The Company of Wolves (1984)

Back before Neil Jordan made The Crying Game, he made an adaption of one of the stories in Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. The author had already made a radio version of the story and worked with Jordan on the script.

This was Jordan’s second film and it was made on a very low budget. In fact, to get across the idea of multiple wolves in some scenes, most of the monsters shown in the film are actually Belgian Shepherd Dogs*.

The narrative device that drives this film concerns Rosaleen, a modern girl who dreams that she is in the past, a strange place where her sister Alice is hunted and killed by wolves. Her grandmother (Angela Lansbury!) warns her, as she gives her a red cloak, to beware men whose eyebrows meet. As the villagers soon hunt a wolf whose dead body reveals a man, this dire proclamation takes on some truth.

She soon meets a huntsman, who dares her to a race to her grandmother’s house. He arrives first and eats the old woman, yet our heroine can’t hate the man. Even though she wounds him, she still cares for him and ends up becoming turned into a lycanthrope herself. Finally, the story breaks into today’s time, as the wolves crash through the windows of Rosaleen’s modern world, symbolizing the end of her pre-pubescent innocence.

This framing story also allows the grandmother and Rosaleen to tell stories that concern wolves, man and desire. They include a young werewolf (Stephen Rea) running from his wife and young family, the devil (Terrence Stamp!) showing ip in a Rolls Royce, a witch that transforms a family of noblemen and a wolf woman (experimental musician Danielle Dax) treated kindly by a priest.

The film also offers some truly horrific and bloody transformation scenes that were featured prominently in the advertising when this ran in the U.S. I remember seeing these commercials and being horrified by them, but they are just part of the overall journey for a movie that is more allegory than genre film. And hey — David Warner is in it and he always makes everything he’s in so much more interesting for his presence.

*There were also two wolves used in the film, which required snipers to also be on set. That’s because these wild animals can never truly be tamed.

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