Monday, November 19, 2012
Werewolf Shadow (1971)
Yeah, Naschy is without a doubt the best werewolf actor ever. He's mixing the classic werewolf with the more modern, animalistic creature without resorting to exaggerated make-up effects. He just doesn't need it, this athletic weight-lifter who was more focused on being an director and writer than acting, but when the production company of his first werewolf-movie found out that Lon Chaney Jr was too old, too fat, too alcoholic and too sick to work again the only solution was Naschy himself. And we should be eternally grateful for that. Werewolf Shadow became on of Naschy's biggest hits and it's easy to understand why. The story is tight (but hardly original) and it delivers some cheap and fun gore, gorgeous directing by the master León Klimovsky. It's a very handsome and attractive production, from the talents behind the camera to those in front.
Two beautiful chicks goes on a road trip to some distant parts of
for the grave of a famous crazy medieval princess/fucked-up serial killer - and
maybe even a vampire! On the road they meet Polish nobleman (and werewolf)
Waldemar Daninsky who offers them to stay in his house for a couple of days. What
they don't know is that the crazy vampire princess is an old enemy of Danisky
and soon she's back from the grave, spreading her vampirism and the only
solution is for Daninsky to fight her once again - in the shape of a
bloodthirsty and uncontrollable werewolf! France
You see? The story is simple and fun and an excellent excuse to show a lot of werewolf-attacks, nudity and slow-motion vampires running in forests. The first scene is Daninsky laying in the morgue, ready for autopsy. According to Naschy himself they shot that in a real morgue and moments before there was a real, bloody body laying there, a young man killed in a motorcycle accident. They just flushed the blood away and Naschy was ready for his scene! This is one of the best-looking Paul Naschy's also. He's strong, looks vibrant and virile and he practically owns every scene he's in - even with beautiful women clinging around his neck.
But he really comes alive as Waldemar Daninsky, in a raging fury (that could be a cool 80's action film with ninjas: Raging Fury!) and with a foaming mouth he rips people to death, chewing on their throats and rolling his eyes it was his last day of acting ever. And it's SO convincing. The make-up is cool, it's simple compared to other movies, but there's no need for more. It's all about the acting, how the body works, the eyes. Naschy knew how to do it and he did it extremely well. But what to expect from a guy who wanted to be The Wolfman since he first saw him in the cinema as a teenager?
I'm not expert, but somehow it seems like Naschy was one of the first filmmakers to introduce graphic gore to the Spanish cinema. That doesn't mean it's much of it in any of his films, but Werewolf Shadow had a couple of graphic scenes that I totally forgot from the first time I saw it. The most surprising thing is when he chops a head off a vampire woman, all in one take - the effect itself isn't that good, it's primitive, but I was expecting them to cut away to a reaction shot of Naschy, because it felt like it should be like that. But instead we see him chop it off with a couple of whacks! No cuts, nothing. Not convincing either, but it's the thought that counts in cheap horror movies like this.
Now I've been writing about shallow, cheap things like gore and nudity and werewolf-attacks, but that's what Werewolf Shadow is about. I mean, for fucks sake, the alternative title is "The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman", which kinda says it all. It's extremely well-made entertaining with Paul Naschy in top form.
This is a timeless, slightly trashy, classic. A must in every collection of eurocult!