Tuesday, November 1

Some quick thoughts on Legend of the Werewolf (1975)

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Electric Video's rare 1981 VHS
A feral boy raised by wolves, Etoile (David Rintoul), is taken in by a Paris carnie family and exploited in their traveling sideshow. Eventually, he discovers his transformative abilities as a young man and flees ending up in a small town working as an assistant to a zookeeper (Ron Moody). In between menial work and bonding with caged wolves, a young woman enters his life and he's soon smitten unknowing of her work at a local brothel. Upon discovering this, Etoile becomes enraged and cannot resist dispatching Johns that frequent the whorehouse in hairy and clawed form. As bodies begin stacking up, an inquisitive mortician (Peter Cushing) starts tracking the lycanthrope...

Despite having a host of Hammer Studios mainstays and regulars both on-screen and behind the scenes, Tyburn Entertainment's Legend of the Werewolf is one of the death knells of the storied era of British horror spearheaded by Hammer and its imitators. The above synopsis is much more reasoned than this painfully cheap and devoid of atmosphere Freddie Francis-directed feature. The core problem is how this horror film desperately feels not wanting to belong to the genre. As such we're subjected far too many scenes of Etoile's toil at the zoo and lady troubles which couldn't be less interesting until the film obligates itself to insert drips and drabs of what we came for (besides Cushing, of course).

Japanese Tohokushinsha Home Video VHS
When the clumsy werewolf action finally kicks up, the events are unconvincingly compressed into the last reel. For example; Etoile murders his first John, his body is wheeled into Cushing's morgue, a second maiming occurs, and then we see Cushing arriving at the theory of a wild animal with powerful jaws and menacing teeth being the culprit. That sounds like logical plot progression, but not when in sequential order in under five minutes. The attacks are especially weak being comprised of quick point-of-view shots of the victims leering and the werewolf snarling with bright bloody teeth.

Afterward the boredom returns with even Cushing's reliable auto-pilot rolled-up sleeve embalmer-turned-detective hardly warranting venturing any further. Confused werewolf mythology also runs rampant. The full moon can cause Etoile's uncontrollable bloodlust, yet apparently so can anger, along with standard ammunition inflicting mortal wounds upon the beast. While not worth sitting through to arrive at, the conclusion featuring a sympathetic portrait of Etoile preemptively echoes An American Werewolf in London. Just be glad Legend of the Werewolf wasn't the first or last word in wolfman terror...

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