When I learned how inexpensively I could fly to Los Angeles to visit the Batman exhibit at the Hollywood Museum, the announcement of another event sealed the deal for me. On Saturday, February 10, Creature Features in Burbank hosted a retrospective of The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) hosted by Mike Hill and featuring its star Yvonne Romain. I could kill two birds with one stone! (Later, I learned I could kill a third by also attending a 50th anniversary event for Planet of the Apes while I was there.)
Hill is an accomplished makeup and special effects artist. Although he recently worked on the highly-praised The Shape of Water, he didn’t mention his resume even once during the intimate one-hour discussion among him, Romain and an audience of about 60 guests. The only time it got personal for him was when he discussed his childhood love of The Curse of the Werewolf and his efforts to contact Yvonne (“Evie”) when he learned the she also lived in Los Angeles.
The event really was a retrospective of the movie and Hill seems to be an expert on it. He showed clips on a large flatscreen at the front of the room as he demonstrated its remarkable accomplishments. Romain was simply there to contribute to the discussion, although Hill and audience members asked her some non-Werewolf-related questions. It was fun, and a little surreal, to watch Romain watching herself on screen. She joked about wearing a dress that was the same color as the one she wore in the film.
Romain said she had “the easiest time” playing the mute “Servant Girl” in The Curse of the Werewolf. “I didn’t have any words to learn. I just had to look terrified throughout the entire thing.” She remembers Terence Fisher as being “a very nice director. He was lovely.” Prior to working for Hammer, she also appeared in Corridors of Blood (1958) with Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee and in Circus of Horrors (1960) with Anton Diffring and Donald Pleasance.
Post-Werewolf, she appeared for Hammer in Captain Clegg aka Night Creatures (1962) and The Brigand of Kandahar (1965), both with Oliver Reed. A generous portion of the event was spent discussing Reed. Romain noticed “a very different Oliver” between The Curse of the Werewolf and The Brigand of Kandahar. “He was starting to be naughty.”
The same age, the two were good friends off screen. “He was a very special character. Sadly, I think he enjoyed a cocktail or two.” (Never on set, though, where he was a “consummate professional.”) When Hill told Romain he’d read Reed once said it was during Captain Clegg that he fell in love with her, she seemed surprised. “Really? How nice!”
When asked if she was a fan of the genre, Romain responded by talking about Hammer. “I actually think the Hammer films were beautifully made. They were not expensive by today’s standards. The costumes, the detail, even the candles… everything was so beautifully done. I have nothing but praise for having been in a few of them.” How she was hired by Hammer is “no big story.” She said they obviously saw photographs of her and thought, “she’s all right. Servant girl… we’ll get rid of her.”
Romain described working with Peter Cushing on Captain Clegg. She had a long scene with him (he played her father) and was not “that experienced” as an actress. She was “acting away” and at the end of the scene, he took her to one side and said, very gently, very sweetly, “Yvonne, just do less. Your face is going to be [that] big on screen. Every movement you make is exaggerated.” She said during the few films she made afterwards, she always remembered him saying that to her.