‘Now the most frightening Frankenstein story of all time as the ancient werewolf curse brands the family of monster makers as Wolfstein! Wolfstein! The inhuman cry of blood hungry wolf monsters!’
A spirited young countess returns from college to face a loveless marriage but becomes intrigued by a strange young man who spends far too much time hanging around the local ruined castle. The old pile belonged to the Wolfstein family, who are the subject of many local legends, not least that one of them was a killer werewolf…
Paul Naschy was a major horror star in continental Europe for the best part of 3 decades. His most famous character was wolf man Waldemar Daninsky, who he created with this production and played many times. Unusually, the films were not a series as such in that each story was unrelated beyond the lycanthropic theme, the character’s name, and, on occasion, a few common plot points. This seems a very strange conceit in these more franchise-friendly times. As a whole, the films were plagued by financial problems, with some ending up as little more than unfinished bits and pieces stapled crudely together; indeed, the very existence of second film ‘Las Noches Del Hombre Lobo’ (1968) is actually in dispute! Naschy recalled making the film in interviews, but it’s never surfaced; even unofficially.
So how did this Spanish horror icon’s journey begin? As a professional weightlifter and part-time actor. Born Jacinto Molina, he’d grown up watching the Universal classic horror cycle and had always been a particular fan of Lon Chaney Jr and ‘The Wolf Man’ (1941). A bit part on the U.S. TV show ‘I-Spy’ led to a meeting with guest star Boris Karloff on the set. Inspired, Molina penned the screenplay for a werewolf movie and obtained financing from German producers. Efforts to obtain the services of Chaney failed and, in the absence of any other suitable performers, Molina was cast in the lead instead. Unhappy with his given name, the producers insisted he change it to something more Germanic, and Paul Naschy was born.
The final production was a big European hit, despite not seeming all that remarkable when viewed today. Certainly, there’s no evidence of the budgetary disasters that compromised a lot of Naschy’s later projects, but there’s also little to make it stand out from the wave of similar pictures that were coming out of Europe at the time. However, there are a few creative touches to spark the interest.
The film does owe a huge debt to Universal’s ‘The Wolf Man’ (1941), but there’s also a nod back to ‘House of Dracula’ (1945) as our infected hero seeks a medical solution, only to get tangled up with a couple of very chic vampires! There’s also a pleasing contrast between the old world and the new, which runs throughout the film. Proceedings open with a masked ball in an old manor house and audiences could be forgiven for assuming that the film is set in Victorian times, until a modern sports car appears in the next scene. There are other ‘period’ trappings; the horror is kick-started by two travelling gypsies in a caravan, most of the action takes place in the impressively gloomy castle interiors and our not-so-friendly bloodsuckers favour the kind of wardrobe choices pioneered by Bela Lugosi and his deathless brides. The level of violence is more contemporary, though, and the werewolf transformations are achieved with the trippy use of lighting and bright red filters.
If you’re wondering what all this has to do with ‘Frankenstein’ or his ‘Bloody Terror’ then the answer is absolutely nothing! The only connection is the ridiculous voiceover at the start of the U.S. release print, which I’ve quoted above. Probably, the distributor was trying to cash in on the successful Hammer series which was still raking them in at the box office in the late 1960s.
If you’re not expecting anything tremendously original, and you’re happy with a fairly standard werewolf picture in the classic Chaney mould, then you could do worse than this and the other similar entries in Naschy’s filmography. He played werewolves in 16 films, 12 of those as Daninsky, provided you believe in the existence of Las Noches Del Hombre Lobo’ (1968) of course. His career also featured appearances as Count Dracula, the Mummy, and Frankenstein’s monster. Allegedly, he was the man beneath the makeup for all four of them in the 3rd Daninsky picture ‘Los Monstrous del Terror/Assignment Terror’ (1970)!
Seven Murders For Scotland Yard/Jack the Ripper of London/Jack el destripador de Londres (1971) – Mark David Welsh