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Legend of the Werewolf

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Sphere, London, 1976
(price: 60p; 160 pages)

The blurb on the back:

Horror stalked the streets of Paris.
As a child Etoile had run with the wolves. Then he was brought to civilization and his past was forgotten. But not when the moon shone full! Then he could not fight the bestial urges his body felt. The wolves called Etoile and the animal within responded, compelling him to stalk the streets of Paris, thirsting with vulpine ferocity for the taste of blood.

Remember the Hammer movie The Curse of the Werewolf back in 1961, with a young Oliver Reed doing the hairy thing? Well so did Tyburn Films, when they came to make Legend of the Werewolf more than a decade later. Wildly derivative in style and look, it doesn't have anything like the reputation of its blueprint, but is actually just as enjoyable. I mean, you've got Peter Cushing, which can't be bad, and you've got a supporting cast that includes Roy Castle, Hugh Griffith, Ron Moody and the ever-dependable Michael Ripper, so it was never going to be a disaster. (The Werewolf, incidentally, was played by David Rintoul, later to give us his Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and his Dr Finlay, both on TV.)

The story is at least a slight variation on the tradition, albeit a meaningless one. Wolves attack a group of refugee Jews fleeing Russia, steal a new-born baby boy and bring him up as one of their own. He's later captured by an itinerant showman and exhibited as the Wolf Boy, but is of diminishing value as he becomes more distant in time from his days with the wild animals of the forest. Except that then he reverts to being a wolf on full moons, and so on and so forth. You're back on track now.

Not a badly written book (by Robert Holdstock under the pseudonym Robert Black, based on a screenplay by John Elder), but with such a limited story, it'd have to be a work of transcendent beauty to rival the classics of the genre. It isn't. If it's lycanthropy you want, you'd do better to head straight for The Werewolf of Paris.


from the maker of:
The Satanists
'Now is the time of the Anti-Christ...'