UK movie (1984). ITC/Palace. Pr Chris Brown, Stephen Woolley. Dir Neil Jordan. Mufx Christopher Tucker. Animatronic wolf by Rodger Shaw. Screenplay Angela Carter, Jordan. Based on "The Company of Wolves" (1979) by Carter; her own screenplay appears in Come Unto These Yellow Sands (coll 1985). Starring Micha Bergese (Huntsman), Graham Crowden (Old Priest), Angela Lansbury (Granny), Sarah Patterson (Rosaleen), Tusse Silberg (Mother), David Warner (Father). 95 mins. Colour.
Early in this elaborate conflation of Little Red Riding-Hood with various Werewolf legends, set in a Land-of-Fable Dark or Middle Ages, young Rosaleen's Granny sets out the ground-rules: "Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple, and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet." Granny is full of advice for the adolescent girl, and full of Wolf stories, too, three of which are nested into the overall tale. The Frame Story is a distorted version of the Red Riding-Hood tale, in which wolves become the symbol of the adult sexuality dawning in the girl-child Rosaleen: the Huntsman is also the wolf (killing Granny), and as such is, too, the cavalier seducer who finally lures Rosaleen from the world of humans to the world of wolves. Yet even this tale is set within a frame, being dreamt (or possibly not) by a modern child in an English country house . . .
TCOW's generally staged air – backgrounds tend to resemble backdrops, and some of the acting is theatrical rather than cinematic (bringing a faint reminder of Pantomime) – enhances the sense of Fairytale, as does the profusion of sharply observed forest wildlife, with toads and snakes abounding. In a joyously fantasticated Anachronism, the Devil's brightly glowing eyes, emerging from the medieval mists, prove to be the headlights of his silver Rolls Royce. Patterson's performance, mixing ignorance and knowingness in constantly fluid proportions, is outstanding. This movie lies at the heart of fantasy, and beats with its pulse: it is both fantasy and about fantasy. [JG]