The Curse of the Werewolf

The beggar at the table of the great: Richard Wordsworth in The Curse of the Werewolf (dir. Terence Fisher, 1961).

It's set in Spain, but everybody says things like "'Ello, then, wot's this 'ere?" The color is magnificent, and the historical sets and costumes are pretty inspired in their gaudy unlikeliness. The whole first twenty minutes or half hour or so are like a separate little movie unto itself, and a very perverse, recherché one at that. A wandering beggar shows up at the wedding feast of a cruel and decadent baron, who makes him dance for table scraps. The baron's bride intercedes, asking the baron to show the beggar mercy, and the baron makes the beggar his bride's "pet"--except that she apparently forgets all about him the next morning, and the beggar languishes for years in the dungeon, long after the baroness dies and the baron himself becomes an even more foul (and syphilitic) old ogre. A beautiful mute girl (why do Hammer films have so many mute girls?) brings the beggar his food every day. The ugly gross old baron makes a pass at the servant girl, and she spurns him, incurring his anger. He has her thrown in the dungeon with the beggar. The beggar, now a subhuman bearded troll, rapes her! She is released, kills the baron, escapes through the woods, and is found by a kindly villager, who takes her back to his place where he and his wife care for her till she delivers a child and dies. The child will grow up to be Oliver Reed, who because he is born on Christmas and is the son of a mute servant girl and a feral beggar rapist, naturally turns into a werewolf sometimes. But all that's almost an anticlimax after that long, weird set-up.

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