• Curse Of The Werewolf (Der Fluch Von Siniestro)



    Released by: Anolis Entertainment
    Released on: August 29th, 2014.
    Director: Terence Fisher
    Cast: Oliver Reed, Richard Wordsworth, Yvonne Romain, Clifford Evans
    Year: 1961

    The Movie:

    Directed for Hammer Film Productions by Terence Fisher in 1961, Curse Of The Werewolf debuts on Blu-ray from German distributors Anolis Entertainment. The story is set in eighteenth century Spain and it begins in a small town where a beggar (Richard Wordsworth) has arrived to find the town square unusually quiet. Knowing it’s not Sunday he wanders into a local tavern to inquire as to what’s going on and is told that the townsfolk are being forced to take the day in celebration of the wedding of the Marquis Siniestro (Anthony Dawson). He’s told if he wants charity to head there and not aware of the situation, he does just that. He interrupts the reception and after being plied with wine and forced to dance for table scraps, he’s tossed into the prison below the castle.

    Years later the mute daughter (Yvonne Romain) of the prison guard grows into a beautiful woman, so beautiful is she in fact that Siniestro, now a widower, tries to have his way with her. She protests and is locked in the cell with the beggar, now obviously quite insane. He rapes her that night, but the next day she’s freed so that she can try again to please the Marquis. Instead of becoming his plaything, she flees and passes out in the woods. She’s found by Don Alfredo Corledo (Clifford Evans) who brings her back to the home he shares with his housekeeper Teresa (Hira Talfrey) and soon enough, on Christmas day no less, she gives birth to a boy named Leon. Sadly, the mother dies during childbirth but Alfredo and Teresa raise Leon as if he were their own, even if Teresa believes him to be cursed. As Leon grows from an infant to a boy, animal killings become common in the area. He starts to change, grow angrier and more aggressive whenever the moon is full but his parents help him to keep this under control.

    Years later, Leon is a grown man (and played by Oliver Reed) and wants to make his own way in the world. He heads off to find work at a vineyard owned by Don Fernando Gomez (Ewen Solon) who employs him alongside Jose Amadayo (Martin Matthews). The two become friends and soon Leon takes interest in Gomez’s lovely daughter, Cristina (Catherine Feller), much to the dismay of her fiancé. One night while out drinking, upset over things with Cristina, he winds up at a whorehouse and can no longer control himself. He transforms into a werewolf and terrorizes the town…

    The only werewolf film ever made by Hammer, Curse Of The Werewolf spends a whole lot of time on Leon’s back story and the details of how he came to be what he came to be before getting to the obligatory monster action in the big finish. While some might find that the film moves too slowly because of those, patient viewers are rewarded with as well told tale that is quite involved and which puts the story before the action. Fisher’s direction is good here, and while the movie doesn’t go at a thousand miles an hour he ensures that enough happens even in the earlier scenes to help build suspense and offer foreshadowing for what’s to come. The movie is a dark one, unfolding in a world that where faith is deemed essentially useless as it spends quite a bit of time showing how Leon and his family try to control his condition and at least initially to some success. It becomes more difficult to do this as Leon gets older, however, and while he has grown into a nice man who means well, his lycanthropic curse grows stronger as he matures. There comes a point where he becomes so distraught over his situation that he cannot control himself any longer.

    The film, like the best Hammer pictures, has plenty of gothic atmosphere. From the cell in which Leon is conceived to the scenes where he’s in full makeup running across the streets and rooftops of a studio set doubling for a small Spanish town there are plenty of shadowy locations and creaky old buildings to create a proper mood (even if none of them really ever feel like they’re authentically Spanish). The makeup effects employed during Reed’s transformation sequence as quite good even if a scene in which we see hair grow out of some obviously fake hands is just that – obviously fake.

