There’s a good list of werewolf films that covers this decade on www.werewolves.com, and I’ll have a look at these in this post. The 1960s saw a much larger appetite for werewolf films, spurred in part by the commercial successes of previous classics like I Was A Teenage Werewolf. Mexican cinema in particular went mad for it, but most films were of the campy horror-comedy type, rather than treating the werewolf as a serious source of horror or terror. This may be due to the make-up and special effects available at the time, of course…
La Casa Del Terror, The House of Terror (1960) was a Mexican horror-comedy starring Lon Chaney Jr. and Mexican comedian Tin Tan. In this monster flick, Casimiro (Tin Tan) is a night watchman in a wax works museum being drained of blood by his employer, a mad scientist who is trying to raise a mummy to life. Turns out, the mummy is (also) a werewolf. There’s a lot going on here, but it falls in line with werewolf cinema lore established in the 1940s-50s, and follows a lot of the usual themes.
In 1961, werewolves finally got the Hammer treatment. Only a third of Hammer Films’ productions were horror despite the label being synonymous with the genre. Although the Golden Age of the company came after their Sci-Fi horror The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), it had been set up in 1934 and is one of the oldest film companies in the world.
The British-made classic, The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) was an adaptation of the 1933 Endore novel, but set in Madrid instead of Paris to save on building new Parisian sets after the BBFC objected to the script for a film set during the Spanish Inquisition.
The plot has a lot of sexual assault (actual and attempted) in it at the start, following the genesis of the werewolf in Endore’s take on the folklore, then picks up with Leon, the tragic werewolf protagonist, played by Oliver Reed in his first starring role in film. The resulting film was heavily censored, but the uncensored print was finally shown on the BBC in 1993.
Since the 1960s was the decade of women’s lib, it’s not surprising that monsters and their base appetites were given the sexy treatment too. Vampires had always been predators with sexual overtones, and now werewolves and their savage instincts were taking centre stage.
Lycanthropus (1961), an Italian film released in the U.S. as Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory, took the action into the bedroom (literally) but kept up the horror side with savage murders and wolf sightings at a girls’ school. Keeping with the medical horror themes, suspicion falls on a newly-hired chemistry teacher, who may or may not be a werewolf.
The lust of monsters had always been a horror concern, and in 1962 this was made explicit in campy horror-comedy House on Bare Mountain, where the Wolfman, Dracula and Frankenstein (the monster) spy on a nudist girls’ school in the mountains and eventually invade it. I know a few girls who wouldn’t mind that.
In the same year, Beauty and the Beast (1962) turned the werewolf into the tragic antihero of the 18thC fairy tale. The full film is on Vimeo! This adaptation takes place in a faux-medieval setting, where the transformation is brought about by an alchemist (the mad scientist of the day) and the spell can only be broken by the werewolf’s true love.
This element of the werewolf’s curse – only being killed or ‘cured’ by someone who loves him – was a feature of The Wolfman (2010), but not the 1941 original in which Larry Talbot is able to kill the original werewolf, Bela the fortune teller, with his silver-topped wolf’s head cane.
The true love element is lifted from the fairy tale, not cinematic werewolf lore, and it is not really a feature of the folklore either – at least, it’s hard to find a source for that which isn’t Tumblr. Anyone, according to some Germanic lore, could call the name of a person transformed into a wolf and that would summon the person back into their human form.
Another Mexican horror-comedy, Frankestein el vampiro y compañía (1962), features werewolves in this monster mashup where two screw-ups get entangled with Frankenstein’s monster, mad scientists, vampires and werewolves. This one has more in common with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and its Egyptian remake, as well as keeping it in the humorous vein of La Casa del Terror.
Not to be outdone, Hong Kong produced a werewolf film in 1963, Ye ban ren lang, Midnight Were-wolf, in Cantonese. There’s very little information about this film in English, and I can’t find it, but it’s classed as ‘fantasy’ and ‘drama’ rather than horror. I find that interesting, but I don’t know enough about the plot or Hong Kong cinema and trends/attitudes to comment.
Also in 1963 was the werewolf offering of the infamous El Santo series, Santo en el museo de cera, Santo in the Wax Museum, in which the masked Mexican wrestler Santo discovers a mad scientist is kidnapping people and turning them into monsters (obviously) but he able to overcome them with his wrestling moves.
