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.