Tuesday, June 26, 2007

NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF

I’ve only seen a couple of Spanish genre filmmaker Paul Naschy’s (real name: Jacinto Molina) horror films, and frankly, those didn’t exactly make me a fan. Of course, I respected that he wrote and directed many of his films as well as starring in them (often in multiple roles), and I liked that he stuck to tried-and-true gothic formulas right out of the old Universal and Hammer monster flicks. In fact, his most famous role is that of tortured werewolf Waldemar Daninsky – a fur-faced wolfman who appeared in at least thirteen films – including 1980’s NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF (EL RETORNO DEL HOMBRE-LOBO).

Also distributed in some markets (like the U.S.) under the inexplicable but very 80’s title of THE CRAVING, RETURN OF THE WEREWOLF is a great little gothic Euro-horror, with all the classic elements of the genre, executed with style and some sly humor.

The film is a pseudo-remake of Naschy’s earlier WEREWOLF SHADOW, pitting the immortal wolfman against the equally immortal vampire Countess Elizabeth Bathory, in a sanguinary battle of fangs and claws. The film is loaded with great sets and medieval locations, hot babes – both good and evil – some decent old-school werewolf attacks, and even a zombie!

This is the best performance I’ve seen from the often-wooden auteur, who, in this film, is surprisingly charismatic with lots of star quality. The perfectly-cast Julia Saly’s Countess Bathory is disturbingly otherworldly and still oddly sexy – a perfect vampire queen.

Deimos/BCI’s excellent new DVD edition offers the complete, uncut version of the film with a very nice and nearly-flawless 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. It looks gorgeous, with only a few small instances of wear or grain. Audio is provided in both Spanish and a lousy English dub, and there are optional English subtitles. Extra features include some classy and creepy menu screens, a deleted scene, a charming, on-screen introduction from Naschy himself, the original Spanish credits sequence and international trailer, and, finally, an extensive still gallery. The disc also includes informative liner notes by Naschy expert Mirek Lipinski.

For Naschy fans and fans of traditional gothic monster bashes, NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF is highly recommended.

BUY: The Night of the Werewolf