The Company of Wolves: Wikis


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The Company of Wolves

Theatrical Poster
Directed by Neil Jordan
Produced by Chris Brown
Stephen Woolley
Written by Angela Carter
Neil Jordan
Starring Sarah Patterson
Angela Lansbury
Stephen Rea
David Warner
Music by George Fenton
Cinematography Bryan Loftus
Editing by Rodney Holland
Distributed by ITC
Cannon (US)
Release date(s) Canada 15 September 1984 (premiere at TIFF)
United Kingdom September 21, 1984
United States 19 April 1985
Running time 95 mins.
Country  United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $2,000,000 (estimated)
Gross revenue $4,389,334 (domestic)

The Company of Wolves is a 1984 gothic fantasy-horror film directed by Neil Jordan, and starring Sarah Patterson and Angela Lansbury.

The film is based on the werewolf stories in Angela Carter's short story collection The Bloody Chamber ("The Company of Wolves", "Wolf-Alice" and "The Werewolf"). Carter herself co-wrote the screenplay with director Neil Jordan, based on her own short stories and also her earlier adaptation of "The Company of Wolves" for radio.

Carter's first draft of the screenplay, which contains some differences from the finished film, has been published in her anthology The Curious Room (1996).



Set in modern times, the film takes place within the dreams of a young girl: Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson). Rosaleen dreams that she lives in a fairytale forest with her parents (Tusse Silberg and David Warner) and sister (Georgia Slowe), but one day her sister is killed by wolves. While her parents are mourning, Rosaleen goes to live with her grandmother (Angela Lansbury), who knits a bright red shawl for her granddaughter to wear. Rosaleen returns to the village where her parents live, but finds that she must deal with the advances of an amorous boy (Shane Johnstone). Rosaleen and the boy take a walk through the forest, but the boy discovers that the village's cattle have come under attack from a wolf. The villagers set out to hunt the wolf, but once caught and killed, the wolf's corpse transforms into that of a human being.

Rosaleen later takes a basket of goods through the woods to her grandmother's cottage, but on her way she encounters an attractive huntsman (Micha Bergese). He challenges her, saying that he can find his way to her grandmother's house before she can, and the pair set off. The hunter arrives at Rosaleen's grandmother's house first, where he reveals his bestial nature and eats her. Rosaleen arrives later and discovers the carnage, but her need to avenge her grandmother is complicated by her desire for the hunter. Ultimately the villagers arrive at the house, looking for a werewolf within, only to discover a transformed Rosaleen.

Back in the present day, Rosaleen wakes with a scream, wolves apparently breaking through the window of her bedroom.

Perrault's moral from Le Petit Chaperon Rouge is then read over the beginning of the credits. The moral warns girls to beware of charming strangers.

Throughout the course of the film, a number of stories are interspersed into the main narrative as tales told by several of the characters:

  • Granny's tale to Rosaleen: A young groom (Stephen Rea) is about to bed his new bride (Kathryn Pogson) when a 'call of nature' summons him outside. He completely disappears and his bride is terrified to see wolves howling outside. A search the following day yields a wolf paw print only. Years later, she remarries and has children, only to have her original husband finally return. Angered at her having had children with a new husband, the groom transforms into his werewolf form, but is slain when the new husband (Jim Carter) returns.
  • Granny's second tale to Rosaleen: A young man is walking through the enchanted forest when he encounters the Devil (Terence Stamp; anachronistically arriving in a chauffeured Rolls-Royce), who offers the boy a transformative potion, which ultimately monstrously transforms him against his will.
  • Rosaleen's story to her mother: A woman (Dawn Archibald) 'done a terrible wrong' by a rich, young nobleman (Richard Morant) turns up at his wedding party, where she magically transforms the groom, the bride and the guests into wolves. They escape into the forest, but the sorceress commands that the wolves 'serenade' her and her child each night.
  • Rosaleen's story to the huntsman/wolf: A she-wolf who arrives at a village. Despite meaning no harm, she is shot by a villager. She reveals herself in her human form (Danielle Dax) to an old priest (Graham Crowden), who bandages her wound. Ultimately she returns to 'hell' through the village well.



Angela Carter, author of the original short story "The Company of Wolves" worked with director Neil Jordan on the script for the film. This was Carter's first experience of writing for film. However, it was also only Jordan's second feature film as director.

