Werewolf movies have never reached the popularity of vampire films but for me the curse of lycanthropy has always been a more interesting idea than vampirism. The werewolf is an intrinsically more tragic figure than the vampire, and visually a man transforming into a ravenous beast certainly beats a guy in an opera cape turning into a bat.
In 1984 Neil Jordan, who funny enough later directed Interview with the Vampire one of my Top Ten Vampire Movies, teamed up with writer Angela Carter to translate her werewolf stories to the big screen. This pairing certainly created one of the more interesting installments in the genre as narratively it does not follow the conventions of most Hollywood films and is more a true phantasmagoria of images centering on budding sexuality and the dangers inside us all.
The movie is bookended with a modern section where a young girl named Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) who, for reasons unspoken, has been hiding in her room for quite some time, much to the consternation of her sister who repeatedly calls Rosaleen a “Pest!” Rosaleen tosses and turns in her bed as a nightmare unfolds; her sister is seen fleeing through a cobweb shrouded forest, stalked and attacked by large versions of the toys in Rosaleen’s bedroom.
A company of wolves.
Angela Lansbury as The Grandmother.
The first tale told by Grannie is of a young couple on their wedding night. The groom (Stephen Rea) leaves his bride to answer “The Call of Nature” He does not return and soon the house is surrounded by wolves. The Bride (Kathryn Pogson) apparently had failed to get the “eyebrows meet in the middle” warning as she thought that aspect of her new hubbie was charming and thus she assumes he was eaten by the wolves. Later she remarries and has three children with her new husband, but while he is away her first husband returns and is furious that she has taken up with another man. She tries to fend off his enraged attacks and is horrified to see him tear off his own face and transform into a wolf. Lucky for her the new husband arrives home in just the nick of time and he handily lops the wolf’s head off. It lands in a bucket of milk and turns back to its human aspect.
Grannie’s second story is of a young man who encounters a Rolls Royce in the heart of this medieval fairy tale. The car’s beautiful blonde chauffeur (Sarah Patterson in a blonde wig) beckons him over and he meets with The Devil (Terence Stamp) who gives him a potion and tells him to “Use it wisely. Waste not want not.” The boy rubs the potion into his chest and hair quickly sprouts. So we are guessing the poor lad wasn’t happy with his current stage of puberty. Vines begin to creep up his legs and our last image of him is in Rosaleen’s mirror as he screams in terror.
The fourth story is one Rosaleen tells to the Huntsman and it is about a she-wolf that climbed up from the underworld through the village’s well. She has no ill intent but is still shot by a villager for the crime of being a wolf. She reveals her human form to the local priest who, not carrying if she be good or evil, bandages her wound. She then returns to her world via the well.
The movie then slides right into its version of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Wearing her red hooded shawl that her grandmother made for her, Rosaleen sets forth one morning to bring a basket of goodies to her grandmother’s house, but on the way she encounters The Huntsman (Micha Bergese) who is handsome and charming and of course whose eyebrows meet in the middle.
Dude, she’s twelve!
“What big eyes you have.”
Happily ever after…I think not
The pack of wolves’ race through the dream forest, into the modern world of sleeping Rosaleen, race up to her bedroom until she screams awake as a wolf burst through her bedroom window.
A beautiful film and worth tracking down.