Seven Murders For Scotland Yard/Jack the Ripper of London/Jack el destripador de Londres (1971)

‘The lady’s eyes were such a startling shade that I’m keeping them for myself.’

Two prostitutes are murdered in London and specific organs removed in a manner that recalls the crimes of Jack the Ripper almost a hundred years earlier. The police focus their investigations on an alcoholic ex-trapeze artist who was the husband of the second victim…

Euro-horror icon Paul Naschy steps into the world of the Giallo with this London-shot Spanish murder mystery directed by José Luis Madrid. Naschy co-wrote the script under his real name, Jacinto Molina, and he brings a straight horror vibe to the proceedings, assisted by some graphic makeup FX.

After an accident dismounting from the safety net finished his acrobatic career and ended their trapeze act, Bruno Doriani (Naschy) and his wife Belinda (Irene Mir) have moved to London. Naschy spends his days and nights limping from backstreet pub to backstreet pub while Mir keeps them afloat by bringing men back to their flat for sex. Unfortunately, one of her customers turns out to be homicidal, and she meets her end at the point of his blade. The removal of some of her organs matches an earlier killing, and Inspector Campbell of the Yard (Renzo Marignano, who is so tall that he threatens to disappear out the top of the frame at times!) gets handed the entire mess by his smug superior, Superintendent Chambers (Miguel Muniesa).

Naschy is immediately under suspicion, but this has less to do with his relationship with the second corpse as his status in town as a ‘foreigner.’ However, Marignano is not convinced of his guilt, especially after chatting things over with his old friend, schoolteacher Winston Darby Christian (Andrés Resino). Unexpectedly, the academic becomes directly involved in the investigation when the next victim turns out to be Rosemary (Teresita Castizio), a student at the girls’ school where he works. Meanwhile, the police are after Naschy after he kills two thugs in self-defence and starts hiding out on the fringes of the city’s criminal underworld.

All the ingredients are present and correct for a good, solid Giallo. Exteriors were shot on the streets of London, and Naschy wandering around a garish urban wasteland of peep shows and strip clubs provides a real sense of time and place, aided by the excellent, evocative music of composer Piero Piccioni. Updating Jack the Ripper from the smoky taverns and narrow alleyways of the Victorian capital to a modern setting is an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast the different eras. The muted colour palette of photographer Diego Úbeda and the cluttered set decorations of Bruno Cesari and Juan Alberto Soler provides an excellent foundation for this theme. Although we see streets thronged with traffic, the shadow of the 19th Century still seems to hang over these gloomy boarding houses and dark courtyards.

Unfortunately, all that is as good as it gets for Madrid’s unsatisfying film. The story is very poorly structured and often develops clumsily. Considering that Naschy co-authored with Madrid, Juan Alberto Soler and Tito Carpi, he’s offscreen an awful lot of the time with prominence given to the underwhelming police procedures of Marignano and his men. Consequently, our leading man gets no time to delve deep into the character of the embittered acrobat, and he comes over as a dull, one-note miseryguts. The women in the cast are relegated to the roles of potential victims, with second-billed Patricia Loran barely making an appearance and Orchidea De Santis wasted as Resino’s trophy wife and the object of Inspector Marignano’s unspoken affections.

Logic also takes a back seat to plot convenience on a number of occasions, and the viewer is left with several nagging questions. Is it really acceptable police procedure to discuss the confidential details of a murder case with an old friend over a chess game? Why is the straight-laced policeman best friends with a younger, vaguely bohemian guy who teaches for a living? Why are the daggers that the killer uses all from different countries? This seems to be quite important when mentioned and a potential clue, but it never comes up again. Why does the killer take the human organs and store them in jars in a basement laboratory? Some plot summaries mention cannibalism, but I saw no evidence of it. The final nail in the coffin comes with the killer’s psychology and motivations, which are staggeringly simplistic and underdeveloped.

The athletic Naschy was a professional weightlifter who scored a few bits in films and some extra work before penning the screenplay to ‘La Marca del Hombre Lobo/The Mark of the Wolfman’ (1967). Having secured financial backing for the project, Naschy tried to obtain the services of Lon Chaney Jr to play the title role, but the star was too ill to participate. Naschy played the part himself, and the film’s financial success, particularly abroad, launched the actor as a horror star. Over the years, he played lycanthrope Waldemar Daninsky more than ten times and took the vampiric title role in ‘Count Dracula’s Great Love/El gran amor del conde Drácula’ (1974). There were many other horror roles and he also appeared in crime dramas and other mainstream features. He was also often on script duty, and returned to the Giallo for ‘Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll/Los ojos azules de la muñeca rota’ (1974) and ‘A Dragonfly for Each Corpse/Una libélula para cada muerto’ (1975). Despite personal and financial setbacks in later years, he was still appearing in movies at the time of his death in 2009.

