Director: León Klimovsky
Release date: 1971
Werewolf Shadow, also known as Werewolf Vs the Vampire Women or La noche de Walpurgis, is another Paul Naschy as Waldemar Daninsky flick – in many respects the Spanish equivalent of Larry Talbot, the man cursed with the mark of the wolf.
It was the first Paul Naschy werewolf flick that I saw and thus, despite problems, left an indelible stamp upon my psyche. The storylines between the various Daninsky movies are, often, quite similar – indeed Naschy directed a re-imagining of this flick in 1981 as the Night of the Werewolf – but being the first Naschy vehicle I watched it always seemed like the most original.
It was unfortunate then that the Anchor Bay release, that I own, whilst being actually a very decent print of the film is saddled with unfortunate English dubbing. I am sure this would be improved by viewing in the original Spanish, but hopefully I shall rise above such petty consideration carried on the atmosphere that Klimovsky manages to pepper through the film.
We start off in an unnamed town where a police constable and a doctor (Julio Peña) are to do an autopsy on one Waldemar Daninsky. The (unseen) police inspector has insisted that he wants the results right away, hence the autopsy being carried out at night. This is one of the scenes where the atmosphere – that Klimovsky was known for producing – failed and it is down to the fact that, whilst they say it is night, it is clearly shot during the day. That aside, the doctor does not believe in werewolves and removes the silver bullets that have pierced Daninsky’s heart (through the centre of the pentagon scar on his chest). Daninsky comes back to life and changes – killing the two men and then getting a convenient passing hottie (María Luisa Tovar), in the woods, and managing to rip her blouse as the all too red blood spills down her breast. Queue the really funky music.
Elvira (Gaby Fuchs) is in a bar with her boyfriend, the police inspector Marcel (Andrés Resino). He is due to go to Istanbul and she, along with her friend Genevieve (Barbara Capell), are to work on their thesis. The thesis is about black magic and they have come across the figure Countess Wandesa Dárvula de Nadasdy (Patty Shepard). She was a Hungarian Countess and Satanist who stayed young by drinking virgin’s blood and was killed by a lover by being stabbed through the heart with a silver cross and then buried in France. Clearly referential (if historically complete bunkum) to Báthory; Nadasdy was the historic Countess’ husband’s surname. Elvira and Genevieve intend to find her grave.
Their trip does not get off to an auspicious start – getting lost en-route to the village their research has suggested as a starting location and virtually running out of petrol. They find an old house and investigate but it is a shell and then they are approached by Waldemar Daninsky. With some absurdly apparent ease the girls agree to stay at his place for a few days until his handyman, Pierre (José Marco), comes out and can get them some more petrol. Over dinner they tell Waldemar about their quest – he reacts to Wandesa’s name – and then they retire to bed.
Elvira is worried – there is no lock on the door and Waldemar seems odd. Genevieve seems less worried and has taken a sleeping pill. Elvira is dropping off to sleep when the door handle moves, suddenly a woman – Elizabeth (Yelena Samarina) – is in the room, she warns Elvira away (before the next full moon), pretends to throttle the girl and then tries to feel her breasts up. Next thing you know Waldemar is sat above her, she is fine and he is sorry for his mentally disturbed sister. It is the start of a sea change in Elvira’s attitude. From distrusting Waldemar, before trying to go to sleep, she is attacked, by a woman Waldemar failed to tell her about, and suddenly she not only trusts the man but falls irrevocably in love with him.
He is out with Elvira, the next day, trying to explain how his sister became mad when Genevieve finds a building with shackles and blood up the walls. Elizabeth attacks her. Later, as Elvira dresses her friends wounds (and explains to Genevieve that its okay because the shackles and blood were used for animal butchery, whereas it is really where he is locked to save innocents from his wolfish habits), Waldemar tells his sister to leave the girls alone – they are his main hope. He looks at their papers and locates, he believes, the grave. Hi Ho, it’s off to work they go, with a spade!
They have indeed found the grave, a stone covered affair and they soon have that cover off… which seems a little too much like desecration as well as being a little too physically undemanding. Elvira obviously agrees (in respect of the desecration) and leaves the other two opening up the interior coffin whilst she goes to the nearby ruined chapel. In the coffin are bones and the silver cross. Genevieve removes it, cutting her arm in the process and getting blood all over the skull. When we later see the depth of the gash in her arm we wonder how she managed without hospital treatment, indeed how she managed not to bleed out there and then. Waldemar reburies the corpse – in soil, not by replacing the stone lid.
Meanwhile Elvira sees a monk in the ruined chapel and calls out to him. He turns to reveal a rotted face. I’d have said this felt like a tribute to the Blind Dead but as this was contemporaneous with the first film of that series then I guess it was just coincidence. Waldemar comes to the rescue, stabbing the monk with the silver dagger, who for his part seems to crumble to naught but robes. What he was is beyond me. Despite all these goings on, the girls go to bed as per normal that night but, then, Genevieve decides she wants a drink of water and goes to the kitchen. Out in the wilderness, the use of soil for the reburial allowed the director to have a nice hand from the grave shot as our vampire comes back from the dead.
Genevieve is summoned by Wandessa and goes to her willingly. When the vampire feeds from the gash in her arm she seems ecstatic. Soon she is wandering along a dry ice filled corridor trying to lure her friend off into the world of lesbian vampirism. Luckily for Elvira (though perhaps not the viewer of the film) Waldemar is able to ward her off with the silver cross. So, what is going on? Clearly Wandessa is back (and is likely to do a ritual on the upcoming Walpurgis Night that will bring an age of vampiric rule upon the world). Waldemar will try to stop this, so why allow the cross to be removed in the first instance?
Well, Waldemar wanted the cross as it can destroy him – if he is stabbed with it by one who loves him, which Elvira conveniently does with all her heart. Of course Genevieve wants to draw Elvira into her vampiric web, whereas Wandessa seems intent on sacrificing her (virginity is clearly optional). Throw in the handyman Pierre – as mad as a box of frogs and absolutely intent on kidnapping and raping Elvira, and also the arrival of Marcel, convinced that something is afoot and intent on rescuing Elvira (from Waldemar) and we have all sorts of shenanigans occurring.
If my write up seems a little glib in places it is because the film itself deserves it in places. Forgetting, as I promised to try and do, the awful dubbing the actual story is full of inconsistencies and cliché. The ease by which Waldemar manages to have Elvira fall for him is one such example. That said there is some marvellous imagery one example being a dream sequence in which Elvira is stabbed in the throat and the vampires drink her blood from a chalice.
Lore wise we know the vampires come out at night and are want to attack young women. The silver dagger must be used to destroy Wandessa, according to the legend related at the head of the movie, but this is not the case with other vampires generally and proves false for her too. Elizabeth is killed and Waldemar takes her corpse out into the woods. He digs a shallow grave, stakes her through the heart and then beheads her to prevent her return as the living dead.
Genevieve bites Elvira and leaves her to turn. She is accidentally staked by Waldemar – the old falling onto wood ploy – which cures Elvira of the vampire mark. As for Wandessa, it appears that being savaged on the neck by a werewolf is actually enough to return her to dust and squirming maggots. The silver cross is actually only used to prevent her fleeing the battle. There isn't much else suggested for vampire lore.
The effects can be a laughable and the film can be a tad slow in places, but this film has an ineffable something. It is certainly one of my favourite Naschy films. 6.5 out of 10, despite its faults.
The imdb page is here.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Director: León Klimovsky