Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Werewolf Shadow (1971)

Title: Werewolf Shadow (a.k.a. The Werewolf vs.Vampire Woman) (1971)

Director: Leon Klimovsky

Writer: Paul Naschy, Hans Munkel


If you are a horror fan, and avidly watch and discuss horror films with your horror loving buddies, chances are that Paul Naschy’s name will pop up in conversations and reviews. I started watching mostly American horror films, then like many others have, I worked my way towards horror films from across the world. Usually, that’s how it goes for an American horror fan. You start watching Carpenter, Raimi and Craven and as many American horror films as you can until you’ve seen them all, and then you end up branching out towards horror films from across the world. Usually, this leads horror fans to discover the works of Argento, Fulci Soavi and eventually if you keep searching further down, you discover the wonderful world of Mario Bava’s gothic horror films. But Naschy for me is the filmmaker I ended up discovering after I’d seen all of those. To me, Naschy and his films were something I’d eventually get to after I’d seen all these other horror films and directors I had to discover. Kind of the same way I felt about the Coffin Joe series of films. They were always something I’d eventually get to, but wasn’t in any rush to see.

But my time finally came! I’m glad I finally got to see some Naschy films, because now, it’s a whole other world I have to discover. After doing this huge post on werewolf movies a while back where a couple of bloggers and myself explored werewolf movies from all over the world, I decided that my time had come to finally see some Paul Naschy films. Truthfully, a recent article I read on Rue Morgue magazine which explored this late Spanish director’s whole filmology sparked my interest in his films as well. So I went to a buddy of mine who I always go to when I want to see horror films from across the world (thanks Beto!) and Voila!, I finally had a Paul Naschy film in my hands! The film was Werewolf Shadow, the film I will be reviewing today.

While researching Naschy’s body of work I came to realize that Werewolf Shadow is actually the fifth in a series of 12 werewolf movies in which Naschy plays the same character, Waldemar Daninsky. So I guess I sort of started watching Naschy’s films right smack in the middle of the franchise. That’s okay I guess, these films function in the same way that the Hammer Dracula’s did, you can watch any of the films in the series and it wont affect continuity, because they are all stand alone stories that are loosely connected to one another by the same character. The whole series is made up of the following films:

The Mark of the Wolfman (1968)

Nights of the Werewolf (1968)

The Monsters of Terror (1969)

The Fury of the Wolfman (1972).

Werewolf Shadow (1971)

Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman (1972)

The Return of Walpurgis (1973)

The Werewolf and the Yeti (1975)

Return of the Wolfman (1980)

The Beast and the Magic Sword (1983)

Lycantropus: The Moonlight Murders (1996)

Tomb of the Werewolf (2004)

Werewolf Shadow felt like one big homage to Hammer and Universal combined. To me, this was very much like a Hammer film because it has that premise where a group of people end up stranded in a castle in the middle of nowhere and a strange alluring individual offers them his hospitality only to later end up threatening their lives. It’s the same old trick Christopher Lee’s Dracula would pull off on anybody who suddenly showed up at his castles doorstep seeking shelter. Sure, come right in! Later, in the middle of the night, I’ll try and suck your blood! This is the premise for Werewolf Shadow as well. Two girls suddenly find themselves at Waldemar Daninsky’s castle. They are searching for the remains of an age old vampiress known as Countess Wandessa. A powerful vampire queen that was buried somewhere nearby Daninsky’s castle. So Daninsky welcomes the girls and offers both of them a stay in his castle.

The one thing about Naschy’s werewolf films is that he is not really the villain in them. Most of the time, the werewolf is seen as a villain that has to be destroyed, but not on Naschy’s films. Daninsky uses his Werewolf powers for good. Though at times he can get out of control and loose it, most of the time he uses his anger and strength to help the good guys. This is exactly the case in Werewolf Shadow were Daninsky ends up protecting the two girls from the vampire queen whom they resurrect entirely by mistake. I enjoyed the way they depicted the vampire queen, whenever she shows up, she moves in slow motion. These scenes were kind of hypnotic to me because she dresses up in these awesome clothes that look great in slow motion. She kind of hypnotizes you with her slow-mo dancing, which I’m guessing was the directors intent. This film is similar to Hammer films The Vampire Lovers (1970) in which Ingrid Pitt plays the vampire who falls for her female victim. In other words, even though this is primarily a werewolf film, it also has a bit of that lesbian vampire vibe seen in films like Vampyros Lesbos (1971) and Daughters of Darkness (1971).

A truthfull assessment with Naschy’s films is that they feel like a Universal horror film; the only difference being that Naschy’s films offer more nudity and gore in them. And it’s true. Sometimes, when watching a Universal Horror film you feel as if they could have taken things a little further, as if they could have been more daring and not so held back. I guess this had to do with the amount of horror people could take at the time. Back then, Universal films were considered frightening by those who went to see them in theaters upon their original release. Yet when we watched these movies now, they entertain and they exist in that world of horror where vampires and werewolves are real, but they never went too graphic or gory. Truthfully, Universal horror films are very tame and can be considered light horror in that sense. Paul Naschy obviously loved those old horror films and paid homage to them, but he did push the envelope a bit further as far as the nudity, sex and violence went.

I mean, lets face it, Universal’s The Wolfman (1941) is a great atmospheric film, but rarely do you see the monster ripping someone into shreds, gnashing at flesh, and drooling huge amounts of blood and saliva. Not so in this film! Naschy’s wolfman is a freaking savage beast! I personally love the look of the monster, obviously a loving homage to Lon Chaney’s take on the character. The final confrontation between Werewolf and Vampire Woman is a memorable one, and again pays homage to Hammer films. Some complain that the film is slow at times, but what ever, not all films got to go at a breakneck pace. Some films, especially older horror films thrive in their deliberate slow pace. In fact, Hammer or Universal films were never fast paced either, the main emphasis on those films, as is the emphasis on Werewolf Shadow as well, is in the atmosphere. The fog, the lonely places, the full moon, the wolfs howl, the castle at the top of the hill and the spooky Halloween score. I thoroughly enjoyed this old school flick and will certainly explore the rest of Paul Naschy’s legacy. Look for more reviews on Paul Naschy films in the near future!

Rating: 4 out of 5

By the way, for more Paul Naschy goodness, visit Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies where The Vicar of VHS is hosting an awesome Paul Naschy themed blog-a-thon with tons of articles, links, pics, images, and everything you ever wanted to know about Paul Naschy and his films!

Werewolf ShadowWerewolf's ShadowCountess Dracula / The Vampire LoversVampyros LesbosDaughters of Darkness


Mr. Fiendish said...

Glad you liked this one, too. Told you it was awesome

Franco Macabro said...

Now I need for you to lend me a couple more Naschy films, which ones would you say are the best? I need to get up to date on Naschy, Mad Mad Mad Movies blog-a-thon got me all pumped to check em out!

Mr. Fiendish said...

I'll lend you more when you bring the ones you owe me

Cal said...

wow great review and the list of films was especially helpfull, ive never heard of nights of the werewolf or monsters of terror

Franco Macabro said...

@Mr.Fiendish: Sorry, Im keeping those! Just kidding man, dont have a cow! They will be on your way soon. My question remains: whats the next Naschy film you recommend I should watch?

Or anyone out there reading, which are the best Naschy films?

@Youngblood: Glad you found the list helpful.

I Like Horror Movies said...

This is definitely one of my favorites in the series, although having just seen FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR, its a tough one to beat. So many fantastic scenes here Franco, glad you enjoyed it!!


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