Madrid went on to work with Naschy again on a couple of occasions, most notably on mystery-thriller ‘The Crimes of Petiot/Los crímenes de Petiot’ (1972) and fact-based terrorist drama ‘Comando Txikia: Muerte de un presidente’ (1978). His other credits in cult cinema are brief but include O.K. Yevtushenko/Somebody’s Stolen Our Russian Spy’ (1968), the final film in the weak Eurospy trilogy featuring Tom Adams as agent Charles Vine, and the poorly-received shocker ‘The Horrible Sexy Vampire/El vampiro de la autopista’ (1971).

A slapdash script and some poor pacing let down a project with some interesting potential.

The Vampires Night Orgy/La Orgia Nocturna De Los Vampiros (1973)

The Vampires Night Orgy:La Orgia Nocturna De Los Vampiros (1973)‘In no other place can you find a roast like this.’

A group of domestic staff on their way to a job get sidetracked when their bus driver dies of a heart attack. They stop for the night in a remote town that seems to be empty but find it fully occupied the next day. However, they soon become suspicious of their hosts and, when they go to leave, their bus won’t start…

Disappointing Euro-Horror that combines cannibalism and the undead to little effect. Despite an impressive location, complete with cemetery, there is little in the way of atmosphere, suspense or chills in the final results with a lot of the blame resting at the door of the jumbled, poorly developed script by writers Gabriel Moreno Burgos and Antonion Fos.

Travelling by coach to their new jobs somewhere or other, a team of domestic staff are somewhat inconvenienced when their driver drops dead at the wheel. Wrapping him up and putting him on the backseat, they contemplate their next move. During this process, Raquel (Charo Soriano) is happy for her young daughter (Sarita Gil) to play outside, so she’s not traumatised by what’s happened. On the roadside, Gil meets a young boy (Fernando E. Romero) who says nothing and suddenly disappears when it’s time to get back on the bus. The group travel on with Chauffeur, Ernesto (Gaspar ‘Indio’ González) driving, but decide to stop at a nearer town that’s off the grid, rather than pushing on to their destination.

The Vampires Night Orgy:La Orgia Nocturna De Los Vampiros (1973)

‘I’ve been waiting for ages to get served too.’

Arriving at the old world mountain community of Tolnia, they find it apparently occupied, but empty of people, apart from Luis (Jack Taylor) who is just passing through. Romantic sparks fly immediately between him and ladies maid Alma (Dyanik Zurakowska), and they take rooms next to each other when the group decide to spend the night. This proximity is particularly handy for Taylor as it turns out there’s a spyhole in the back of his closet which he uses to perv on Zurakowska as she gets ready for bed. This doesn’t affect the plot in any way and provides no real insight into Taylor’s character (and, yes, he is our hero!), but it does provide an excuse from some casual nudity early in the film.

The next morning when they come down for breakfast, the tavern is jumping with a full complement of staff and customers. The explanation for their absence is entirely feasible: they were all at a funeral. I guess they take place in the middle of the night in this part of the world. Taylor and Zurakowska are introduced to the town Mayor (José Guardiola) who is only too keen to share the local cuisine. We have a pretty good idea what’s on the menu by now, and the grub doesn’t disappoint, particularly when Zurakowska finds a human finger on her plate at a later sitting.

The Vampires Night Orgy:La Orgia Nocturna De Los Vampiros (1973)

‘It’s all right, you’ve just got something on your neck…’

However, Guardiola isn’t running the town; that role’s taken by the beautiful Countess (Helga Liné), whose family have been the local aristocrats for many centuries. She’s happy to invite our role call of victims up to the big house for a spot of tea and buns and takes a particular fancy to tutor Cesar (David Aller). She invites him to stay behind for some Shakespeare recitation which naturally ends up with the two of them between the sheets before Aller ends up on the pointy ends of Liné’s dentalwork. Meanwhile, back down in the village, the residents are closing in on their supper. Understandably, Taylor and Zurakowska decide to get the hell out of dodge.

