Review: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Having just read and reviewed The Werewolf of Paris, I decide to tackle its movie version, The Curse of the Werewolf, for my Halloween evening entertainment. In short, read the book. It’s interesting and unusual. The movie is a run-of-the-mill horror flick, with only one redeeming factor: it starts slow because it focuses on character development for the first half.

I knew I’d be in trouble from the start with this movie, because the setting has been transferred from France to Spain. All the comparisons between the outrages of the werewolf and the outrages of humans at war were dropped from the novel along with this change of setting, taking out one of its major points.

Amazing how the peasant maids all have ample cleavage!

Still, the first part of this movie is reasonably faithful to the novel in spirit. Even some of the dialogue is taken verbatim from the novel. Our young lad has an ill-omened conception and birth. As he grows older, his “uncle” thinks he’s becoming a werewolf, and tries various means to protect and restrain him. The lad himself is bewildered, because he doesn’t fully understand his plight. It’s all done fairly well. Makes you think about how you’d feel in their situation.

Having jettisoned the rest of the novel’s plot, the movie develops the werewolf along standard cinematic lines. He becomes uncontrollable at the full moon, looks like a hairy man, and maybe can be redeemed by true love. There’s the inevitable climax when a mob faces the werewolf. Ta-da. The end.

Thanks for tossing me in a dungeon where I was raped, you lecherous old bastard!

It’s not bad, as an ordinary werewolf movie from the days before An American Werewolf in London. You’ll think you’re watching an old Universal horror flick, even though this came from Hammer Studios. There’s even a young Oliver Reed in one of his first starring roles as the cursed young man. But so much was sacrificed from the book! Take the love interest. In both the book and the movie, she’s a young aristocratic woman who rejects a bland upper-class lover for the werewolf. The movie’s Cristina is virginal and pure, hence a conventional redeemer. The book’s Sophie is a much more complex character, whose darker cravings answer the werewolf’s.

If you like the old-fashioned monster movies, you’ll enjoy this. Just be prepared for a slow build-up. But if you want a horror story that challenges you, read the book.


About Brian Bixby

I enjoy history because it helps me understand people. I'm writing fiction for much the same reason.
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7 Responses to Review: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

  1. crimsonprose says:

    I had noticed the inclusion of Oliver Reed. I thought it apt: he did have a reputation of being a bit of a wolf.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      Indeed, although he’s a bit out of character in the “social club” when he doesn’t drink as much as his companion!
      Some reviews of movie praise his acting. Eh, I could take it or leave it; I think the actor who played the younger version was more effective.

  2. Judy says:

    I like your review though. Perhaps I may read the book….the pile I have though has languished lately though.

  3. nscovell says:

    I actually really enjoyed this movie and am surprised Hammer didn’t pursue anymore werewolf films.

    It’s a very different movie from the 1941 film The Wolf Man and fails to deliver. The Wolf Man is open to interpretation but strongly points to the concept that Larry Tolbert is in fact insane and not at all a werewolf. Something I think added a certain depth to the film. You can and it’s perfectly fine to see it as a monster movie. Yet the added story of a mans psychosis makes it far better.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      Thanks for the commentary. I’m happy to hear from someone who enjoyed the movie more than I did and who has thoughts on the whole idea of the werewolf.

      You might want to track down the book this movie was based on, Guy Endore’s “The Werewolf of Paris,” because while it accepts the reality of werewolves, it does add other dimensions to the existence and significance, dimensions that didn’t make it into this movie adaptation.

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