Note: I’m on a tight deadline and unable to watch and review a new werewolf film this month. Instead, I’m re-posting this Full Moon Feature Classic on Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves in anticipation of co-star David Warner’s 80th birthday, which he’s celebrating July 29th. All the best, David!
In September 1984, Neil Jordan’s horror-fantasy The Company of Wolves was screened at the Toronto Film Festival and then went into general release in the UK, giving the Canucks and the Brits a jump on their Yank counterparts since we didn’t get it in the States until the following April. Based on the short story of the same name by Angela Carter, published in the collection The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, Carter and Jordan’s screenplay for The Company of Wolves greatly expanded on its themes and gave Jordan a taste for the fantastic that he would revisit in such subsequent films as High Spirits, Interview with the Vampire, Ondine, and Byzantium. He has yet to make another werewolf movie, though, which is a major failing on his part.
More than just a retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” with an emphasis on the psycho-sexual subtext, The Company of Wolves is also a tale about a young girl’s awakening sexuality — several tales, in fact. The film starts in modern day, where Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) dreams about a pack of wolves attacking her hated sister, then we enter her dream, which takes place in a fairy tale world, but never fully. Jordan periodically cuts back to Rosaleen tossing and turning in bed to remind us that everything we’re seeing is being generated by her subconscious. (In a way, it would make an excellent double feature with Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, which came out around the same time.)
The well-qualified cast is headed up by Angela Lansbury as Rosaleen’s granny, who tells her stories full of warnings about men whose eyebrows meet and wolves that are hairy on the inside, with David Warner as her father, who’s at a loss with his daughter in both the real and the dream world. Other recognizable faces include An American Werewolf in London veteran Brian Glover as the father of a neighbor boy who takes a liking to Rosaleen (who, of course, has no time for him), Graham Crowden as a kindly old priest, Kathryn Pogson as the young bride in one of Lansbury’s tales, who marries traveling man Stephen Rea, who “answers the call of nature” one night and doesn’t come back, an uncredited Jim Carter as the man she marries in his stead, and an uncredited Terence Stamp as the Devil, who appears in a flashy car to tempt a young man in the forest. If that last part doesn’t seem to make sense, remember it’s in a story being told by a girl in her own dream. With all the different levels of fantasy and reality, things are bound to get a little mixed up.
Since this was first published in 2014, The Company of Wolves stubbornly remains without a domestic release to supplant the bare-bones DVD put out by Hen’s Tooth Video almost two decades ago. The film is currently streaming on Kanopy under the Shout Factory banner, though, so maybe they have designs on putting out their own edition. They just don’t seem to be in much of a hurry to do so.