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Film / The Curse of the Werewolf

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Curse of the Werewolf is a 1961 British horror film directed by Terence Fisher. Surprisingly, it is the only werewolf movie produced in the entire run of Hammer Horror films. Based on the 1933 novel The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore, the film changes the setting to Spain. It is notable for its heavy tones of melodrama and emotional conflict.

Born on Christmas Day, Leon (Oliver Reed) is the child of a poor serving girl raped by a mad beggar (who himself was driven insane by a nobleman's cruelty). As he grows up, it appears that Leon inherited a terrible curse from the tragic circumstances of his conception, and only true love may be able to save him.

The film contains examples of these tropes:

  • Afraid of Blood: Leon is rather squeamish of blood as a child. His "Nightmares" of himself as a wolf feeding on sheep scare him for this reason.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The root of the curse is the Marquis' needless cruelty.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When Leon is a young child, a neighbor's sheep start dying. Leon's foster parents, knowing he's a Werewolf, give him more affection to keep him from attacking the sheep (especially after Leon is hit in the leg by a shepherd's bullet). And then another neighbor's dog is shot and killed trying to mooch the sheep. Said dog's owner is still upset about it years later, when Leon is an adult.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The silver bullet.
  • Child by Rape: Leon's curse stems from his biological mother being raped by a feral beggar as a young girl (and then giving birth on Christmas).
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: The film was adapted into comic book form in the pages of The House of Hammer, issue 10.
  • Covers Always Lie: Applies to movie posters too: Most of the posters and production stills for the film show Leon terrorize the voluptuous Yvonne Romain, who portrays the mute servant girl, Leon's biological mother who dies in child birth and never even sees her son as a newborn, let alone a full-grown werewolf.
  • Death by Adaptation: Leon's mother does not die in childbirth in the novel, leading to a horrifying scene where an adult Leon rapes her.
  • Death by Childbirth: How Leon's mother suffers her Death by Adaptation.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Leon stops by a brothel on the night of the full moon. This goes about as well as you would expect.
  • Dying as Yourself: Subverted. Leon remains in his werewolf form even after Don Alfredo shoots him at the bell tower.
  • Doomed Protagonist: Par course for a film where the lead character is unwittingly cursed with lycanthropy.
  • Downer Ending: Well, it's a werewolf movie, what do you think happens at the end?
  • Dramatic Thunder: Leon's baptism is interrupted twice by ominous weather.
  • Everyone Has Standards: It’s mentioned that the Marquis’ friends who had no problem making sport of the beggar at the wedding feast, were disgusted by how the Marquis treated his wife and refused to have anything to do with him after she died.
  • Happily Adopted: Leon is actually quite happy with his "Aunt" and "Uncle." His problems lie with his natural parents...
  • Hollywood Darkness: Noticeable "Day For Night" filters employed.
  • Honorary Uncle: Leon refers to his foster parents as "Uncle" and "Aunt".
  • Jerkass Gods: God punishes Leon by cursing him with being a werewolf simply for being an illegitimate child born on Christmas Day, completely ignoring that his mother was raped by an imprisoned beggar driven insane by the abuse of a corrupt noble.
  • Large Ham: Oliver Reed.
  • Lighter and Softer: In the original novel, Leon's birth mother is raped by a priest.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: These Spaniards all seem to speak the Queen's Spanish.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: As the title suggests, Leon becomes a werewolf because of a vaguely defined curse arising from the tragedy and cruelty of his conception. The fact that he was an unwanted child born on Christmas also plays into it, which actually was a way in mythology that people thought one could be born a werewolf. The moon doesn't always trigger a transformation; feelings like rage, hatred, or stress can trigger it. Conversely, emotions like happiness, kindness, and most importantly, love can temporarily reprieve the transformation and possibly even cure a werewolf.
  • The Power of Love: The only thing that can cure a werewolf.
  • The Queen's Latin: The Queen's Spanish.
  • Race Lift: The book was set in France but, this adaptation is set in Spain, making most of the characters dark-skinned Spaniards.
  • Rape as Drama: Leon is conceived when the mad beggar rapes the servant girl. The Marquis also tries to force himself on her.
  • Spared By Adaptation: Leon’s love interest commits suicide in the original novel after they are separated, but survives to the end in the film.
  • Suicide by Cop: Attempted. Leon confesses to the murders and begs to be executed before he kills again.
  • Supernatural Angst: Leon has no control over his werewolf curse since birth.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: In the end the werewolf is pursued by an angry mob in a scene very reminiscent of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
  • That Was Not a Dream: As a child, Leon thinks his time as a Werewolf is a series of recurring nightmares about being a wolf. He isn't told the truth until he's an adult.
  • Transformation Sequence: Several for Leon.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • As cruel and sadistic as he is, the Marquis Siniestro probably didn't expect that imprisoning the mute servant girl for refusing his sexual advances would result in her giving birth to a werewolf.
    • The police arresting Leon for murder unwittingly results in the climactic werewolf rampage through town.
  • Wolf Man: Leon's appearance owes more to The Wolf Man than a traditional werewolf.