Retro-review: New this week from MVD Visual & Cheezy Movies!

THE LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF (1975)

aka PLAGUE OF THE WEREWOLVES
Directed by Freddie Francis
Written by Anthony Hinds (as John Elder)
Starring Peter Cushing, David Rintoul, Ron Moody, Hugh Griffith, Roy Castle, Stefan Gryff, Lynn Dalby, Renee Houston, Marjorie Yates, Norman Mitchell, Mark Weavers, David Bailie, Hilary Farr, Elaine Baillie, Michael Ripper, Pamela Green, John Harvey, Patrick Holt, Sue Bishop


While this is one goofy little film, fans of werewolf movies and Cushing completists are going to want to sink their talons into THE LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF.

David Rintoul plays Etoile, a young man who was raised by wolves and then captured, exploited, and domesticated by a travelling circus. But once he leaves the circus and heads into Paris, he becomes a zoo keeper after showing a kinship with the wolves. There he meets Christine (Lynn Dalby) who keeps her profession as a prostitute secret from Etoile, but once he finds out, jealousy towards her suiters manifests with Etoile becoming bestial and savagely mauling them as they leave the brothel. The local mortician Professor Paul (Peter Cushing) notices that the odd attacks are from no animal he has ever seen and eventually deduces that Etoile is behind the murders. The film climaxes in the sewers of Paris which the beast uses as a means of escape after the murders.


Yes, this is a goofy movie. The budget is a fraction of the much more compelling THE WOLF MAN from Universal and CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF from Hammer, as is the technical style of the film. The film does employ some nifty “wolf vision,” tinted red POV shots through the monster’s eyes as he prowls through the forests and Paris streets. More interesting, though, is the use of lycanthropy as a means to highlight man’s jealous nature. Etoile obviously has difficulty with Christine’s profession. Be it a comment on men having difficulty with women entering the workforce or simply conceptualizing man’s uncontrollable rage when challenged by another, once again this film exemplifies the metaphorical power of the wolf.


The film also has some powerful performances by character actors Ron Moody as the Zoo Keeper and Hugh Griffith as the circus owner both offer up memorable roles as role models Etoile bonds with as he grows up. These two are crucial in the monster Etoile becomes. While David Rintoul is kind of a bland protagonist/antagonist in Etoile, Peter Cushing brings his all as usual as the Professor. Cushing might as well call himself Sherlock Holmes here as he deduces the culprit and shows a more altruistic side in wanting to bring Etoile in rather than take him down as most monster hunters try to do.

While the werewolf itself isn’t very nightmarish, director Freddie Francis does highlight the horror well by interspersing flashes of the red-tinted POV shots with shots of the monster’s red crackled eyes and it’s face snapping and snarling close to the camera. Yes, THE LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF is a schlocky little number and doesn’t hold a candelabra to Hammer, but I had a lot of fun with it.