A witch places a curse on the knight who burns her and hangs her coven. Generations later, one of his descendants shoots a wolf when out hunting, only to find out that he has killed a gypsy. Later, he finds a strange young woman on the road and takes her in, little knowing that she is a witch.
This was the 7th outing for Euro-horror star Paul Naschy (real name Jacinto Molina) as werewolf Waldemar Daninsky. Or it could have been the 6th, the existence of second movie ‘Las Noches del hombre Lobo’ (1968) being somewhat in doubt! Naschy insisted that the film was made but admitted he’d never seen it and the plot sounds remarkably similar to ‘Fury of the Wolf Man’ (1970) which seemed to have been patched together from various bits and pieces. Furthermore, claims that the film was lost when director Réne Govar died in a car accident seem a little hard to credit when you realise there is no evidence that Govar (or 3 of the film’s 4 credited co-stars) ever existed either! The only one who does have any other credits – Beba Novak – has a grand total of 2 other appearances, both uncredited. It is possible that the film never existed and Naschy was just padding his credits early in his career and never admitted to it.
The most unusual thing about the ‘El Hombre Lobo’ films is that the stories were all pretty much unrelated, apart from the fact you get Naschy playing a werewolf named Waldemar Daninsky. There were some elements in common but no story thread running through the series. This time out, Naschy is infected with the hairy curse when he gets bitten by a wolf skull, helpfully provided by the beautiful young witch he has (somewhat unwisely) taken to bed with him. There follows the usual transformations and murders; the wolf man’s crimes being conveniently blamed on a madman loose in the district.
The ‘El Hombre Lobo’ films were plagued by budgetary problems, even total collapses of funding during their filming. Obviously, these left their mark on the finished articles, with some appearing to be little more than scraps of story incoherently stuck together with a terrible U.S. dub track. But things obviously went far more smoothly here and what we have instead is a thoroughly professional and fairly well-realised European wolf man tale.
The story was written by Naschy and, although it’s not particularly original, it is interesting to see the local peasants with a far more violent mob mentality than that practiced by their Universal counterparts when chasing Lon Chaney Jr. Naschy also makes a brooding and handsome leading man, even if he is somewhat too gloomy to provoke a great deal of audience sympathy.
Director Carlos Aured and cinematographer Francisco Sànchez conjure some good visual images, making the most of the beautiful wooded locations and some impressive caste interiors. The transformations are of the basic ‘filters and layers of makeup’ variety, pioneered at Universal 30 years before, but Naschy in his full furry face is quite striking. On the debit side, the U.S. dub does treat the audience as if it’s never seen a wolf man film before and hammers home some obvious plot points with little subtlety.
An interesting touch is that the witch in the early scenes is named as Elizabeth Bathory, the real life 16th Century Hungarian noblewoman who allegedly bathed in the blood of virgins to preserve her youth and was played so memorably by Ingrid Pitt in Hammer’s ‘Countess Dracula’ (1970).
No classic then, but certainly the best of Naschy’s Euro-horrors that I’ve seen to date and an encouragement to seek out more of his work.