Saturday, November 7, 2009
Day 264: Curse of the Werewolf (1961) - Rank 4/5
Oliver Reed as a werewolf? Don't mind if I do. Reed, a delightfully flamboyant actor who is prone to chewing the scenery, is in rare, subdued form in his first starring role. While playing characters of a brooding nature became is forte in life, Reed portrays Leon Corledo, a peasant afflicted with the curse of lycanthropy, with a quiet, but tortured, nature that makes you truly sympathize with the character.
The overall film feels very much like a fairy tale, albeit one far darker than you'd ever tell a child at bedtime. Beginning in 18th century Spain, roughly fifty years earlier, the story follows a poor beggar who comes to the town of Santa Vera in search of food and drink. He ends up at the castle of the cruel Marquis during his wedding feast. The Marquis provides the beggar with nothing but wine, and the result is drunken entertainment for all the guests until the beggar unwittingly offends the Marquis. Twenty years he lives in the dungeon for his offense, becoming more bestial by the year, until the fated day that he rapes the daughter of the dungeon master. She flees, is found half-dead and pregnant by Don Corledo, and is cared for by the Don and his wife until she dies during childbirth. The result is a child that possesses the spirit of the wolf within his blood. In reality, this probably isn't too far from the true origin for Oliver Reed (speculation based purely on the actor's rakish lifestyle).
Anyway, the werewolf being nothing more than a surreal metaphor for the beast that lies within every man is a unique twist to an old idea. It's explained during the film by a priest that every man possesses such a creature deep within his soul, but Leon's is far more prominent due to his past. His only hope is that he will find a woman who can tame that beast, and so he does in Cristina (Catherine Feller). But love is as cruel as Leon's past, and when he becomes separated from his love, the beast emerges and blood is shed.
The makeup for Reed as a werewolf is fantastic. The alteration of his neck and torso takes him beyond the look of a man with crepe hair slathered on his face. No, extra flesh added to Reed's large frame makes him look positively bestial and intimidating. This rendition, added to the macabre love story/fairy tale tone of the film, makes "Curse of the Werewolf" one of the superior installations in the lycanthrope lineage.
Watch the Trailer