Lon Chaney Jr’s werewolf-mummy role was reprised in Face of the Screaming Werewolf (1964), I absolutely kid you not, which was a low-budget horror film that combined footage from La Casa del Terror (1960) and a completely unrelated film, La Momia Azteca (1957), with new footage shot by the director Jerry Warren. The resulting hatchet job of a plot is tied loosely together with wet string and is pretty much exactly as awful as it sounds.
The werewolf film-that-never-was, meant to be released in 1964 or that was at least shot or partially shot that year, was a Western B-movie horror called Devil Wolf of Shadow Mountain. Apparently about a cowboy who drinks from a wolf’s paw print and becomes infected with lycanthropy, a piece of lore that pops up in the [cancelled] series Hemlock Grove, nothing ever came of this one, but it gets an honourable mention.
Italian cinema produced Ursus, il terrore dei Kirghisi, (lit. ‘Ursus, Terror of the Kirghiz’) in 1964, with the English title Hercules, Prisoner of Evil. Ursus battles an evil sorceress after drinking a potion that turns him into a murderous werewolf on certain nights: another Jekyll/Hyde theme, with undertones of medical horror (the potion), a historical setting and fantastical plot.
Werewolves were a little more serious in the anthology film Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) starring Peter Cushing as Dr Terror. Dr Terror reads tarot cards for five strangers, whose stories unfold in five segments. There is a vampire story, a sentient, intelligent plant story, a voodoo story, and one in which Christopher Lee appears as an art critic being pursued by a disembodied hand. The werewolf segment has all the usual elements: an architect returns to his ancestral home, much like Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man (1941), and finds a vengeful werewolf there. This has more in common with The Hound of the Baskervilles, but it sets the werewolf as a key horror monster that no self-respecting horror-comedy anthology could be without.
The Orgy of the Dead (1965), an erotic horror film of the naked women variety in which a couple wake from a car accident to find themselves watching ten naked/striptease dancers one at a time, each with some tragic or sinister back story, entertaining the Emperor of the Night (some kind of powerful demonic being who hangs out in a graveyard). The couple are captured and brought before the Emperor by a Wolf Man (in a mask) and a mummy. There’s no reason for this. I mean, there’s no reason for any of this, but it was written by cult director Edward D. Wood Jr., who also adapted the screenplay into a novel. This is not a werewolf film, but for some reason a werewolf or Wolf Man is in it, so that’s good enough, and I’ve mainly included it for the line, “Your puritan upbringing holds you back from my monsters but it certainly doesn’t hurt your art of kissing.” No context required. Here’s a review.
One young lady who absolutely isn’t held back from monsters by any sort of upbringing is Clarissa Fernandez, played by Kitty de Hoyos in Mexican horror La Loba, The She-Wolf (1965). Clarissa is a rich, attractive Mexican girl by day who is also a murderous werewolf by night, and falls for a doctor whom she sees for a cure. It turns out that the doctor (the wonderfully named Dr Alejandro Bernstein, because all mad doctors and scientists need to be Germanic, apparently) is also a werewolf, and they go on a love-filled killing spree together only to be killed by – wait for it – a specially trained, werewolf-killing dog. I’ll go out on a limb and assume it wasn’t a chihuahua, but what a twist that would have been.
There follows a whole host of films in which monsters are positively crawling out of the woodwork all at once, and werewolves get their share of the action. These include:
El Charro de las Calaveras, Rider of the Skulls (1965), another Mexican production in which a cowboy battles evil forces one of which is a werewolf; another Mexican wrestling film, El Demonio Azul, The Blue Demon (1965) in which Mexican wrestler the Blue Demon (playing himself) challenges a mad scientist who can turn into a werewolf; he’s back again, teaming up with El Santo in Santo y Blue Demon contra los monstruos, Santo and the Blue Demon Against the Monsters (1969 but released 1970) where again, one of those monsters is a werewolf; Munster, Go Home! (1966) in which the monstrous family inherit an English manor house and title, but after much shenanigans end up deciding the American life is the life for them, and the American-made stop-motion animation Mad Monster Party? (1967), a musical horror comedy featuring a whole host of monsters, including a wolfman.
Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1967/69) was another cult horror B-movie in which a couple and a murderous werewolf show up at Dracula’s castle. At this point, werewolves and vampires seemed to be the standard monstrous two-for-one in cinema, and apparently audiences couldn’t get enough of either. The 1967 theatrical version didn’t include the werewolf scenes, and the serial killer character Johnny didn’t transform but was motivated to kill during the full moon. In the 1969 late-night TV version, the werewolf element was added for… obvious reasons of improvement. The plot sounds absolutely amazing so I’m going to just reproduce the summary for you to enjoy here. It hits you in waves.
Count Dracula (Alexander D’Arcy) and his vampire wife (Paula Raymond) are occupying Falcon Rock Castle in modern-day Arizona, hiding behind the identities of Count and Countess Townsend. When the castle’s owner dies, the property passes on to a photographer named Glen Cannon, and Glen has decided to live there himself with his fiancée Liz. He drives out to the castle to inform the Townsends that they will have to move out. But his car breaks down when he gets there, and he and Liz are forced to spend the night with the Townsends. The Townsends are actually vampires who sleep in coffins and lure pretty young girls to the castle to be drained of blood by their butler George (John Carradine), who then mixes real Bloody Marys for the couple, which they drink from martini glasses. George and Mango the hunchback keep mini-skirted women chained up in the basement, occasionally sacrificing one of them to “the Great God Luna” by burning them at the stake. Then there is a guy named Johnny, who becomes a serial killer when the moonlight strikes him (or a werewolf, depending on whether you watch the theatrical version or the late-night-TV version, the latter of which added a few quick and cheesy werewolf scenes). Glen and Liz accidentally witness one of the women being sacrificed in the cellar. Dracula and the Countess try to force Glen to sell the castle to them. In the final confrontation, George the butler is killed, the remaining women prisoners are freed, Mango the hunchback gets shot, hit with an ax and set afire before dying, and the vampires wind up exposed to sunlight and dissolve away into dust. Glen and Liz decide not to live in the castle after all, and drive off together. However, two bats emerge unseen from the ashes and fly away. The End?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_of_Dracula%27s_Castle
La Marca del Hombre Lobo (1968), (lit. The Mark of the Wolfman, but also known as Hell’s Creatures: Dracula and the Werewolf, The Nights of Satan and Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror despite it having nothing to do with Frankenstein), features a resurrected werewolf wreaking havoc on a village. This was a 3D Spanish film that was apparently very effective with high-quality lenses, but the investors only forked out for shoddy cheap acrylic ones and ruined the star-studded Hollywood premiere (according to the Wikipedia entry).
When Count Waldemar Daninsky is bitten by Werewolf 1 (called Imre) when he kills him, he becomes Werewolf 2. He turns to a medical couple for help but – surprise! they are vampires. They resurrect Werewolf 1 again and get the werewolves to fight each other. Waldemar kills Imre (yay!) then gets shot by his lover Janice (boo? yay? um) who is ‘the one who loves him the most’, thus going along the ‘love conquers all but also kills werewolves’ lines. BUT IT DOESN’T END THERE. No. This became a series of films that went on into the 1980s, linked by the character of Count Waldemar but without a coherent overarching plot and with a number of conflicting origin stories, one of which was that he was actually bitten by a yeti in Tibet, reminiscent of Werewolf of London (1935). I’ll give the full 1960s-70s list of the series in the next post.
Yet another horror comedy de-fanging the werewolf was The Maltese Bippy (1969), featuring American comedians Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. Rowan plays a porn producer and Martin is his insomniac star who thinks he’s a werewolf. To verify this, they get tangled up with Julie Newmar in a Gothic mansion on Long Island, and there are a few murders and a missing diamond for some reason.
In summary, the 1960s did a lot to sex up, de-fang and domesticate the werewolf, establishing elements of werewolf lore that had a huge influence on the popular conceptions of the monster. Arguably these films did much to cement a ‘canon’ of folklore that moved away from the earlier French-Canadian loup-garou constructions and the psychological crime horror themes.
While they could be used to explore social anxieties, the spirit of the Sixties was more about embracing these ‘basic’ instincts as natural, and mad scientists were also now an entertainment staple rather than a reflection of mainstream concern.
Horror comedies were a better fit for the limited special effects that often made werewolves laughable on screen. Vampires, too, were no longer frightening but entertaining, and werewolves found themselves paired up with them primarily but also with all sorts of things that go bump in the night, part of the generic monster milieu.
More #WerewolfTalk posting on Wednesday!