Whilst ultimately based upon the short stories from The Bloody Chamber, the plot of the film bears closer resemblance to Angela Carter's 1980 adaptation of "The Company of Wolves" for radio, which introduced such elements as the additional stories being told within the narrative by the characters themselves such as Granny. Originally, these stories had been placed before the main narrative.

Carter and Jordan met in Dublin in 1982 to discuss extending Carter's radio drama adaptation of her own story, which Jordan called "too short for a feature film."[1]

According to Jordan, it was he who suggested adding the frame story to the narrative: that of the dreaming girl Rosaleen in the modern day. This makes clear the story's focus on subconscious fears and desires. It also gives the film what Jordan called "a Chinese Box structure."[1] This structure was supposedly based upon the structure of the film The Saragossa Manuscript, which both Jordan and Carter had seen.

The script reached its third draft by July 1983.[2]

Carter's proposed ending for the film would have featured Rosaleen diving into the floor of her bedroom and being swallowed up as by water. In the DVD commentary for the film, Jordan notes that the limited technology of the time prevented the production of such a sequence, whereas later CGI effects would in fact make it quite simple.[3] The original screenplay (as presented in The Curious Room) also featured an additional story being told by the huntsman, a very different final tale by Rosaleen (reminiscent of Carter's "Peter and the Wolf" from her collection Black Venus) and a scene set in a church with an animal congregation.[4]


The Company of Wolves was filmed in Shepperton Studios in England. The film's cast was primarily made up of British actors.

The cast included Sarah Patterson, whose considerable youth at the time meant having to make special arrangements with her school in order for her to be away for nine weeks while shooting took place.[5] Patterson was in fact noticeably younger than the kind of actress the casting director had initially been looking for.

Jordan worked for several weeks in pre-production with artist filmmakers Nichola Bruce and Michael Coulson to create hundreds of detailed storyboard drawings. Also involved with production was art director/production designer Anton Furst who would later go on to work on Tim Burton's Batman. The film's visuals were of particular importance, as Jordan explains:

The visual design was an integral part of the script. It was written and imagined with a heightened sense of reality in mind.[1]

In the DVD commentary, Jordan notes the difficulty of having to create the look of the film on a limited budget, having to create a fairytale forest out of essentially "twelve trees."[3] He nevertheless succeeded in creating a sunless, mystical, wondrous and claustrophobic setting saturated with fantastic elements and symbols.

The script naturally calls for a great number of wolves to appear. However, due to budgetary constraints and other factors such as cast safety, most of the 'wolves' shown in the film are in fact evidently Belgian Shepherd Dogs, mainly Terveurens and Groenendals, whose fur was specially dyed. In the DVD commentary for the film, Jordan notes the bravery of young star Sarah Patterson when acting amongst the genuine wolves.[3] Using particular light angles, the eyes of both real and "shepherd" wolves are made to glow dramatically in the film.

Jordan notes how Carter was "thrilled with the process" of making a film, as she "had never really been involved with one."[1] After the film, Jordan and Carter looked for other projects which they could work on together. However, no others came to fruition, partly because of Carter's later illness. According to Jordan, he and Carter discussed a possible adaptation of Vampirella, Carter's radio play which served as the original version of her short story "The Lady of the House of Love" from The Bloody Chamber. This is not to be confused with the actual film Vampirella, released in 1996 and based upon the comic book character of the same name.


  • Sarah Patterson as Rosaleen. Young actress Sarah Patterson made her debut screen appearance in this film, despite being much younger than the kind of actress the casting director had been looking for, what with her being approximately only 12/13 years old and likely too young to be able to understand some of the film's more adult concepts.[5]
  • Angela Lansbury as Granny
  • David Warner as Father
  • Tusse Silberg as Mother
  • Micha Bergese as Huntsman. The Company of Wolves represents Bergese's first ever role in a feature film.
  • Brian Glover as Amorous Boy's father
  • Graham Crowden as Old Priest
  • Kathryn Pogson as Young Bride
  • Stephen Rea as Young Groom. Northern Irish actor Stephen Rea had already worked with director Neil Jordan in Angel and would later work with him again in such films as The Crying Game and Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles amongst others.
  • Georgia Slowe as Alice, Girl Killed by Wolves
  • Susan Porrett as Amorous Boy's mother
  • Shane Johnstone as Amorous Boy
  • Dawn Archibald as Witch Woman
  • Richard Morant as Wealthy Groom
  • Danielle Dax as Wolfgirl. Goth icon Danielle Dax appears in a non-speaking role as the feral "wolfgirl."
  • Jim Carter as Second Husband (uncredited)
  • Terence Stamp as The Devil (uncredited)


The film received its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada on the 15th of September, 1984. It was released in the United Kingdom on September 21st later that same year and was released in the United States on the 19th of April 1985 where it was shown in 995 theatres.

