“I picked it up and tried to kiss it better. I kissed it and I tasted something warm. It must have been the blood and it tasted sweet. I could keep on tasting it.”
In Spain, in the seventeen hundreds, a beggar (Richard Wordsworth) is thrown in the dungeon by a cruel Marques (Anthony Dawson) and left to rot. He wallows there for fifteen years. His only contact is the jailer and the jailer’s mute daughter (Yvonne Romain). One day the old Marques makes a pass at the young woman when she is cleaning his room. She refuses him. He has her tossed in the dungeon with the beggar. The beggar rapes her and then dies. The next day when the girl is released she is sent back to the Marques. She stabs him to death and runs into the woods.
She is found by Don Alfredo Corledo (Clifford Evans). He brings her home. His housekeeper, Teresa (Hira Talfrey), takes care of her. The young woman turns out to be pregnant. The baby is born on Christmas day. After her son is born the woman dies. Teresa and Alfredo name the child Leon (Justin Walters) and raise him.
Teresa considers the birth on Christmas day to be unlucky. She believes that a child born on that day is destined to become a werewolf. A few years later, when some goats in the area are found dead, their throats ripped out, they learn that he is indeed cursed. The local priest (John Gabriel) advises that he must be raised with love in order to combat his instincts.
Once Leon (now Oliver Reed) grows to manhood he leaves home to look for work at the Gomez vineyard. Don Fernando Gomez (Ewen Solon) gives Leon a job in the wine cellar working with Jose Amadayo (Martin Matthews). They become friends. Leon falls in love with Fernando's daughter, Cristina (Catherine Feller); however she is betrothed to Rico Gomez (David Conville).
Depressed at the idea he will not be able to marry Cristina he transforms into a werewolf and begins killing people. He learns too late that Cristina’s loving presence prevents the transformation. He convinces Cristina to run away with him and get married. Before they can elope, Leon is arrested and thrown in jail. Now there is nothing to stop the curse from taking full affect.
“The Curse of the Werewolf” was released in 1961 and was directed by Terence Fisher. It is a Hammer Studios film and was based on the novel “The Werewolf of Paris” by Guy Endore. Hammer did only one werewolf movie. Since Universal owned just about all things Wolf Man, Hammer based their movie on Guy Endore’s story. They did change the setting from Paris to Spain. Most likely because they already had lavish Spanish sets for another movie that they did not make.
Supposedly in the original screenplay the beggar character was a werewolf but censor’s had problems with the idea of a werewolf/rapist.
My thoughts. I am a fan of Hammer films. No one does lavish artistic and detailed sets like they do. Combine that with sweeping majestic music and extremely talented actors and 99% of the time you are going to have a captivating film that you will remember. All those elements are here. In my opinion, however, this is not a werewolf movie. It is a love story… with teeth. Oliver Reed, whose brooding intensity could easily pass for a werewolf anytime, doesn’t show up until three quarters of the way through the film. Before that it’s kinda slow. Once he does arrive his werewolf persona only appears twice. It is a beautifully visual film but as far as I’m concerned, not enough werewolf.