"Legend of the Werewolf" (1975) d/ Freddie Francis
Let's face it, in terms of classic British werewolf movies, there's Hammer's Curse of the Werewolf atop the lycanthropy ladder, and all else can be found a significant number of rungs down from there. Like tonight's review, from Freddie Francis under the Tyburn Studios banner; a recycled, much clunkier update of the aforementioned 1961 Hammer classic that, if nothing else, will leave you reaching for that movie afterwards to fill the void left by Legend's pedestrian wake. Still, having genre icon Peter Cushing among your cast members is always a plus, and he's as good as ever here, for any hardcore Cushing completists that are on the fence about adding Legend to their future queues.
...and suddenly, Glen Danzig realized he was deathly allergic to cats.
Etoile has the extreme misfortune of having his entire family wiped out by a pack of wolves in the French wilderness. Luckily for the orphaned toddler, the wolves raise him into one of those adolescent kids in a wolfskin Speedo you always hear about the travelling circus taking in, as occurs here. Once he's bloomed into an adult (David Rintoul), he celebrates by biting the throat of the circus' one man band clear out, forever negating his chances of being promoted to acrobat or even popcorn vendor. He soon takes up residence at a pitiful rundown zoo full of dying animals, as run by a skeevy-looking zookeeper (Ron Moody), and keeps the local street urchins from throwing rocks at the pair of old wolves caged within. It seems a handful of working girls frequents the zoological garden each day, around lunchtime, and it isn't very long before the otherwise innocent Etoile becomes fond of one of them, a prostitute named Christine (Lynn Dalby) who hides her questionable profession from the young cage cleaner whose fits of rage have recently unlocked the blood lust of his surrogate beast parents within him. Sounds like a good idea...
"Me bleedin' toofbrush? Wot you on about, guv'nah!"
When rich johns start turning up, toes up, on a reoccuring basis, the local police surgeon, Professor Paul (Cushing) takes it upon himself to investigate the violent deaths himself, even enlisting a photographer (Roy Castle, in his last big screen role) to capture images of the traumatized cadavers for posterity, a cockney Quincy, of sorts, really. The courts order the zoo's wolves to be put down, then Etoile stumbles in on Christine and one of her wealthy tricks about to partake in a business transaction, and you can pretty much cue the red-tinted wolf cam yourselves. Paul's relentless snooping soon ties Etoile to the murders, and it's down to the sewers to heroically track the mythic beast, though his efforts to reason with the half-human monster (can't remember the last time I saw a werewolf use it's human voice while transformed) are soon thwarted by the familiar silver bullet, as fired by Inspector Gerard (Stefan Gryff), effectively wrapping up both the case, and our movie.
Looks like somebody's been throwin' tomatoes at the busted ol' picket fence again.
Cushing and Moody are game performers here, and the experience on the whole is a satisfying one, but I can't help thinking that something is definitely missing from the production. Go ahead and call me a male chauvinist, but Tyburn should have gone further in aping its once formidable Hammer (fading fast, by then, seeing but two more releases by decade's end) competition in enlisting a nice bit o' strumpet to dress it's stage here. Seeing a Veronica Carlson or Madeline Smith-type bursting out of a corset here would have gone a long way towards me endowing more than the average score of two wops upon tonight's movie. I make apologies for neither the score, nor my appetites. Both are permanent.
"You play Jonathan King's version of Una Paloma Blanca one more time, and your throat's getting bitten out, mate..."