Talk about dysfunctional families and the Talbot family should be a prime example. Although Lawrence was sent to an insane asylum when just a boy, he might have been the sanest Talbot of all. Sir John, the patriarch of this family, appears to be a raging lunatic. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that he was bitten by a feral boy years ago while in India, and contracted lycanthropy, which causes him to become a werewolf during the full moon of the month. His loyal servant, Sikh, has strapped him into restraints and prevented him from doing any harm for the last several decades; however recently he managed to escape and brutally kill several people, including his own son, Ben.
Ben’s fiancé, Gwen Conliffe, hunted down Lawrence to obtain his help in finding his brother. By begging for his assistance, she gave him an invitation to physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father and also handed him a death warrant. Once Ben’s body is found in a ditch, Lawrence insists on viewing it. He is horrified at its shredded condition, which has obviously been the work of some kind of wild animal mutilation.
Lawrence goes to the gypsy camp in hopes of finding some answers, but the townsmen have decided that the dancing bear is responsible for killing Ben and come to take their revenge. While they are targeting the bear, a large wolf begins its assault upon the mob and the gypsies, killing many of them before running off into the woods in pursuit of a young boy. Lawrence rushes off to save the child but is mauled by the wolf instead. Maleva, the gypsy, gives him aid and insists on letting him live because he is still a man, while her daughter, wants to let him die because he is now an animal. Maleva tells her that only someone who loves him can release him.
After a lengthy recovery with Gwen nursing him back to health, Lawrence visits his mother, Solana’s tomb. He blunders upon a shrine under her crypt, where ‘Daddy Dearest’ explains the family legacy to him. He shows him a chair, complete with straps where Sikh restrains him so he doesn’t kill, but locks the door to his son and knows that he will transform into a werewolf and kill during the full moon. When he does, Sir John tells the police and he is once again sent to the insane asylum where he was spent his youth. This is not a kind place but a house of horrors and torture, which only strengthens Lawrence’s hatred for his father— especially when he remembers that it was Sir John, who brutally murdered Solona years ago.
Lawrence is brought into public display of other doctors to prove that he is not a werewolf, however, he transforms before their eyes and murders a few of them before he escapes and returns to normal and finds Gwen. They realize that the have fallen in love and she is bound to protect him from the police.
It is inevitable that Lawrence confront his father, which is very intense when they both become werewolves and battle to the death while coincidentally setting Talbot Hall on fire. The police aren’t far behind and chase Lawrence into the woods as he follows a hysterical Gwen.
In the end, Gwen kills him with a silver bullet and ‘releases’ him from the curse. She is distraught but he thanks her for freeing him.
This is a tale of child abuse, spousal abuse to death, torture, betrayal, prejudice, and revenge. The only functional part of it is the love that Gwen has for her dead fiancé’s brother, which is a little twisted, to say the least. And to think that her love was what gave her the courage to kill him. This is not a family that I would even want to know, let alone marry into. Mayberry does an excellent job of describing all the dysfunction and mayhem that goes with it.