon examining, the two come to find that the woman is with child, but not all is normal with this pregnancy. A series of misfortunate events begin to arise as the mother dies soon after childbirth and the now healthy baby boy Leon is having persistent nightmares that have him scouring the countryside at night in search of fresh meat to satisfy his bloodlust. What is happening to this innocent young man and can he live a normal and productive life as he grows into adulthood? Who knows, but if I was a villager in the area I’d be stocking up on silver bullets like there was no tomorrow.

Oliver Reed takes on the role of Leon Corledo, the cursed young man who must grapple with not only coming of age and venturing out into the world, but with the reawakening of his forgotten bestial tendencies. Reed is absolutely brilliant in the tragic role, and his unusual features and wild mannerisms do wonders for bringing the character and his Werewolf alter ego to life. With a propensity to go a little over board in his performances, Reed finds the perfect rhythm and pitch in which to present this cursed man, and his trademark intensity is just spot on in balancing out the savage nature of the beast within his character. I’ve always enjoyed Oliver’s offerings throughout his long and illustrious career, from his entertaining take on Athos of the Three Musketeers, to his numerous Hammer roles, to his subdued portrayal in the obscure science fiction gem Z.P.G., to his iconic performance in Gladiator as the aged slave who one his freedom in the Coliseum, the man really knows how to steal the limelight and demand the audiences’ attention. In Curse of the Werewolf he takes center stage and really defines the film for what it is and that’s a tragic tale of one man’s cursed life.
 
Of course Reed is not alone in bringing this story to life and he is accompanied by an excellent cast of character actors that aid in rounding out the world of the film. Clifford Evans plays the role of Don Alfredo Corledo, the charitable man who takes on the weight of the world when he lets Leon’s pregnant mother into his home. Not only does Evans portray a central character that spans a number of ages, but he also narrates the film, explaining all that is going on from his perspective and what has been told to him on what occurred from the beginning of this sordid tale. Evans is great and he does an impeccable job with the material given to him. The struggle that his character is constantly plagued by in trying to find a way to make Leon’s life full and fruitful despite his inflicted curse, is heartwarming and commendable and Evans truly does the role justice.

Aside from Clifford Evans’ efforts in the film, there are a string of strong female characters that help push the story along and introduce us to Leon’s softer side and possibly saving grace from changing into the beast. Catherine Feller plays the most important role in tempering Leon’s savage qualities, as she personifies the love of his life in the form of Cristina Fernando. Though not in the film as nearly as much as I’d like, Catherine’s appearances are exceptional and she puts a great deal of sympathy into her character’s persona. The same can be said for Hira Talfrey in the role of Teresa. She takes on the mother figure role to Leon’s parentless upbringing, and she makes one half of Leon’s new family alongside Don Alfredo Corledo. Talfrey plays the most haunted of all the characters as she is the first to point out that the date of Leon’s birth is a bad omen and she seems to feel the foreboding storm coming the most out of all involved in his life. Her performance is grand in the scheme of all things, but she projects her emotions in the most subtle and poetic of ways. Lastly is the role of Leon’s biological mother played by the ridiculously attractive Yvonne Romain. Her role is the shortest of the film, but her fleeting moments on screen last to the bitter end not only because she looks absolutely stunning but because the horrible acts that set this whole curse into motion can be felt during the climax of the film, giving the story a cyclical feel that can only be ended in a turbulent and tragic fashion.
 
With all of these characters in place and the stage set for an epic tragedy, the film does a tremendous job in allowing the tensions of the moment to spring forward and propel the story along. The tense sequences in which Leon is bracing for the change, from normal and passive young man to savage and uncontrollable beast, are extremely powerful, and the make-up effects that follow these palpable moments are equal in their impact to the atmosphere of the film. Being a Hammer production, you know you’re in for a treat when it comes to the look and feel of the movie, and when it comes to The Curse of the Werewolf you’ve got nothing to fear in that department. The locations and sets are lavishly gothic as they’re all shot in that stylistic way that sets Hammer films apart from the rest of the pack. The night time scenes especially have that Hammer glow and there’s not a better example than when the villagers are chasing Leon as the Werewolf around the town with torches and pitchforks in tow. Overall the film is visual poetry with a mournful allegory that pulls at the heart strings as well as scratches that insatiable itch for slickly presented horror.

The Curse of the Werewolf is a classically filmed Hammer entry, as if there was any other kind, which allows the emotions of the characters involved to move the narrative along. Neck deep in foreboding tone and saturated in a stylistic haze, the movie is exceptionally crafted and expertly showcased. Though some people might be taken aback by the film’s episodic structure, I find that the end result gives the production a more theatrical feel and it is one that sets it apart from other iterations of its ilk.
 
As mentioned before, the cast is extremely devoted in emphasizing the doom that lays at the end of this twisted path and each actor brings their A game in presenting this fact with great lament and substantial remorse. The pain that is laced in the faces of everyone involved seems to perfectly mirror the dire situation that this film tackles. An innocent born into a cursed life is the central fixture of the story, and this unfortunate circumstance is felt throughout the runtime of this movie, almost to unbearable degrees. Though the theatrical nature of the production doesn’t showcase this bitter sweet agony as being rather severe, the overall powerful atmosphere that it creates is absolutely compelling. As I’ve previously stated, Oliver Reed is fantastic in the role of Leon Corledo and he tackles the sensitive and savage natures of his character with expert professionalism. When it comes to Werewolves, Reed makes for a frightening beast. The Curse of the Werewolf is a…..

Lady, I've got the same expression, but for different reasons. Wowza!

Sir.... you disgust me.

Hey kid pull my finger.

Listen man, the pull my finger joke has to stop. It's lame dude... so lame.

Try getting out now you little bastard.

What a nice young man.

I know that face. That boy's got to take a shit!

Son of a bitch! Did I crap the bed again?

Listen to me Leon! You have to stop pooping in your pants!

Sir, as Chief of the Poopy Pants Brigade I'm placing you under arrest.

Let me out of here! I have to use the little werewolf's room!

These guys are styling and profiling.

You can't arrest a man for pooping his pants!

Seriously honey.... take off the stupid hat.

It's true! Masterbating too much does give you hairy palms! Noooooo!

I see you over there you hairy devil!

Get down from there you stupid werewolf. Who do you think you are? Jackie Chan?

Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!
 

2 comments:

  1. jervaise brooke hamsterSeptember 27, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    I want to bugger and tit-fuck the bird with the massive knockers, that bird is fucking unbelievable ! ! !.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That would be the correct response my good man! Unbelievable indeed!

    ReplyDelete