Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Carlos Aured, 1973
Starring: Paul Naschy, Fabiola Falcon, Mariza Olivares

A medieval inquisitor, Ireneus Daninsky, battles the Satan-worshipping Count Bathory and wins. Bathory’s widow, the Countess Bathory, is interrupted in the middle of a spell to summon Satan and is arrested by Daninsky and his men; she and her coven are later burned alive. She curses his family line before dying. Several centuries later, his descendent Waldemar Daninsky is targeted by gypsies still serving the Bathory curse. Daninsky unknowingly falls in love with one of their daughters, the beautiful Ilona. She betrays him by performing a satanic ritual that turns him into a werewolf. Ilona sneaks out into the woods to complete her ritual – sex with Satan – but she is abruptly murdered by a serial killer.

Daninsky falls in love again, with a girl named Kinga, while both he (in wolfish form) and the mysterious killer are disposing of bodies left and right throughout the countryside. Kinga’s sister also falls for Daninsky and attempts to seduce him, unfortunately on the night of the full moon…

Also known as The Black Harvest of Countess Dracula and The Return of Walpurgis, this seventh entry in the El Hombre Lobo series is another of the best and somewhat breaks from the patterns established in the previous films. Written by star Paul Naschy, The Return of Walpurgis is basically a romantic tragedy with a werewolf, some sex, some gore, and a fair amount of cheese. As with many of the earlier films, a key female character figures into the conclusion. In this case, after lots of death, a little misdirection, and some manly brooding from Naschy, his true love, Kinga, and her grandmother figure out that only she can kill him, hopefully ending the curse. Of course, she is pregnant and he's a ravenous, violent werewolf...

There are a couple of nice transformation scenes, but no one is watching El Hombre Lobo films for the special effects, I can promise you. There is a surprisingly high level of eroticism, certainly more so than the earlier films, as well as nudity. The gypsy women get naked and begin a sexual ritual with a black-clad figure that is supposed to represent Satan, and Kinga’s sister strips off her clothes and seduces Daninsky, informing him that “I came here a virgin, but I’m not going to leave that way.” That's seriously a line of dialogue. These two scenes alone make the film worth watching, particularly for fans of Naschy or sleazy ‘70s horror.

The Return of Walpurgis is also a lot darker than recent entries in the series. When Daninsky deflowers Kinga’s sister, he turns into a werewolf mid-coitus and rips her apart. The scene isn’t overly graphic, but the implication is certainly there, along with some ketchup-looking blood. Unlike a lot of other ‘70s horror, Naschy is always careful to write strong female characters into his films, though they are often villains. Here the Countess Bathory is revived and does battle with Daninsky in his lycanthropic form for the film’s grand finale.

There’s also some great scenery well-shot from director Carlos Aured. Scenes of the isolated forests, the crumbling castle, and the two separate black mass scenes are all lovely. Aured and Naschy worked together on several films, including the giallo effort Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll. His only major flaw here is the opening sequence, where two nights joust and duel. The set and costumes look incredibly cheap and the whole thing seems to be shot on a handheld camera. If you can get past this goof in the beginning, you’re in for roughly 90 minutes of horror from someone who clearly loves the genre.

Naschy took his time more with the script in this film and the action is condensed between the plot involving the satanic curse of the Bathory’s, as well as Daninsky being marked with the curse and dealing with his moonlit need to rip and tear human flesh. Naschy really plays up the guilty, downtrodden aspects of the character in this one and it’s clear that Kinga does him a favor at the end of the film when she puts him out of his misery. The minor, surprise plot about the serial killer is little more than a red herring, but it’s certainly jarring upon the film’s first viewing. The editing is also a bit jumpy and abrupt, but if you’ve seen any of the other films in the series, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The Return of Walpurgis is available on DVD as Curse of the Devil. Along with the first film, Mark of the Werewolf, and The Werewolf Vs the Vampire Woman, this is one of the strongest entries in the series and comes highly recommended. 

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