Ok, where to begin? Well, from a technical point of view, the film is perfectly adequate. The cast is fine, and the location is impressive, even if director Leòn Klimovsky doesn’t manage to conjure much suspense or atmosphere from the town’s narrow streets or the bleak mountain slopes that surround it. The soundtrack’s composer is uncredited, which may mean that the musical selections were lifted from a library, which would go some way to explaining why the cues often feel inappropriate and distracting. But the biggest problem here is the story. Boy, does it raise a lot of questions.

The Vampires Night Orgy:La Orgia Nocturna De Los Vampiros (1973)

‘Are we there yet?’

The concept of a ‘Vampire Brigadoon’ is not necessarily a bad one, but the film fails on its own terms due to a complete lack of logic and clarity. Are the entire population of the town supposed to be vampires, or are they merely cannibals serving Line’s undead queen? In both cases, why don’t they overwhelm our vastly outnumbered heroes as soon as they arrive? Why string them along? Is it because they like to play with their food? And if they are only cannibals, then aren’t they going to run out of food pretty quickly in a remote village with an infrequent tourist trade? After all, we see them cutting each other up so they can put something on the plate for the travellers at the tavern. Why would they do that? And who is the young boy supposed to be? Is he a ghost? Why does he try to protect the young girl, and what happens to him in the end? So many questions….

There are also other problems with the script that display a distinct lack of care and attention. As the film opens, the fact that someone needs an entire team of new domestic staff would seem to be highly significant. Who is this mystery new employer and do they have sinister reasons for replacing their complete household? Well, don’t worry about it, because we never get to find out. It’s just an excuse to put some people on a bus so they can get lost in the mountains and become food for the undead. There’s no character development for any of these individuals either; we never find out the first thing about any of them. They are only defined by their jobs: the gardener, the teacher, the cook, the chauffeur, etc. etc.

The Vampires Night Orgy/La Orgia Nocturna De Los Vampiros (1973)

One moustache to rule them all.

There are several possible explanations for all these shortcomings. The most likely is that the film was rushed into production and begun without a finished script. It’s also possible that the film ran out of money during filming or that it was poorly edited for a Stateside release, although there are none of the telltale signs of those kinds of issues. The story progresses logically enough; it just fails to tie anything up in a satisfactory way, the oh, so predictable ‘twist ending’ providing no significant closure at all. Of course, it could also be down to this being two separate scripts that were smashed together, one involving a town of vampires, the other a town of cannibals. That possibility makes the most sense when watching the finished film.

Taylor was a stalwart of the Euro-Horror scene for many years with an impressive resume of credits in the field. He began his career in the Mexican film industry under the name Grek Martin before moving to Europe in the mid-1960s and landing the title role in excruciating Eurospy adventure ‘Agente Sigma 3 – Missione Goldwather’ (1967). But it was his role in Jess Franco’s ‘Succubus’ (1968) that turned the tide in his favour. More work with Franco followed including ‘Count Dracula’ (1970) with Christopher Lee, and ‘Female Vampire/La Comtesse Noir’ (1973). He also took one of the title roles opposite Paul Naschy in ‘Dr Jekyll vs the Werewolf’ (1972). Other projects include Javier Aguirre’s Giallo thriller ‘The Killer Is One of 13’ (1973), Amando de Ossorio’s ‘Blind Dead’ episode ‘The Ghost Galleon’ (1974), further films with Naschy and titles such as ‘Exorcismo’ (1975) and ‘Swedish Nympho Slaves’ (1977). He even graced more mainstream projects such as ‘Conan the Barbarian’ (1981), Ridley Scott’s ‘1492: The Conquest of Paradise’ (1992) and ‘The Ninth Gate’ (1999) for director Roman Polanski.

Liné probably deserves the title of ‘the hardest working actress in Europe’ in the 1960s and 70s, appearing in almost too many cult titles to count. Although she could shine given the opportunity, her roles were often of the same kind of quality she gets in this film. There’s one dialogue scene when she chats with the travellers, one nude scene and a handful of others where she wanders around in fangs and old-age makeup. If her decision to take roles that were obviously beneath her abilities seems a little puzzling, then the explanation is simple. It was all about the paycheck. She was a single mother bringing up two children at the time, and she needed the money. She’s probably best remembered for her starring roles in the films featuring the evil mastermind ‘Kriminal’, and ‘Horror Express’ (1972) with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. She also took the title role in Armando de Ossorio’s ‘The Loreley’s Grasp’ (1972), even though, by her account, she did not enjoy that particular experience.

