Saturday, May 14, 2016

Hammer Mid-Century Penny Dreadfuls, or Thoughts on Oliver Reed in Curse of The Werewolf

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) starred legendary two-fisted hard drinker and maverick thespian Oliver Reed in his first screen role.  If you haven't heard of him, think of a 60’s Russell Crow but so much cooler.  Hammer Films are responsible for the modern gothic look, with their cheap, (let’s say thrifty) production values but access to actual castles, antiques and more authentic costumes produced a signature tone and style that mixed European traditions with Grand Guignol-style stories and violence.  
This being the 60’s, most of the violence is implied and off-camera and what little is shown seems tame from a modern perspective, but it was enough to earn an X rating in the UK and get banned in Finland.
This particular werewolf, a product of rape by a madman and a mute servant develops a taste for blood, an actual curse.  There’s an eclipse during his baptism and the water boils, just in case you forgot the title of the movie.  He grows into a creepy kid with a taste for blood and hairy palms and finally into the brooding British Brando we knew as Oliver Reed.  We don’t actually get to see the werewolf transformation until the final act of the film, but it’s a good one, reminiscent of Jack Pierce’s makeup for TheWolf Man.  He’s chased by angry villagers with torches, and finally killed with a silver bullet made from a crucifix.
It’s a Gothic horror, a doomed romance with sadistic noblemen in ruffled shirts, dark dungeons and buxom virginal brides and serving wenches in the signature Hammer cleavage-enhancing gowns.  Oliver Reed went on to star in Oliver! (1968), The Three Musketeers (1973), and Tommy (1975).  His final film was Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000), as the Antonius Proximus; he died during production.

 This is your saturday series of quick movie picks designed to both entertain and up your cinematic street cred.  You’re welcome.