Friday, July 11, 2008

The Night of the Werewolf – review


Director: Paul Naschy

Release date: 1981

Contains spoilers

This is, on DVD, another Deimos Entertainment film and, as always, they have done us proud. The print of this is superb, it is dubbed and subtitled, plus has lots of extras. Deimos certainly know how to pull a nice DVD package together. As for the actual film…

Well it is a well produced Naschy werewolf vs. vampire flick with some nice effects, comparatively. It’s just, well we’ve seen it before as the film pulls heavily from other sources. Our werewolf, Waldermar Daninsky (Paul Naschy), owes much in temperament to Larry Talbot. There are scenes reminiscent of Hammer and even Black Sunday moments.

None of this is too bad – it is more referential than anything. The biggest problem is that the plot, with a few character twists, is essentially the earlier Naschy vehicle Werewolf Shadow and, whilst the effects are certainly more professional in this, Naschy as director cannot draw the same thick atmosphere as León Klimovsky did in his film.

reminiscent of Black SundayThe film begins in Hungary in the 16th Century and the trial of Erzsébet Báthory (Julie Saly). Convicted of witchcraft, vampirism and dealings with the devil, Báthory is to be buried alive. She curses at the officials, saying she will return. Her cohorts are to die in a variety of ways – we are more concerned with the cursed nobleman Daninsky who bears the mark of the pentagon (note pentagon, not pentagram). He will be forced to wear the mask of dishonour and then pierced through the heart with a silver dagger.

strangling your teacherModern day and Karen (Azucena Hernández) and Barbara (Pilar Alcón) are by the pool discussing their upcoming holiday to Transylvania with a couple of lads. They mention how their friend Erika (Silvia Aguilar) has contacted the spirit of Báthory. As for Erika, she is round at her professor’s home, played by Narciso Ibáñez Menta, and asks to take the medallion of Astaroth – said to be able to bring Báthory back. When he refuses she admits she is a student of the dark arts and strangles him. Meanwhile a couple of grave robbers have stumbled over Waldermar’s grave and remove the dagger from his corpse to be immediately killed.

a bad man is a dead manThe girls get to an inn and are trading to get a car. The man tries to dissuade them from their route but the conversation is overheard by three bandits who intend to rob and rape the girls. The girls drive through the countryside but a tree (actually more a large branch) falls before them in the road. When they stop the bandits come. Erika tries to grab a gun but it is knocked from her hand. We see a crossbow in the woods and the three bandits are taken care of. The girls, after Erika slaps some calm into Barbara, drive on.

They reach the ruins and explore. Karen comes face to face with a woman with horrific burns, Mircaya (Beatriz Elorrieta), and runs from the ruins. Outside she sees Waldermar and falls into a pit, sinking into unconsciousness. Meanwhile Erika and Barbara find Báthory’s tomb.

the wolfmanThe film then cuts to a dinner party with Waldermar – using an assumed name – and we wonder how the girls met him. We piece this together but it is not good exposition and seems quite a jar in the plot’s flow. However we discover that Karen is being cared for, Erika keeps her find from Waldermar and Mircaya is Waldermar’s servant. How he found a liveable castle is beyond me. Erika has realised who he really is and knows he can truly die by being stabbed through the heart by the dagger on the night of the full moon by the hand of one who loves him. We cut to some werewolf action.

through the windowMircaya has foreseen that Karen is the one who can kill Waldermar (something he truly desires) and the couple begin to fall for each other. Meanwhile Erika waits for the right time to raise Báthory and Barbara seems oblivious. One night Karen hears noises and we cut to a rather too protracted change scene, with Naschy chewing up the acted agonies of transformation. Karen comes face to face with her new love changing and is saved by Mircaya holding the werewolf off by means of the silver cross. He leaps through a window and when he returns, after some mayhem as a wolf and transforming back into a man, they embrace.

strung upMeanwhile Erika raises Báthory. The scene is fantastic and worth the entry fee to the film. Firstly she hypnotises Barbara with the medallion and then strings her up above the tomb. She gets a dagger and slits her friend’s throat, allowing the blood to pour onto the tomb top. This is, of course, reminiscent of the raising of Dracula in Dracula, Prince of Darkness.

Báthory bites ErikaSmoke pours from the tomb, then the lid levitates off and Báthory sits up. She immediately puts her fangs into Erika in a well shot bite sequence. Of course this is what Erika wanted but, unfortunately, the effect of vampirising Erika means that in the remainder of the film she is sidelined from an interesting villain to just another vampire woman as Báthory takes centre stage.

a zombie, I thinkBáthory then turns her attention to a nearby grave. With a flick of her hand her brother, Otvos, explodes from the earth as some sort of zombie, mummified corpse creature. Báthory wants the werewolf back under her control (she wants his power but also, we suspect, she fears the creature that can kill her) and sends Erika to seduce him. Meanwhile Karen and Waldermar search for the vampires. The game of cat and mouse is on…

look no reflectionLore wise things seem standard, with a couple of changes for the story’s sake. Certainly the vampires have no reflection and have eye mojo at their disposal. Báthory also seems to have some form of telekinesis. They fear sunlight, though these vampires are not stupid enough to get caught in the sun, and someone killed becomes a vampire, whilst just bitten becomes their thrall.

it burnsThe cross (standard) burns and the burn mark remains. The special silver cross, however, is able to ward both vampires and the werewolf. A stab from its pointy end will kill a vampire stone dead and through the heart of the werewolf (in the circumstances described) will kill him. In some respects they merged a lot of vampire lore into the werewolf lore here and Naschy acknowledges that when his character dreams of being staked (by wooden stake) by Báthory.

oopsI’m not sure exactly what Otvos was meant to be (we’ll stick with zombie) but the cross will kill him too. In fact he was a fairly pointless character who attacks once and is quickly despatched. The film does jump a little, relying a little too much on the viewer’s expectations of such films. That is almost understandable as the film is so referential but annoying nonetheless (bear in mind that the Deimos DVD is the most complete and uncut release of the film).

a bucket of bloodEverything looks good but, as I said at the head, we’ve been there before. However, this is an above average night’s entertainment. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


gilligan said...

I am probably a bit out of my element on this site - so I apologize for an unrelated comment:

Just wanted to thank you for the download info on "The Van". Much appreciated - I am obsessed with the 1970's, and have been for a long time, so this made my day.

I'm waiting for the "Taliesin Meets the 70's blog".

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Gilligan - no probs and you will find lots of cheesy (and not so cheesy) 1970s movies scattered around the blog!

mmm... Taliesin Meets the 70s, I'd have to replace the vampire fangs on the logo with a space hopper! lol

The Headless Werewolf said...

Ultimately, I prefer WEREWOLF SHADOW to this film; however, my understanding is that Naschy was skeptical about some of the choices Klimovsky made in that film, so this remake is arguably more personal and in keeping with Naschy's vision. Parts of it are simply gorgeous, and the werewolf make-up is sensational. Thanks for reviewing this!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I too prefer Werewolf Shadow, the effects in this are better - and it is lovely in places - but the atmosphere in Shadow is much hicker... wonderful film

Zahir al Daoud said...

Well, I downloaded this flick and watched it. I'd say your review was dead-on, save that the "biting" seemed to me rather poor. A cool enough plot, but at heart lacking the atmosphere needed to pull it off.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers Zahir.

The biting scene I refer to in the review (and screenshot) worked became of the reactions and the post bite frames. Just my thought as I watched it however.