A weak and poorly developed Euro-Horror with a lot of story issues.

Dr Jekyll vs. The Werewolf/Doctor Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo (1972)

Doctor Jekyll vs. The Werewolf (1972)‘I need pleasure… women… lots of women… different women!’

A new bride is saved from a fate worse than death by a man suffering from the curse of lycanthropy. She persuades him to consult family friend, Henry Jekyll, who may be able to come up with a cure for his deadly affliction…

Sixth in the series of the unconnected adventures of Paul Naschy in the role of reluctant werewolf Waldemar Daninsky. Unconnected? Yes, in what would be an unacceptable decision in today’s movie world, Naschy elected to make his 12 ‘Daninsky’ films as ‘stand alone’ stories with no significant continuity from project to project, except the character’s name and his lycanthropic tendencies. Also this is only the sixth chapter if you accept the existence of ‘Las Noches Del Hombre Lobo’ (1968), a film Naschy always insisted was shot, despite there being no other evidence of its existence or of the alleged director Rene Govar.

Life’s not much fun for scientist Henry Jekyll (Jack Taylor). He can’t even attend a going away party for newlywed friends lmre (Jose Marco) and Justine (Shirley Corrigan) without someone making smart remarks about his infamous grandfather. He leaves in a huff and Marco and Corrigan depart for Transylvania, having decided it’s a perfect place for a honeymoon! Before long, they are attacked by some local thugs in an old cemetery and Marco is killed. Things look black for Corrigan until the intervention of a mysterious man in black (Naschy), who kills one of the villains and chases the rest away.

Doctor Jekyll vs. The Werewolf (1972)

Being a werewolf didn’t help with his social anxiety…

Naschy takes Corrigan back to his medieval castle where he usually spends his days scowling in the company of faithful old family retainer Uswika Bathory (Else Zabala), doing her best Maria Ouspenskaya impression. Of course, it’s no surprise when Naschy and Corrigan fall in love within the space of a couple of scenes and, when she discovers his hairy secret, she decides to enlist Taylor’s help. After all, who else would you call in such a case besides Henry Jekyll?!

Taylor ponders the problem for a couple of seconds and comes up with a sound, scientific solution. Inject Naschy with his grandfather’s infamous serum and turn him into Mr. Hyde. It makes perfect sense. Obviously, the Hyde personality will eradicate the werewolf persona. Taylor can then administer the antidote to the serum that he has developed and Naschy will be cured. Of course. It’s obvious, really. No need for any trials or experimental work at all.

But the real fly in the ointment turns out to be not Taylor’s reckless methods, but his sexy assistant (and mistress) Sandra (Mirta Miller). Not only is she jealous of Taylor’s unrequited love for Corrigan but she sees an opportunity for power in the use of the serum. l’m not really sure how Naschy running around Soho dressed as Mr Hyde (complete with cloak and walking cane) is going to serve her world-conquering ambitions, but it does provide an excuse for some gratuitous nudity and mild scenes of kinky torture. I just wonder where he managed to get hold of his Victorian threads. A local charity shop, perhaps?

Doctor Jekyll vs. The Werewolf (1972)

‘Sorry, but I thought you wanted me to change for dinner…’

If you are at all familiar with Naschy’s extensive filmography, you will know that he was plainly in love with the classic horrors produced by Universal Studios in the 1930s and 40s. His Waldemar Daninsky was straight out of the Lon Chaney Jr playbook; a tortured anti-hero whose shirt and trousers always stayed on even under the influence of the full moon. He often wrote his films (as he did here) under his real name of Jacinto Molina, and they rarely strayed from the spirit or the template of those monochrome classics. Apart from some naked female breasts, of course.

Some of Naschy’s films suffered from serious budgetary problems, with the final results being little more than a patchwork of incoherent bits and pieces roughly stapled together, but there’s no evidence of production problems here under the direction of León Klimovsky. lt’s actually possible that Naschy really wanted to do a straight ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ film, but was forced to include his werewolf persona to secure funding, or for general box office considerations. It is always good to see a werewolf in a suit, though, and, as a lot of the action is set in England’s capital, he can safely be labelled ‘A Spanish Werewolf in London’.

