Saturday, 12 November 2016

Werewolf Shadow

Sometimes known (more so in the US) as Werewolf Versus The Vampire Woman (in reference to its climactic Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man-style showdown) and La Noche de Walpurgis (Night of Walpurgis) in its native Spain, this Waldemar Daninsky outing was the first pairing of horror icons Paul Naschy and León Klimovsky (the latter actually an Argentinian, whose career evolved between the countries).  In classic fashion two doctors foolishly remove the silver bullets embedded in the chest of inert Daninsky, this act reviving him as the werewolf and thus bringing an abrupt end to the lives of the two men present in the morgue.  Later on a couple of nubile students are on a research mission to find the burial site of Countess Wandessa, someone who was killed centuries before and rumoured to be a vampire.  They meet Daninsky, who has set himself up in a lonely castle.  Hitching up at his place for a few days they eventually locate Wandessa, proceeding to pull out the silver dagger that's keeping her in a corpse-like state (despite the fact that they know of the legend).  Wandessa is alive once again and menacing the occupants of the castle, which ultimately leads to a battle between the blood-sucking countess and the werewolf.
A lovely little film from 1971 demonstrating some great atmospheric sequences, particularly once the undead Wandessa appears on the scene - Klimovsky was brilliant at this sort of creepiness despite being quite an old man by the time he made this.  It can be argued that it is overall low on velocity, although underlying this is essentially Naschy's desire to remake Universal's classic monster movies albeit with boobs and blood (who can argue with that concoction?).  As always, Naschy gets the beautiful babe (and there are several to choose from in this picture, including luscious Barbara Capell, who looks even better once she joins the legions of the undead!).  Reportedly Naschy wrote this film but nearly lost out on the main role to a younger, better looking actor.  Thankfully this decision was overturned by the German backers to the film, thus the legacy of the character was granted longevity that really lasts until this day with a number of harder core Spanish horror fans.

Anchor Bay US restored this film to its original Spanish glory in the early part of the Millennium, and this DVD from the legendary but ill-fated BCI Eclipse essentially replicated the earlier disc.  The long out-of-print DVD from BCI presents the film in either Spanish or English (with some Spanish) language plus English subtitles.  The disc also contains the shorter US cut (which some viewers prefer) in a much more battered-looking version.  Incidentally, many actors actually spoke in English while the film was being shot, as it was intended to export this from the beginning.

The main feature on the disc looks okay, with some jagged edges and awful day-for-night photography that surely should have been re-graded?  Otherwise viewed on a decent TV albeit from a distance the standard definition image is certainly passable with some nice colours and contrast.  A new Blu-ray restoration would naturally, as always, be very welcome.  The disc also came in a slipcase-enclosed amaray that contained a booklet with a pretty decent essay about the film and its history on home video.  BCI were a godsend and would truly have more than hailed in the HD collectors era with the many great films they gave life to on DVD.

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