Review Date: 4/27/20
Director: Terence Fisher
Cast: Clifford Evans, Oliver Reed, Yvonne Romain
A beggar visits a Spanish castle, where he is humiliated, thrown into the dungeon, and left to rot. Some twenty years later, a mute peasant girl (Yvonne Romain) is thrown into his cell for refusing the advances of the lord of the castle, and the beggar rapes her like a wild animal. She manages to escape into the woods, and several months later a scholar named Alfredo (Clifford Evans) finds her lying unconscious in a pond and brings her back to his home. The girl is pregnant and gives birth to a cursed child name Leon, who eventually grows up to become a strapping young man played by Oliver Reed. An evening of debauchery during the full moon causes Leon to turn into a vicious wolf who terrorizes the town. Only a woman's love can save him, but he is denied that and his family is forced to kill him.
It's a tiresome and tedious affair with an overly long and convoluted prologue. Oliver Reed doesn't show up until 48 minutes into the film, and it takes over an hour for the werewolf to finally make an appearance. That said, the last twenty minutes provide a decent amount of entertainment, if you haven't fallen asleep or turned off the TV before then. I was tempted to give the movie only one star, but it's a good looking production with the traditional Hammer flair. Oliver Reed gives a commanding and uncomfortably intense performance as the tormented Leon, and you can't take your eyes off of him. His burly frame makes him an impressive and intimidating werewolf, and his ferocity is downright scary at times. The other actors give decent performances, although it's clear than Yvonne Romain was cast primarily for her heaving bosom.
Leon's lycanthropic affliction is awkwardly explained away as an accident of birth, as the child became possessed by evil spirits due to his violent conception. Reportedly, the beggar from the beginning of the movie was supposed to have been a werewolf, which would have made a lot more sense. However, the British film censors refused to allow a werewolf rapist in the movie, so they completely dropped that plot point and replaced it with some religious mumbo-jumbo about spirits and curses. It's not a very good film by any means, but Oliver Reed's unhinged performance is worth checking out.