Sunday, March 9, 2014


León Klimovsky, 1971
Starring: Paul Naschy, Gaby Fuchs, Barbara Capell, Patty Shepard

During an autopsy, Waldemar Daninsky is brought back to live when the silver bullet is removed from his heart. He immediately transforms and kills the doctors. He moves to an isolated castle in the countryside and eventually has a run in with two young ladies, Elvira and Genevieve. They are college students there to finish thesis research on alleged vampire Countess Wandessa Dárvula de Nadasdy. Daninsky agrees to help them and give them lodgings for a few days. Though she has a boyfriend, Elvira begins to fall for him, though Genevieve thinks he and his castle are creepy. They find Wandessa’s tomb and Genevieve accidentally revives her by removing the silver cross embedded in Wandessa’s chest and cutting her hand, so that blood drips into the Countess’s mouth. The newly risen Wandessa takes Genevieve as her lover and vampiric progeny, and soon they turn their attention to Elvira… 

Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman is also known as Werewolf Shadow, Blood Moon, Night of the Vampire, and Walpurgis Night. This Spanish-West Germany coproduction was written by Paul Naschy and is the fifth film in his EL Hombre Lobo series. Its surprising box office success is generally believed to be the impetus for a sudden boom in Spanish horror that lasted for much of the ‘70s. 

Underrated director León Klimovsky does a great job here and pulls off some very convincing Gothic atmosphere, which borders on the surreal. Naschy and Klimovsky collaborated together many times and Klimovsky is responsible for some of the more interesting, yet obscure Spanish horror films like A Dragonfly for Each Corpse, The People Who Own the Dark, etc. Another noteworthy figure involved in the production was assistant director Carlos Aured, who also worked with Naschy and directed the enjoyable Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll, Curse of the Devil, a later El Hombre Lobo film, and others. 

Going the opposite route of the previous film The Fury of the Wolfman, this film is a bit light on plot, but spends far more time on each of its themes. Some of them — the tragic, gentleman werewolf who is an outsider, the lovely young woman who falls in love with him, a sexy female villain, and a distant subplot featuring detectives — we’ve seen before. Others, such as car accidents, an isolated, picturesque locations, and violent, superstitious villagers, he would use again in future films of the series. There are certainly plot holes and the subplot with Elvira’s boyfriend is totally unnecessary. The character of Daninsky’s crazed sister Elizabeth is largely unexplained and she doesn’t show up in the rest of the series. She has a particularly creepy vice — ripping women’s shirts off and choking them until they pass out. Daninsky insists that she doesn’t mean any harm. 

There is always at least a basic explanation given for why Daninsky is rived. Here he is being autopsied and the medical examiner removed the silver bullet from his heart, awakening him once more. It’s certainly implausible that he rises from the dead so many times, but the film perhaps wisely doesn’t address this aspect. If you’re expecting a major battle between the titular werewolf and vampire woman, it is scant and anticlimactic. It’s also obvious that of course Daninsky is going to vanquish his foe and then his lady love has to kill him. 

Out of the early entries in the series, Naschy's acting is the best here and he gives Daninsky a fair amount of time to develop as a character. Gaby Fuchs (Mark of the Devil) is an unfortunately dull leading lady. The two other main female characters, exploitation actress Barbara Capell as her friend Genevieve and the lovely Patty Shepherd (Assignment Terror) as the Countess, are far more memorable. Sheperd, in particular, really should have gone on to have a major career in horror. She has a wonderful presence in this film and doesn’t need dialogue to play her role as the lusty vampiress to the hilt. She eerily floats through the mist, pale and black-veiled, smiling seductively at her intended target. 

There are some nice special effects and, as with most of the films in the series, there’s a great score. This one was composed by Antón García Abril, who would go on to write the soundtrack for the Tombs of the Blind Dead films. The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman comes recommended and is a good introduction to the El Hombre Lobo series. Anyone who enjoys Universal horror or werewolf films will find a lot to love about this. 

There are a couple of options for watching The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Woman. It’s streaming online, but it’s also available on an out of print, pretty expensive DVD. There’s a second out of print, though cheaper double feature DVD with Curse of the Devil, a later entry in the series. 

No comments:

Post a Comment