September 23, 2015 Keeping The Company of Wolves For 3 Decades
Werewolves have been central characters in film as far back as 1913’s The Werewolf. Seventy-two years later, the gem The Company of Wolves upheld that tradition as it celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2015. A British Gothic Fantasy/Horror film directed by Neil Jordan (Angel 1982, Byzantium 2012) as well as produced by Chris Brown (Absolute Beginners 1986, Return to Nim’s Island 2013) and Stephen Woolley (Letter to Brezhnev 1985, Dark Blood 2012) from a script written by Angela Carter from her short story by the same name, the film was originally released at Toronto International Film Festival in Canada on September 15, 1984 and a week later on the 21st in the UK. Picked up by Cannon, the film was later released on April 19, 1985 in the USA where it was show in nine hundred ninety-five theaters.
After her sister’s death, Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson: Snow White 1987, Tick Tock Lullaby 2007) is sent to stay with her superstitious grandmother (Angela Lansbury: Gaslight 1944, Death on the Nile 1978) by her grieving parents (Tusse Silberg: Curse of the Pink Panther 1983, Talk of Angels 1998, David Warner: A Doll’s House 1973, The Omen 1976). At her grandmother’s, her grandmother immediately warns her of men with hairy brows and why by telling her two stories. Afterwards, Rosaleen has gained the notice of two guys, one is a boy (Shane Johnstone in his only role) in her village, the other is a huntsman (Micha Bergese: Zina 1985, Best 2000) on her way to her grandmother’s while she tells a couple of stories of her own…but, with a twist. What could these gentlemen callers want with Rosaleen? Could Rosaleen’s sister’s death have awakened something dark and primitive in her?
The Company of Wolves was conceived when the author of the same title, Angela Carter, and director Neil Jordan worked together to get one of her stories on the big screen. The problem was to expand a story to feature length. It took three drafts to perfect the script, so the stories inside the story could be realized. When the script was submitted, studio, ITC Distributors, fit the budget for the nine week shoot. Filmed in the vein of 1982’s Creepshow, the film contained four shorts coming together to make one central story, but with werewolves.
Most of the cast of was British, which gave the characters an authentic feel with their English accents in the old English clothes. The Company of Wolves was Sarah Patterson’s first role, so her performance was not marred by previous acting gigs where she melded other characters to make a composite Rosaleen. Rosaleen was her own person, and Patterson was able to convey the deer in headlights, to the proactive fighter, to the sexualized sympathizer the role required, even if she was too young (11 or 12) to understand all the story’s nuances. Of course, Angela Lansbury lent herself perfectly to playing Rosaleen’s kindly grandmother…albeit superstitious. Tusse Silberg and David Warner portrayed the grieving, but still have to be there for the remaining child, parents nicely, as did the rest of the cast as the villagers. The practical change effects were done by Toby Philpott harkening to 1981’s American Werewolf of London with other effects done by Bob Thorne (Insignificance 1985, The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse 2005) and Alan Whibley (Venom 1981, U.F.O. 1993). Again, to the CG generation, these effects might seem archaic.
At the end of The Company of Wolves’ run, it amassed $4.3 mill on a 410, 000 to 2.3 mill £ budget with Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 77% “fresh” rating. During the 1985 awards season, the film won awards for International Fantasy Film Award for Best Film and Best Special Effects, London Critics Circle Film Awards ALFS Award for Director of the Year: Neil Jordan, Two Stiges at the Catalonian International Film Festival awards: Caixa de Catalunya for Best Film and Best Special Effects as well as others and nominations. Furthermore, The Company of Wolves also reintroduced classic stories like Red Riding Hood to a crowd that might have forgotten about it while introducing it to a new generation.
In subsequent years, The Company of Wolves has been referenced in 1988’s Remote Control and 1994’s Serial Mom with video product placement. Then, there was 2000’s Ginger Snaps with its take on the Werewolf curse, the 2006 short Big Bad Wolves, where Red Riding Hood is a sexual metaphor, and the Netflix original series, Hemlock Grove (2013), where the transformations are almost identical.
While The Company of Wolves was pushed in the USA as a Horror film, Jordan insisted it was not, and the categorization maybe misleading to audiences. The intelligent director may have been right, but thankfully The Company of Wolves did find its audience through the years. The character of the Werewolf has come a long way since 1913’s The Werewolf with The Company of Wolves’ success, paving the way for future Werewolf-themed films such as the Underworld franchise 2003 and 2014’s WolfCop, as well as a course this year at the University of Hertfordshire specifically centering on Sociality, Animality, and Subjectivity in Literary and Cultural Narratives that also draws upon the film. This undoubtedly keeps this Gothic tale right where it belongs in the public conscious for generations to come.