A child conceived after a demented beggar rapes a mute servant girl is raised by a wealthy but kindly bachelor gentleman and his woman servant who learn, years later, that he is a werewolf. His only chance for normalcy is to find a woman who will love him for himself, which will release him from the curse.
***Conceived by rape and born on Christmas results in…*** In mid-1700’s Spain a mute servant lass (Yvonne Romain) is raped by a mad beggar and her child is born on Christmas day, which is considered blasphemy by the local religious folk. As an adult, Leon (Oliver Reed) leaves his adoptive parents to work at a nearby winery and develops a relationship with the owner’s highborn daughter (Catherine Feller). Unfortunately, an animal spirit seeks to dominate his soul as he struggles to suppress the beast within. The only werewolf flick made by Hammer, “The Curse of the Werewolf” (1961) was based on the novel “The Werewolf of Paris” by Guy Endore, but the location of the story was switched from France to Spain because there was a Spanish set available after a film about the Spanish Inquisition was scrapped due to opposition from the Catholic League of Decency. It’s interesting that Oliver Reed doesn’t even appear until the movie is past half over with only 45 minutes remaining (not counting his eyes in the opening credits). Reed had that gripping Brando-like brooding magnetism and his mounting anguish is displayed well. We realize Leon’s innocent, but in the grip of some kind of curse unjustly thrust upon him. The movie is unassuming and has the confidence to take its time with the entire first half being a set-up, which some modern viewers find boring and extraneous. But watch closely and there are several gems to be gleaned. For instance, Leon’s name is the reverse of Noel and it is love that keeps the fiend within at bay, whether paternal love or romantic love. The pure affection of Cristina is the only answer to soothe the savage beast, but she’s kept from him. The fools. The setting of 18th century Spain makes for a nice change of pace in a Hammer flick; and the look of the iconic creature itself was unique at the time and very effective, partially due to Reed’s brawny appearance and heavy charm. The film runs 1 hour, 33 minutes and was shot in England (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Surrey). GRADE: B
Some respectable prosthetic effects and fine work by Oliver Reed and Catherine Feller, but kind of plods along at times. but ultimately found it to be entertaining, especially the finale. **3.5/5**