Friday, April 22, 2016

057. The Fury of the Wolfman and 058. The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman

Jump to The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971)

057. The Fury of the Wolfman aka La furia del Hombre Lobo (1972)
Director: José María Zabalza
Writer: Paul Naschy
From: Cult Cinema

After being attacked by a yeti while traveling in Tibet, Waldemar Daninsky returns home with a lycanthropic curse. He turns to his colleague, Dr. Ilona Alman, and her work regarding the chemical impulses in people's brains for help, but she may have a more sinister agenda.

When I wrote about Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf two weeks ago, I didn't know I'd be returning to Paul Naschy's werewolf stories so soon. This is the fourth of the twelve Hombre Lobo films, The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman is fifth, and Dr. Jekyll sixth. Even though Naschy plays Daninsky in each film, they're not exactly sequels: the werewolf is dead at the end of each and both Daninsky's situation as well as the origin of his curse are different.

This film, though, is very confusing. Part of that is due to the dubbing and editing which is so abrupt at points that it's not clear if the voice actors were working from a translated script or just adding words that seemed to fit the moment. Part of it, though, is due to the overabundance of plot. This feels like a telenovela condensed into a movie.

Waldemar returns home, the only survivor of a trip to Tibet where his team was attacked by some strange monster, and, on his first night, he starts having a seizure where he almost attacks his wife. The next day, he asks his colleague Dr. Alman if he can meet with her that night to deal with his problem. She's experimenting in brain chemistry in the hopes of controlling people's base impulses. She and Daninsky used to be in love, but he chose his wife Erika over her. Dr. Alman's assistant Karen meets Daninsky in the parking lot to express her concerns over Dr. Alman's work, but Daninsky alleviates her concerns. As he gets into his car, he reads a letter he's just been given revealing that his wife is having an affair with one of his students. He drives off in a rage to confront his wife, but his brakes have been cut and he crashes into a tree. Meanwhile, his wife's lover who sent the letter calls Erika and makes plans to meet with her while Daninsky dies.

We're not even ten minutes in.

So. Daninsky becomes a werewolf, kills his wife and her lover, and falls under the power of Dr. Alman. Dr. Alman secrets him to her ancestral castle where she's doing more elaborate experiments in mind-control and takes Karen with her to both be her assistant and eventual thrall. Back home, Karen's journalist boyfriend is growing increasingly suspicious of everything and is working with local police to unravel the mystery.

This is the bulk of the movie. Despite being called The Fury of the Wolfman, the titular wolfman isn't particularly furious or active in the movie. He's more the inciting incident that everyone else is organized around. There are things to recommend the movie, not least of which being the 70's style of horror cinema that's both Gothic and lurid at the same time. My version has no nudity, but it's also seven minutes shorter than the run time listed on IMDB and there's an obvious post-coital shot that suggests precisely what's missing. The film has lesbian overtones with Dr. Alman—Karen's her “roommate” initially, clearly devoted to her, and all of Dr. Alman's assistants are young women—as well as moments of sadomasochism here and there.

In the end, though, I found the movie kind of boring, which I think is a result of the poor dubbing and editing. Were this an uncut subtitled version, it'd probably be better—the voices couldn't be nearly as bad and the pan-and-scan, ugh, forget it! There's fun if you're looking to riff on the picture—twice Naschy as the werewolf is raging only to have the scene cut to him just standing around basically waiting for something to do—but overall, I found it a little too slow for general entertainment.

058. The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman aka La noche de Walpurgis(1971)
Director: León Klimovsky
Writer: Paul Naschy, Hans Munkel
From: Drive-In

While searching for the tomb of the vampire Countess Wandesa, Elvira and her friend Genevieve meet the werewolf Waldemar Daninsky who agrees to help them in their search. Upon finding the tomb, the trio accidentally awaken the Countess. Now Daninsky must find a way to defeat the Countess before Walpurgis Night when she'll summon Satan and threaten the world.

So much more fun than the other two films! Daninsky is a character throughout the movie, not just a plot point the other characters act around, and it doesn't have the layers of complication and love triangles that the other two have. Plus this just feels more like a midnight movie. There's Gothic atmosphere, interesting shots, and pretty solid cinematography evident even in my washed-out print.

This is a direct sequel to The Fury of the Wolfman even though I think this was released before that. We start with Waldemar dead and being dissected by two morticians. One of them is skeptical of the claim that Waldemar was a werewolf and so removes the silver bullets. If he is a werewolf, the mortician says, removing the bullets will cause him to come back to life.

Oops! So they're dead and wolfie's back.

Cut to Paris where Elvira (soft “i”) is talking to Marcel, her globe-trotting international cop boyfriend/guy she only just met in the bar that night (love comes quickly in the Hombre Lobo films). She's writing an article about the Countess Wandesa, an alleged Satanist from the 15th Century who survived by drinking virgins' blood. Elvira thinks she knows where the Countess' tomb is and heads out to find it with her friend Genevieve. They arrive near the place, but run out of gas. Fortunately Waldemar is there to offer them shelter.

And things progress from there. Waldemar is searching for the Countess because the silver crucifix that killed her can finally kill him permanently and free his soul. They find her, she comes back, turns Genevieve into a vampire, and now Waldemar has to try to save Elvira from the vampires because she's the only one who can safely kill him.

Like I said, I enjoyed this one a bit more. It moves a little faster, the dubbing isn't as hokey, and it has a straightforward plot. Each character wants something that brings them into contact and/or conflict with the others. My only disappointment was that Countess Wandesa never becomes a character. She has very few lines of dialogue and is largely just a figure that menaces from the shadows. I'd have liked to see her try to seduce Waldemar to Satan or at least be involved in some grander scheme.

I'm saying much less about the plot—the woman posing as Waldemar's sister, his creepy caretaker Pierre—because I think it's worth watching without the surprises being ruined. Of course it has the same clichés as the other two—it's somehow always a full moon no matter when the story's happening, there are overt lesbian overtones, and, of course, poorly-timed edits that become their own source of humor—but this manages to keep things simple and fun. As I said above, this feels like quintessential midnight movie fare and it's a real shame it's no longer public domain (pulled back under copyright by GATT). A quick Google will find you full-length copies and it's not the worst way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

My cut is, I think, the television one so, if you're worried about nudity or gore, look for the 82 minute version. It's clean and child-safe, although the atmosphere may creep them out. I did see a 92 minute version that I imagine has the elements excised from this version. Watch it with friends, though. The movie's enjoyable in its own right, but would be elevated by an enthusiastic audience.

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