Company of Wolves, The (1984)

Company of Wolves, The (1984)

“A wolf may be more than he seems.”

A young teen (Sarah Patterson) dreams that she’s left her parents (David Warner and Tusse Silberg) to go stay with her advice-filled grandmother (Angela Lansbury), who tells her tales of a werewolf (Stephen Rea) who runs away from his bride (Kathryn Pogson) and then attacks her years later for remarrying, and a young man (Vincent McClaren) given a hair-sprouting potion by the Devil (Terence Stamp). Soon Rosaleen (Patterson) is telling stories of her own — including one about an impregnated witch (Dawn Archibald) seeking revenge on the nobleman (Richard Morant) who abandoned her, and one about a young she-wolf (Danielle Dax) receiving assistance from a kind priest (Graham Crowden).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Angela Lansbury Films
  • Coming of Age
  • David Warner Films
  • Fantasy
  • Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Mythology
  • Strong Females
  • Terence Stamp Films
  • Werewolves

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this film by “Irish director Neil Jordan… and his co-writer, Angela Carter, on whose short story the film is based” is “thematically and visually unlike any other movie”, defying “genre classification”. He adds, “It’s not really a horror movie, although it contains horror elements, such as dramatic men-into-werewolf transformations”:

— and while “it could be called a ‘suspense’ film or a ‘terror’ film,” it’s “more accurately… a film about sexual anxiety and a young virgin’s fear of and fascination about crossing the sexual threshold.” He notes that Jordan and Carter “have brought new sexual meaning to the fairytale” of Little Red Riding Hood:

… “by making the girl-wolf relationship a metaphor for all male-female relationships and by having the girl’s fairytale walk through the woods to Grandma’s house be the centerpiece of a frenzied dream of a young girl.”

Peary describes the movie as “wondrously photographed (its ‘look’ is unique)”, representing a “netherworld” that “is magical, enchanting, yet mysterious and foreboding. It’s a world filled with insects, snakes and toads, and warm-blooded animals; twisted trees, spider webs, and all kinds of sexual imagery.”

While Rosaleen is warned by her grandmother (in “a delightful bit by Angela Lansbury”) to “stay away from men”:

… and she “believes her grandmother speaks the truth about men and fears sexual contact”, she “does not run from the stranger she meets in the forest.”

Peary adds that “even more than Picnic at Hanging Rock, this film expresses the painful and confusing sexual yearnings of young girls.”

He ends his review by noting that while this movie is “not for all tastes”, it’s “definitely worth a look” — and in the years since Peary’s GFTFF was published, it’s developed a cult following, as has his phenomenal thriller The Crying Game (1992) (which happens to be one of my top-ten personal favorite films — but my review of that will have to wait until I have time to resume writing about post-GFTFF must-see titles…) What most impresses me about The Company of Wolves (other than its incomparable other-worldly sensibility) is how strongly it empowers females: while Peary focuses on Patterson’s sexual development, I see this as primarily a movie about a girl daring to venture out into the (admittedly scary) world on her own, imagining the worst that might happen to a female at the hands of men (dealing with an insistent suitor; being attacked; being impregnated and/or abandoned) and also how she might handle and survive such a fate.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Sarah Patterson as Rosaleen
  • Angela Lansbury as Granny
  • Highly atmospheric cinematography

  • Anton Furst’s sets
  • Impressive special effects

Must See?
Yes, as a cult favorite.


  • Cult Movie


2 thoughts on “Company of Wolves, The (1984)

  1. A must-see for its firm cult status – and as a splendid introduction to the worthy cult works of Angela Carter. As per my post in ‘Revival House of Camp & Cult’ (fb):

    “Never stray from the path. Never eat a windfall apple. And never trust a man whose eyebrows meet.”

    ‘The Company of Wolves’: Neil Jordan’s second feature remains one of his strongest films, even as it defies the ethos of a strong narrative. Based on three inter-related stories which cap the fairytale redux collection ‘The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories’ – one of Angela Carter’s finest works – ‘TCOW’ has the fluid feeling of a dream, and is mostly about the mood and anxiety of gothic uncertainty. The viewer feels a sense of dread from the production design alone (~ which was no small task, considering the film’s tiny budget; Jordan remarked that they basically had “twelve trees”). But there is also a larger concern at hand: the idea that wolves – or, essentially, other people – are not always what they seem. You must always be on your guard when you are… in the woods, or, essentially, in life. (This eventually became a central theme of Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods’.) As the reimagined Little Red Riding Hood – Rosaleen – Sarah Patterson (in one of her few films before leaving ‘the biz’) makes a sweetly no-nonsense heroine. And, as her Granny, Angela Lansbury is as wise and as world-wary as they come. … Those curious beyond the film may find themselves checking out Carter’s original stories. And that would be a very good thing.

  2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Brilliantly designed and conceived fantasy horror based on Angela Carter’s novel. Creepy, eerie and always interesting. A critical darling in it’s day and still today although it’s not often revived.

    Not must see for FFs.

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