Taylor began his screen career appearing with Marilyn Monroe on an episode of the Jack Benny Show but, by the end of the 1950s, he had relocated to Mexico and was acting under the name of Grek Martin. His first notable roles in cult cinema were on a TV series featuring a vampire named Nostradamus, the episodes of which were later edited into three films. He also appeared on the big screen a couple of times with El Santo wannabe, the masked wrestler Neutron (Wolf Ruvinskis). An unbilled bit on location in the notorious money pit ‘Cleopatra’ (1963) prompted a relocation to mainland Europe where he spent the next couple of decades appearing mostly in Spanish and Italian films.

Doctor Jekyll vs. The Werewolf (1972)

‘I told him that tie wouldn’t go with that shirt…’

Taylor’s major role in Jess Franco’s ‘Succubus’ (1968) later led to a profitable career in horror cinema. He starred in ‘The Female Vampire’ (1973) for Franco again, ‘The Vampire’s Night Orgy’ (1973) for Klimovsky again, ‘The Ghost Galleon’ (1974), one of Armando de Ossirio’s ‘Blind Dead’ series, ‘The Mummy’s Revenge’ (1975) with Naschy again, ‘Exorcismo’ (1975), ‘The Devil’s Exorcist’ (1975) and many others. He even turned up in ‘Conan The Barbarian’ (1982) with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was still acting in his 80s, playing a cannibal surgeon in ‘Wax’ (2014), a film that also used an archive audio recording of Naschy to voice an automaton.

Director Klimovsky was a veteran whose career began in the 1940s and took in many different film genres, including costume drama: a version of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ (1953) and spaghetti western: ‘A Few Dollars for Django’ (1966). An assignment to direct Naschy in ‘The Werewolf Vs The Vampire Woman’ (1971) led to many similar projects, including ‘Vengeance of the Zombies’ (1973) with Naschy again, ‘The Vampires Night Orgy’ (1973), Giallo ‘A Dragonfly for Each Corpse’ (1975) and the unusual horror ‘The People Who Own The Dark’ (1976).

Corrigan’s fairly short career was mostly in the soft-core arena, with sex comedies such as ‘Housewives On‘ The Job’ (1973), ‘Campus Pussycats’ (1973) and the title role in ‘Around the World with Fanny Hill’ (1974). Early in her career she played a supporting role in Euro-Horror ‘The Devil’s Nightmare’ (1971).

A professionally crafted Euro-horror, but one that is entirely predictable from beginning to end.

La Venganza De La Momia/The Mummy’s Revenge/Vengeance of the Mummy (1975)

The Mummy's Revenge (1975)‘That’s absurd, unbelievable! A mummy can’t come back to life!’

Tyrannical Pharaoh Amenhoptep is given poison to induce paralysis, then mummified and buried alive. Thousands of years later, at the beginning of the 20th Century, an expedition uncovers his tomb and take his sarcophagus to London. But the Mummy is stolen and soon afterwards, young women begin to disappear…

Euro-horror star Paul Naschy played all the classic ‘Universal’ monsters in his time (allegedly all of them in the woeful ‘Assignment Terror’ (1970)) but he was most famous for werewolf Waldemar Daninsky, who he played in an unconnected series of films over several decades. Here he’s a quadruple threat; playing the original Egyptian despot in flashback, the title monster, and a murderous modern day acolyte. And he also wrote the screenplay.

The film opens in Ancient Egypt and follows most of the usual beats associated with these sorts of goings on. Pharaoh Amenhoptep and favourite concubine Amarna (Rina Ottolina) spend the long, pleasant days by the Nile whipping beautiful virgins, slashing their throats and drinking their blood. Why? Well, it may be something to do with a search for immortality but you get the feeling that really it’s probably just because they can. Unfortunately, for our golden couple, his nibs should have been paying more attention to his kingly business and the latest military defeat on foreign shores pushes high priest Am-Sha to drastic action. Amarna is stabbed to death and her partner in crime ends up entombed alive with his name wiped from the history books.

This is all familiar ground, of course, and, rather unfortunately, it’s not well presented. This is supposed to be the court of the ruler of two kingdoms, a living god, but it looks far too much like a small set dressed with some gauzy curtains. Even the dividing wall doesn’t go up to the ceiling. The Pharaoh should probably have been torturing his architect and interior designers, rather than bothering with young girls! On the plus side, this is the only time that the film betrays a significant lack of budget.

