DVD REVIEW The Curse Of The Werewolf

Ollie Reed raises hell

1961 * 12 * 89 mins * £14.99 * 4 October 2010
Distributor: Final Cut Entertainment
Director: Terence Fisher
Cast: Oliver Reed,  Clifford Evans, Yvonne Romain, Catherine Feller, Anthony Dawson

So, Oliver Reed wakes in his bed, with no idea how he got home, and a terrible sinking feeling about the events of the night before… It’s a scenario that no doubt played out in real life countless times – except then he didn’t find his hands caked with blood.

Long before he became more renowned for his wildman antics, feminist-baiting and Wogan-bothering, a young Ollie snagged his first starring role here. Based on Guy Endore’s 1933 novel The Werewolf In Paris, it was to be Hammer’s solitary stab at a werewolf film, and its qualified success is in major part due to its star, whose misbehaviours have rather overshadowed his acting ability.

As young Spaniard Leon, product of the rape of a mute serving wench by a deranged beggar (a plot detail Hammer struggled to get past a horrified British censor), he’s incredibly charismatic, his cobalt blue eyes burning with intensity. Good job too, because this is more an over-wrought romantic melodrama than a horror film, with the lowly Leon discovering that only his employer’s daughter Cristina (Catherine Feller) can soothe the savage beast that lurks within.

What little lycanthropic carnage there is is short-lived, and only comes after Leon’s history unfolds at great length, and Ollie’s make-up looks like an albino version of Amos from Emmerdale. But there’s plenty else to enjoy, especially for fans of British character actors  (thanks to welcome appearances by Warren “Alf Garnett” Mitchell and an outrageously mustachioed Peter “Wallis” Sallis) and class warriors – like several Hammer films, this one portrays the aristocracy as decadent sadists who get their kicks from humiliating the lower orders.

Extras:

Nowt, but Hammer fans take note: a 50th anniversary edition is scheduled for release next year, for which various new bonus features are being shot.

Ian Berriman