The film was distributed in the United States by Cannon Films. Jordan notes that Cannon pushed the concept of the film as primarily a horror film. Jordan maintains that it is not a horror film and that such a label might actually be misleading to audiences.[3]

The film was later released on VHS in numerous countries. A Region 1 DVD release came several years later on the 15th of October 2002. A Region 2 special edition version of the film was released on the 17th of October 2005, approximately 20 years after the film's initial release in theatres. This special edition came in a metal case and included an audio commentary by director Neil Jordan, stills galleries, the film's theatrical trailer and a printed "Behind the Scenes Dossier". This special edition version was also released on Universal Media Disc for the Sony PlayStation Portable on the 30th of January 2006.


Box office performance

Financially, the film only just broke even on its opening weekend in the U.S., having been made for approximately $2 million and taking $2,234,776 in 995 theatres. However, in total, the film took over $4 million in the U.S.[6]

Awards and nominations

Critics generally responded especially positively to the film's aesthetics. The film won one award for best film and best special effects and was nominated for four BAFTAs for costume design, make up, production design/art direction and special visual effects.


  • Special Mention at the 1985 Fantafestival
  • Three 1985 Fantasporto awards:
    • Audience Jury Award
    • Critics' Award
    • 1985 International Fantasy Film Award (Best Film and Best Special Effects)
  • 1985 London Critics Circle Film Awards ALFS Award (Director of the Year: Neil Jordan)
  • Two 1985 Stiges - Catalonian International Film Festival awards:
    • Caixa de Catalunya (Best Film and Best Special Effects)
    • Prize of the International Critics' Jury


  • Grand Prize at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival, 1985.
  • Four 1985 BAFTA Awards:
    • Best Costume Design (Elizabeth Waller)
    • Best Make Up Artist (Jane Royle, Christopher Tucker)
    • Best Production Design/Art Direction (Anton Furst)
    • Best Special Visual Effects (Christopher Tucker, Alan Whibley).


Feminist critic Maggie Anwell decries the film for its over-emphasis on bloody werewolf special effects,[7] but another, Charlotte Crofts, argues that the film is a sensitive adaptation of Carter's reworking of Charles Perrault's Little Red Riding Hood fairytale.[8]


A soundtrack album featuring the score from the film was released on the 15th of February 2000.

Track listing

  1. "The Message And Main Theme"
  2. "Rosaleen's First Dream"
  3. "The Story Of The Bride And Groom: The Village Wedding/The Return Of The Groom"
  4. "The Forest And The Huntsman's Theme"
  5. "The Wedding Party"
  6. "The Boy And The Devil"
  7. "One Sunday Afternoon"
  8. "All The Better To Eat You With: Arriving At Granny's Cottage/The Promise And Transformation"
  9. "The Wolfgirl"
  10. "Liberation"

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Neil Jordan quoted in the production notes to Angela Carter's The Curious Room (London: Vintage, 1997), p 507.
  2. ^ Mark Bell, production notes to Angela Carter's The Curious Room (London: Vintage, 1997), p 507.
  3. ^ a b c d Neil Jordan, audio commentary to The Company of Wolves (ITC, 1984), (DVD: 2005).
  4. ^ Angela Carter, "The Company of Wolves" in The Curious Room (London: Vintage, 1997), p 185-244.
  5. ^ a b Anonymous, "The Company of Wolves Behind the Scenes Dossier" (2005; insert with special edition DVD).
  6. ^
  7. ^ Anwell, Maggie (1988), ‘Lolita Meets the Werewolf: The Company of Wolves’ in Lorraine Gamman and Margaret Marshment (eds), The Female Gaze: Women as Viewers of Popular Culture, London: Women’s Press, pp. 76-85.
  8. ^ Crofts, Charlotte (1999), ‘Curiously Downbeat Hybrid or Radical Retelling?: Neil Jordan’s and Angela Carter’s The Company of Wolves’ in Cartmell, Hunter, Kaye and Whelehan (eds), Sisterhoods Across the Literature / Media Divide (London and Sterling, Virginia: Pluto Press), pp 48-63; Crofts, Charlotte (2003), Anagrams of Desire: Angela Carter's Writing for Radio, Film and Television (Manchester University Press).

External links

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