‘Company Of Wolves’ Spotlights Angela Lansbury’s Versatility

Dame Angela Lansbury was one of those celebrities who just seem excel in whatever role she took. She seem to take each role and make us look beyond the actress. Earlier this week on Oct. 11, she passed away at the age of 96. By the time The Company of the Wolves opened in September 1984, her landmark TV show Murder, She Wrote would also premiere and last until May 1996.

While most people remember her as writer and crime solver Jessica Fletcher whose Cabot Cove, Maine had one of the highest per capita crime and murder rates, it’s not much of a stretch to see her as the protagonist’s grandmother in Wolves. Lansbury gets top billing for what is really a supporting role and she’s only known as Granny as she tells somewhat dark and disturbing tales to her granddaughter, Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson). These stories mostly deal about werewolves with some special effects so gory and bloody it’s surprising Lansbury would be associated with a movie.

But people forget that Lansbury played the diabolical Eleanor Iselin in 1962’s political thriller The Manchurian Candidate. She also played a witch who takes on Nazi Germany in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. So, something like this seems just as fitting. And people may not like Neil Jordan’s surreal avant garde gothic fantasy horror movie. It’s hard to describe just exactly what it is or what’s going on as the tales that Granny tell blend into Rosaleen’s reality.

But which Rosaleen are we really following? The movie opens in modern times with Rosaleen dreaming that she lives in a fairytale forest in the 18th century where her toy dolls come to life as they are human size. She lives with her parents, only called Father (David Warner) and Mother ( Tusse Silberg) and her sister, Alice (Georgia Stowe). One night, Alice is chased down and killed by a pack of wolves and Rosaleen goes to stay with Granny who tells her stories.

One of them in particular deals with a young man (Stephan Rea) and his bride (Kathryn Bogson) who are about to consummate their marriage when he abruptly leaves and runs with wolves outside. She never sees him for years and remarries only to be unhappy with her children, until the man returns and grows angry. Suddenly, he begins to tear off his skin including his own face to reveal he’s transforming into a wolf. But before the wolf can harm her or her children, it’s beheaded in by her current husband.

Granny tells Rosaleen never to trust a man whose eyebrows meet. A young boy who is attracted to Rosaleen offers to go on a walk through the forrest with her but they discover the cattle have been killed by a wolf. When Father and others go out to hunt the wolf down, they discover it’s transform to a human body after killing it.

In the end, the plot turns into Little Red Riding Hood with Rosaleen taking some goods to Granny only to meets a huntsman (Micha Bergese) whose eyebrow meets. And then, if anyone knows the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the huntsman is actually a wolf who approaches Granny’s house before Rosaleen can arrive there.

It’s a strange movie and you’ll either like it or hate it. Since the movie is told in a dream-like atmosphere, it’s has the odd transition in which characters who appear in Rosaleen’s life appear in the stories Granny tells. But what is real and what is a dream? There’s almost a Hammer Films style to the way Jordan and cinematograher Bryan Loftus film the movie. The forrest scenes obviously look like they’re filmed on a set. And the movie’s violence earns the movie its R rating. Yet there’s also a strange look as when the huntsman decapitates Granny with one swipe of his hand, the head goes flying and breaks apart in pieces like ceramics when it hits the fireplace mantle.

So, what is going on in the movie? I honestly don’t know. I’ve seen this movie several times and still notice something that I didn’t recognize before. There’s a blink and you’ll miss it cameo by Terence Stamp as the Devil in one of Granny’s stories. This was Jordan’s second movie and he would find better success with Mona Lisa in 1986, The Crying Game in 1992 which would earn him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and proving that Tom Cruise can work as an aristocratic bloodthirsty vampire in Interview With the Vampire. You can see the same style and look he brought to Vampire that he has here. (Incidentally, Rhea plays a vampire in that movie who suffers a similar fate as he does as a werewolf.)

As for Lansbury, she would really become a household name with the popular Murder, She Wrote. Johnny Depp would later say he used her performance as Jessica Fletcher as his inspiration in playing Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow. And anyone who was a fan of 1991’s Beauty and the Beast will remember her as Mrs. Potts. She had filmed a role in the upcoming Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery that is due out later this year. A thespian of the stage, screen and TV, she will be greatly missed by many.

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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