Tulio Demicheli, 1970
Starring: Paul Naschy, Michael Rennie, Karin Dor
I swear I’m not making up this premise. Aliens intend to take over the world. In order to achieve this, they take the form of dead humans (scientists) and start a traveling circus as a disguise. They revive a series of dead monsters, including a vampire, a mummy, Frankenstein’s monster, and the werewolf Waldemar Daninsky. Hoping to create an army of monsters, they experiment on the monsters and some humans to learn why the monsters are so terrifying. Unfortunately, human emotions begin to influence the aliens’ minds and Daninsky is a more powerful force than they reckoned with.
Los monstruos del terror (literally “the monsters of terror”) is also known as Dracula vs. Frankenstein, though it’s not to be confused with the punishing Al Adamson film of the same name. A mash-up of Plan 9 from Outer Space, House of Dracula, and ‘40s-era Bela Lugosi sci-fi/horror films like The Bat, Assignment Terror is far more exciting on paper than on screen. What could have been a colorful, stylish film is drab and suffers from a low budget and a lousy transfer. Hugo Fregonese (Man in the Attic) and Eberhard Meichsner were uncredited co-directors, yet another example of how much a mess this production was. The overly ambitious script is a bit hard to follow due to all the characters and monsters running around. With that said, if you like House of Dracula, cheesy, fun horror, and are hopelessly devoted to the Universal monsters, this is worth tracking down.
This is the second film where Paul Naschy plays Daninsky (technically the third, but one of the early films was lost). It does have some loose connection to the first, in the sense that the aliens remove a silver bullet from his heart, but the film doesn’t focus on the characters at all. Paul Naschy wrote the film under his birth name, Jacinto Molina, and intentionally gave himself this small role. He doesn’t appear till over half an hour into the film and doesn’t have any dialogue till near the hour mark, so don’t get into this thinking it’s a straightforward entry in the El Hombre Lobo series.
Assignment Terror is essentially a Michael Rennie (The Day the Earth Stood Still) vehicle, though he was apparently very ill during filming. That might explain his wooden, unenthused performance. Lovely German actress Karin Dor (Topaz, You Only Live Twice) is likable as the head female scientist/alien and helps liven up the film a bit with her character’s mix of naiveté and sexual desire.
The sets of this Spanish-German-Italian co-production pale in comparison from Mark of the Werewolf and indeed some shots seem to be recycled from it. The movie looks incredibly cheap, further linking it to something like Plan 9 from Outer Space or The Devil Bat, particularly where the laboratory sets are concerned.
One of the interesting elements is that the aliens are influenced by their human forms, in particular emotions like lust and jealousy. This results in a sexual dalliance on the part of Maleva, the female scientist played by Karin Dor, and Dr. Varnoff (Michael Rennie’s characters) suddenly develops an interest in go-go clubs. He also begins spying on Maleva with the use of hidden cameras and becomes insanely jealous when he witnesses her affair with another scientist. In response, he tortures her with electricity, allegedly because she is succumbing to her human emotions too heavily. The romantic angle is further explored when Daninsky and the gypsy girl fall in love, though this is little more than a plot device establishing that there is someone who can kill Daninsky at the end of the film.
Certainly not among the finest Waldemar Daninsky films, this will delight anyone who loves Z-grade horror and, to be honest, it probably makes a great double feature with Al Adamson’s Dracula vs. Frankenstein. If you like that sort of thing. As far as I know, it isn’t available on region 1 DVD, though you can find it online and there’s a region 2 PAL DVD floating around.