What a werewolf!

I’ve been picking up some old movies on DVD lately to improve my education in the classics: specifically, an old favorite, the Hammer horror films. Yesterday, to take a break from class prep, I watched one I hadn’t seen before, Curse of the Werewolf. It has an interesting plot, a bit more thoughtful and melancholy than your usual monster movie, but what really wakes up the show is the actor in the lead: Oliver Reed.


Whoa. I swear, I really am a boringly straight guy and wholeheartedly monogamous to boot, but Reed was one scarily, dangerously, manly fellow. He’s intense, tormented, and even when he’s with the woman he loves, he’s haunted. Lance Mannion also thinks highly of him:

To me, Reed always came across as the most dangerous man alive. This made him awfully difficult to cast well. He was too handsome and heroic looking to play your average movie villain, and too goddamn full of barely repressed violence and rage to play an appealing hero. His two best roles were, therefore, Sikes, the villain who could have been a hero, and Athos in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, a hero who’s as callous, bloody-minded, and deadly as any villain, and who in one way goes even farther than Sikes in awfulness—Sikes beats the woman who loves him to death and then is haunted by his conscience; Athos coolly orders the woman he loves executed and then watches without a twinge as she’s rowed out into the middle of a lake, beheaded, and dumped into the water.

Those are better films than Curse of the Werewolf, but I’d have to say that this is also one of his best roles. Lon Chaney Jr is the guy that everyone thinks of when werewolf movies are brought up, but Chaney always looked like the sad ol’ hounddog, beaten down by his condition; Reed is always fierce and brutal and on edge, much more wolf-like. And look at him—he’s both feral and gorgeous.


  1. Dr. Strangelove says

    When I saw the name Oliver Reed I immediately thought of his role in The Three/Four Musketeers, a stunning acting achievement. Nice to see other people share that opinion :)

  2. Ian H Spedding says

    He once came into a wine bar I used to frequent in London. He was perfectly quiet and well-behaved but there was no denying his brooding presence – or his effect on the women there. Richard Harris was another occasional visitor. He had a reputation as a hell-raiser, too, but he didn’t quite have the intensity of Reed.

    I agree about his roles, though. His Sikes in Oliver was truly evil and his swashbuckling Athos dominated the screen in the Musketeer movies.

  3. G. Tingey says

    If you go to any CAMRA beer-festival in London, you’ll almost certainly see a stall selling “Oliver Reed Drinking Club” T-shits, of various designs, all based on his various roles, and legendary boozing capacity.

    “Oliver Reed and the Raiders of the Lost pint” is one of the best ……

  4. stewart says

    Will Ferguson’s novel, ‘Happiness’, has a brief exposition on Oliver Reed that made me want to go out and watch all his movies with those thoughts in mind. I also liked his role in The Adventures of baron Munchausen, again with the role of the volcanic and volatile lover.

  5. Scott Hatfield says


    The one Hammer film I really like (and own) is Horror of Dracula. This is, to my knowledge, the first color vampire movie, the first vampire movie to show a fanged female and also the first pairing of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

    I especially love this film for the score by James Bernard. It’s a good demonstration that you can really have fabulous original music without spending a lot of money. The orchestra sounds really stripped down, perhaps 12-16 string players, maybe 10 brass and a couple of percussionists, almost no winds that I can tell. There are cues in this film which are indelibly etched in my brain. If you have it, watch it. Then watch it again, but just listen.


  6. says

    Any discussion of Oliver Reed must include his stunning performance in Ken Russell’s Women In Love. The raw sensuality of Reed, the complex and sexually ambiguous network of relationships, and of course the notorious nude wrestling scene. No invertebrates, though – despite Eleanor Bron’s best efforts. There’s a nice page about this, including pix, here.

  7. Will E. says

    Don’t forget Russell’s The Devils–Reed was magnificent in that as well, driving nuns crazy with lust.

    Man, I could talk about Hammer movies all day long–Chris Lee is the perfect Dracula, Peter Cushing is the perfect Dr. Frankenstein, and Ingrid Pitt is the hottest vampire lady ever.

  8. says

    Geoff beat me to it: Yes, Reed is fantastic in Women in Love. Physically he’s a mismatch for D. H. Lawrence’s Gerald Crich, who is described in the novel as blond and icy, but he has the obsessive and haunted nature of Gerald down pat. And Reed is playing opposite Glenda Jackson, who is devastingly destructive as Gudrun. When Reed’s character shatters, he shatters completely.

    Eleanor Bron is fantastic, too, in the small role of Hermione, a self-involved and pretentious esthete whose lack of taste knows no lower bound.

  9. Mnemosyne says

    I love Oliver Reed. He always threw himself into his roles, even when they were in bad movies. He’s fascinating in Cronenberg’s “The Brood” as the well-meaning doctor whose experiment has gone horribly wrong. And he’s absolutely amazing in “The Devils” as the priest who finds his faith by breaking his vows and being prosecuted as a sorcerer.

    In a non-horror role, “I’ll Never Forget What’s’is Name” is one of the better “swinging London” movies out there: episodic but compelling.

  10. Mnemosyne says

    And since this is a new topic … watch “Horror of Dracula” with this in mind sometime — Dracula is presented as the injured party. Jonathan Harker comes to the castle knowing full well who Dracula is with a plan to kill him; Harker then kills Dracula’s wife. Everything that Dracula does could be interpreted as revenge for what Harker did, as he seduces first Harker’s fiance and then Harker’s sister.

    “Curse of Frankenstein” is really good, too, wit h Peter Cushing as the most obsessed, amoral Frankenstein you’ve ever seen.

  11. Rey Fox says

    “and Ingrid Pitt is the hottest vampire lady ever.”

    Looks like the cape tie provided some cleavage enhancement, but yes, that’s certainly a classic hottie.

    But did they put the fangs on her lateral incisors? Aaaggh, I hate when they do that…

  12. Great White Wonder says

    Oliver Reed and Hammer Horror. Good stuff.

    I do wish Criterion would release Russell’s The Devils, in its most complete uncensored version.

    Fans of Russell should check out the excellent made-for-TV movies he did on, e.g., the live of the British composer Delius. They were put on DVD by the British Film Insitute (bfi). I highly recommend.

  13. Gentlewoman says

    Oliver Reed was ALWAYS teh hot! I remember seeing Curse of the Werewolf in the movie theatre, that’s how old I am, and he was great in it.

    I loved the Hammer horror films, they were a Saturday matinee staple in my youth. My brothers and I went to get the bejeebus scared out of us every week!

    Reed was incredible in the Three/Four Musketeers, even in an amazing ensemble cast. Richard Lester at his best!

    Another terrific and sexy role for Reed was opposite Diana Rigg in The Assasination Bureau. Jack London was no doubt rotating in his grave, but it was an amusing romp of a movie.

  14. HP says

    “Curse of Frankenstein” is really good, too, with Peter Cushing as the most obsessed, amoral Frankenstein you’ve ever seen.

    More obsessed and immoral than he is “Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed!”? Cushing plays Frankenstein in that one like a psychopath on a rampage.

  15. Zil says

    I assume the murdered woman is Milady? She was not Athos’ girlfriend – she was D’Artagnan’s girlfriend. And she was a treacherous, murderous piece of work.