    This is one where the performances are really more important than the effects work, however, and on that level the film is quite successful. Richard Wordsworth is completely tragic as the beggar, at first an object of pity and then later quite intimidating once he goes insane from his incarceration. Yvonne Romain is not only beautiful but incredibly sympathetic in her role while Anthony Dawson makes for a perfectly despicable elitist snob, the kind only too ready to exploit the lower classes. Clifford Evans and Hira Talfrey are convincing as the couple who become Leon’s kind, caring parents while Catherine Feller does a fine job as the love interest in the later part of the picture. While Oliver Reed isn’t introduced until later in the movie he does an excellent job in the part, playing Leon as increasingly tortured. Reed always had a powerful screen presence and he brings that to his work here both as Leon and as the werewolf once the transformation occurs.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Anolis presents Curse Of The Werewolf in an excellent AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. While there are a few small specks here and there you’ll notice if you’re really looking for them, the vast majority of the film is remarkably clean. A natural amount of film grain is visible but never to the point where it’s distracting. Detail is typically excellent and not just in close up shots either. Of course, when the camera zooms in on facial close ups you’ll notice crags and lines and, on the case of Reed in full makeup, lots of fuzz and fur but even in shots that are pulled back there’s plenty to take in. In the prison scenes under the Marquis’ castle you can get a feel for the dirt and dust in the room. Texture is strong, color reproduction is excellent and would seem to be in keeping with the film’s original color timing. Shadow detail is good and black levels are rock solid. There are no issues at all with even a trace of noise reduction and there are no obvious issues with edge enhancement or compression artifacts and the upgrade over picture quality of the previous Universal DVD release is really very impressive. Note that this is a Region B coded release.

    German and English language options are provided for the feature in DTS-HD Mono with optional subtitles in German only. The single channel mix is free of any problems and features good depth particularly in regards to the score and the sound effects. Dialogue is easy to understand and the levels are properly balanced throughout. There aren’t any problems with any hiss or distortion on the English track and the movie sounds very good here.

    Extras are plentiful, they start off with an audio commentary from Dr. Rolf Giesen and Volker Lange but it is in German only without any subtitles. It seems like an active track with lots of discussion but it’s hard to say much more than that about it. Thankfully the forty-four minute long Making Of The Curse Of The Werewolf featurette, previously included on the Final Cut Entertainment DVD release from the UK, like the other featurettes on the disc, is in English (with optional German subtitles). This is an excellent piece made up of interviews with Catherine Feller, Yvonne Romain, Mike Hill, Don Mingaye, Margaret Robinson and Jimmy Sangster and it covers everything from the origins of the project to the location to Reed’s work on the film to the effects work and quite a bit more. There are a lot of archival photographs used here and the interviews are all quite interesting. The disc also includes a three and a half minute Lycanthropy Featurette that basically gives us a quick rundown of werewolf lore and mythology. Also worth checking out is The Props that Hammer Built: The Kinsey Collection, which is basically a tour of Wayne Kinsey’s collection of Hammer Horror memorabilia guided by Kinsey himself. The amount of stuff that this man has managed to collect over the years is staggering and nothing short of amazing. This was also included on the Synapse Blu-ray release of Twins Of Evil.

    The extras also offer up a (German language) version of the comic book adaptation of the movie that originally appeared in the tenth issue The House Of Hammer magazine. Featuring great artwork from artist John Bolton this is one of many fantastic looking black and white comic book versions of Hammer classics that the magazine offered up during its run. Rounding out the extras are English and German theatrical trailers, a press kit, the German alternate end credits sequence and two still galleries. Menus and chapter stops are also included.

    The Final Word:

    Curse Of The Werewolf isn’t the fastest moving horror film ever made but it does build character very well and offer up plenty of great cinematography and atmosphere. The cast are strong across the board here, with Reed really doing a fine job as both the very human Leon and of course his lycanthrope counterpart. As far as the quality of the Blu-ray release is concerned, Anolis has done a top notch job here. The movie looks and sounds excellent and it’s loaded with (mostly English friendly) supplemental material. A very nice upgrade over the past DVD releases and a fine addition to the expanding catalogue of Hammer films on Blu-ray.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!



































    Comments 1 Comment
    1. sukebanboy's Avatar
      sukebanboy -
      TBH honest I would watch ANYTHING that Oliver Reed appears in. Saw this one when I was a young lad..and it didn't disappoint...even though , as you said, its not particularly fast moving.