Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Despite this movie's title and the pedigree of its production company (Hammer Films), this is just barely a horror movie. It's more a Gothic Freudian Dickens tale with a wolfman instead of a pickpocket at its center. A long opening sequence focuses first on a beggar (Richard Wordsworth) who arrives in a Spanish town during a holiday which has been called to mark the wedding feast of the Marquis's daughter. The Marquis at first appears inclined to be generous, but soon the beggar is thrown into jail and left for years to rot, totally forgotten. The story then shifts to the jailer's mute daughter (Yvonne Romain) who winds up in his cell and is raped by the beggar, who has become completely deranged. She goes off to live in the woods, but dies while giving birth on Christmas Day, which is considered a cursed day for childbirth. The boy grows up into a werewolf, but the love and compassion of his guardians stop his evil transformations. However, as an adult (Oliver Reed), he discovers that feelings of lust trigger his lycanthropy. He falls in love with Christina (Catherine Feller) and the two have an affair, despite her betrothal to someone else, but when things don’t go his way, Reed's transformations cause trouble for all. The film is slow-going, especially if you're only watching it for blood and horror; most of the werewolfery is saved for the last 10 minutes of the film. Reed is excellent--I agree with one IMDb reviewer who says that Reed may be the best actor ever to play a werewolf--and the makeup is quite good. The rest of the acting and the general production values are about par for a Hammer film. Overall, an interesting variation on the usual Hollywood werewolf story, but not totally successful. [DVD]

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