On LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF

A look at the obscure 1975 British werewolf movie

One of the rarest of lycanthrope-centric films is the unfortunately late, Oscar-winning British cinematographer (David Lynch’’s The Elephant Man) and noted horror filmmaker (Dracula has Risen from the Grave, Tales from the Crypt) Freddie Francis’’ little discussed 1975 Hammer-esque wolfman shocker Legend of the Werewolf. And really, I have to ask why it’s so obscure, because the movie is rather fantastic.

As the films’ star Peter Cushing (whose work here is first rate as always) so helpfully explains in Legend of the Werewolf’’s weird opening sequence, it has been said that the beasts of the forest shall watch over and protect human children on Christmas Eve, because, well, their forefathers and mothers did it for Jesus, so if they didn’’t do it too, they’’d be jerks. This bit of made-up myth provides credibility for the ensuing tale of poor little Etoile, a baby who, after his immigrant parents are chomped on by a pack of starving wolves, is inexplicably adopted by the now sated pack. He grows up like a sort of lupine Tarzan, a wild untamed thing who is eventually ‘rescued’ by a sleazy carny (the amazing, wild-eyed actor Hugh Griffith from, among many, many other fine films, Ben Hur) and top billed in his skid row circus as the feral ‘”Wolf Boy”’. Eventually Etoile grows into a strapping young lad (played by veteran actor David Rintoul who appeared in Roman Polanski’’s excellent thriller The Ghost Writer) who makes the rather startling discovery that, when under pressure of a full moon, he grows fangs, sprouts fur, pops his shirt and end up looking a lot like Oliver Reed did in Terence Fisher’’s 1961 Hammer horror masterpiede Curse of the Werewolf.

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