Thursday, March 13, 2014


Paul Naschy, 1980
Starring: Paul Naschy, Julia Saly, Silvia Aguilar

In the 17th century, the Countess Elizabeth Bathory and her followers are sentenced to death for practicing black magic. One member of her group is Waldemar Daninsky, a nobleman and werewolf. In modern day, a young anthropologist, Erika, is studying the legends surrounding Bathory along with her two friends. They decide to visit the gravesite in the Carpathians.

Around the time of their arrival, Daninsky is resurrected when grave robbers take the silver cross from his chest. He awakens, transforms, and kills the men. Predictably, he moves into an isolated castle, which happens to be just near Bathory’s grave. The dead Bathory, meanwhile, has mentally possessed Erika, who soon resurrects her with blood and magic. Only Daninsky can prevent her from spreading vampiric evil throughout the world.

This ninth film in the El Hombre Lobo series was, as usual, written by Paul Naschy, who also stars. But for the first time, he also took the director’s chair with this film. This has both positives and negatives. It is the first film to revisit the Hammer-like visuals of the first film, Mark of the Werewolf. The script is relatively fast paced and corrects his tendencies to have numerous plot holes. The special effects look good here, partly because they are so restrained. Gone is the use of time-lapse photography for Daninsky’s wolfish transformation, which is to the film’s benefit.

Naschy is at his most melancholic here, playing up the role’s most Byronic aspect. Julia Saly (Night of the Seagulls) is likable as the Countess Bathory and obviously has fun with the role. Pilar Alcón, Silvia Aguilar, and Azucena Hernández are also decent as the three students in the film, certainly better than some of the actresses Naschy has paired with throughout the series.

Also known as The Craving, Return of the Wolf Man, and Night of the Werewolf, the film’s biggest issue is that this is almost an outright remake of Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman. Like all of Naschy’s films, this is uneven. There are some great moments, but there are also many that plod along, are edited poorly, or are simply badly written.

He had a larger than normal budget here and was able to achieve some very convincing atmosphere with the combination of Gothic sets and vampire ladies. Naschy has said that this is one of his favorite films in the series, which makes a certain amount of sense, as it feels like a more finished, professional synthesis of some of his earlier films. My only real issue with Night of the Werewolf is that we’ve seen this all before and there is not really an original plot point.

The introduction of zombies doesn’t make this seem any fresher, which is really a shame because the early ‘80s were a banner period for werewolf films. With his stubborn use of traditional, low budget effects and reliance on recycling the similar material throughout the series, Naschy was just unable to compete with An American Werewolf in London or The Howling. The movie was such a financial failure, that Naschy was forced to make his next film – The Beast and the Magic Sword – a Japanese co-production.

There’s a disappointing amount of nudity compared to the previous film, The Werewolf and the Yeti. The most curious aspect of the El Hombre Lobo series is its refusal to embrace the exploitation elements so rampant in horror during this period. I can’t decide if this is one of Naschy’s strengths or his weaknesses, though here it seems like the latter. Due to budget constraints and script issues, he is not quite able to revive the atmosphere first developed by Universal horror. He is also reluctant to move too far past it, instead resulting in some tame, though campy and fun B-grade horror made by someone who clearly loves the genre. 

Night of the Werewolf comes recommended only to Naschy newbies or to extreme fans. If you have a passing interest in the series and have already seen Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman, there’s no real reason to seek this out. It is available on DVD, though, for the curious. 

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