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Legend Of The Werewolf (1974)

Legend Of The Werewolf could be seen as the film which killed off the Gothic horror industry in this country for good, coming as it did right when the whole thing was in rapid decline. Some might think this a harsh statement, considering that the makers (Tyburn) churned out the reasonably satisfactory The Ghoul the next year. But let us not forget that this was the same company which also produced the execrable Persecution. And also that Legend… really isn't very good.

Lurching uncomfortably between dreadful comedy and boring horror, there's not a great deal to recommend the film - apart from the ever dependable presence of Peter Cushing, obviously. The man is like a shining light, amongst possibly some of the worst acting ever committed to celluloid. It comes to something when the second best performance in a film is given by Roy Castle.

Cushing is even drafted in to narrate the story, as if the makers thought that the only way to save the film was to shoehorn him in at every opportunity.

Once again it's midnight on Christmas Eve (see Hammer's classier Curse Of The Werewolf) and a woman's about to give birth in the middle of a forest. A pack of wolves descend on this pleasant family scene, rip the dad to shreds and take young 'un under their paws.

Enter Pamponi's Circus, a travelling freakshow. When one of their number shoots at a rabbit but accidentally wings a scruffy-looking Mowgli-alike, he grabs the injured boy and takes him back to camp. Pamponi decides to make "wolf boy" his star exhibit (not hard when the others are a fat bloke with a drum, a performing dog and a Russian "princess" sporting a single tattoo).

The boy (named Etoile by the circus folk) grows up and turns into David Rintoul (a man made out of so much cardboard you can see the staples holding him together), and it's only at this point that he finally turns into a werewolf (why?!!) and rips his best mate's throat out. Fingered for the crime by the not-quite-dead-yet victim (Pamponi's a bit early with his "If you've never seen a dead 'un, you've seen one now!" line), Etoile runs away and goes to work in a zoo run by Fagin… er, Ron Moody.

This is supposed to be France, yet Moody is in full-on Cockernee geezer mode: "Start right away, clean up a bit! I'll give you a 'and… a bit later…" He even has his own catchphrase, ending every lame joke with a "Beep beep!". This is in no way annoying.

It appears that the zoo's only customers are three prostitutes from the brothel across the road, who come in every day to eat their lunch. One of them asks Moody: "It's about time you let us in for free!", to which he replies: "Oh yeah, sure… if you'll do the same for me, beep beep!"

Of course, the young and innocent Etoile immediately falls for one of the tarts, which can only spell trouble.

25 minutes in, and we're finally thrown a lifeline with the first appearance of Cushing, a police surgeon up to his elbows in gore. Frankly, the man could be rogering my mother whilst giving a rendition of "The Cheeky Song (Touch My Bum)" and I'd still be pleased to see him, this film being such a painful experience to sit through so far. Strangely, his name appears to by Professor Ker-plunk. Sadly, we aren't treated to fellow police workers Sergeant Boggle and Chief Constable Buckaroo.

But back to the story (if we must). Etoile finds out what Christine actually does for a living, and isn't happy. He jumps through a window and attacks her latest customer (her reaction is a hoot - a huge speech delivered in a flat monotone). When she refuses his offer of marriage, Etoile begins to pick her customers off one by one, and eventually Cushing becomes interested in this apparent serial killer.

The film then meanders to a blood-soaked climax in the sewers. So now you're asking, "Don't beat around the bush here - is it any good?". Well, no, obviously.

Legend Of The Werewolf is tedious, boring, not frightening and rubbish on all counts. Even the much-praised werewolf make-up isn't all it's cracked up to be (halfway through his transformation, Etoile looks fatally like Jon Pertwee). There's one harsh bit (when Etoile is ordered to kill the wolves in his care at the zoo), but Rintoul's lack of ability scuppers this supposedly touching scene. As it does every scene he's in. But worst thesp of the lot award has to go to Christine, who actually looks like she's about to burst out laughing during the supposedly emotional final scenes.

Want to really know how rubbish the whole farrago is? The werewolf scenes are all shot from the wolfs-eye view, with a red filter. And the first time this is shown, you can see the shadow of the cameraman in front of you. That's just shoddy. Beep beep.

Last updated: February 24, 2010

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Legend Of The Werewolf 1974


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