Fast forward to the Victorian era, and old bandage face is dug up by archaeologist Jack Taylor and his wife Maria Silva. They take him back to the Royal Natural History Museum where the exhibit is put in the care of crusty old professor Eduardo Calvo. He’s a widow but has a beautiful daughter, again played by Ottolina, which clearly signposts where the story intends to go. Sinister foreign antiquarian Assad Bey (Naschy, again) steals the Mummy and brings it back to life, assisted by his lover Helga Liné, and a reign of terror begins.

The main problems with the film are two-fold. Firstly, it isn’t very original. The script is by Jacinto Molina (Naschy, of course!) and it’s just a stew of very familiar elements in an unremarkable blend. The only remotely interesting touch is that the Mummy isn’t a mechanical tool of murder, but the one giving the orders. After all, he was a Pharaoh in better days, rather than just a renegade priest. He’s also a lot more nimble than Lon Chaney Jr when avoiding the London Bobbies, although his makeup isn’t particularly impressive. The other problem is the colourless supporting cast who struggle with underwritten roles, and fail to draw any emotional investment from an audience. On the positive side, there is some effective shooting on the dark London streets and some of the interior locations are very impressive.

The Mummy's Revenge (1975)

‘Tell me what you’ve done with my ceiling or else!’

Spanish horrors were profitable in the 1970’s and Naschy milked it for all it was worth, starring in a string of features, tangling with vampires, witchcraft, zombies, psychos and aliens. Most of the other players here (Ottolina apart) appeared in many of these vehicles, the frequency of their credits making them almost appear like a theatrical stock company!

The beautiful Liné (completely wasted here) was striking in the title role of Amando De Ossorio’s ‘Las Garras De Lorelei’ (1973) and kicked ass in the gloriously lunatic ‘Horror Express’ (1972) with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Taylor was an American, whose film career began in Mexico opposite wrestling superhero Neutron in pictures like ‘Neutron Contra El Dr Caronte’ (1963). In Spain he starred as ‘Agente Sigma 3’ (1967), in possibly the most boring James Bond ripoff ever made, but, by the mid-1970’s, he’d carved out a solid career as a mainstay of Spanish exploitation cinema, working many times with director Jess Franco, including opposite Christopher Lee as ‘Count Dracula’ (1970). He also worked with Amando De Ossoro a couple of times, notably on the director’s third ‘Blind Dead’ picture ‘The Ghost Galleon’ (1974). All a long way from his debut on an episode of the Jack Benny TV show in 1953, that also featured a young Marilyn Monroe!

This isn’t the worst example of 1970’s Spanish horror, nor is it the worst ‘Mummy’ movie you’ll ever see, but it is a rather unremarkable example of both. Perhaps the most memorable moment is when two of the characters discuss the situation on the banks of the Thames., and a motorised barge chugs cheerfully through the shot behind them. Now, I’m no expert on water-based transport, but I’d hazard a guess that it wasn’t going up and down the river in the days of the horse and carriage!

The Loreley’s Grasp/Las Garras De Lorelei (1973)

The Loreley's Grasp (1973)‘These pieces are anatomical. I get them from the hospital to carry out my experiments.’

A small town by the Rhine in Germany becomes the scene of a series of horrific murders. Fearing for their charges, the headmistress of a local finishing school for girls hires a hunter to kill the wild beast that everyone believes is responsible. However, he’s happier spending time with the strange, green-eyed woman who he meets down by the lake…

Rather messy, unsatisfying Euro-Horror from Spanish director Amando De Ossorio, who enjoyed his greatest success as creator of the ‘Blind Dead’ series. Those stylish horrors featured the murderous exploits of a band of Knight Templars coming back from beyond the grave in glorious slow motion. Here, he takes a crack at the myth of the Lorelei (spellings vary), a female beast who tore the hearts out of sailors and bossed a crew of sirens on the banks of the Rhine. Sadly, despite popular belief, the tale isn’t really a myth at all, having its origins in a ballad composed by Clemens Brentano as recently as 1801 and popularised by a Heinrich Heine poem just over twenty years later. So the character actually has no origin in folklore at all but that didn’t stop De Ossorio trying to tie it in with the epic tale of Siegfried, the legendary dragon-slayer.

At first, things develop along fairly predictable lines. A young bride-to-be is slaughtered when a strange creature smashes its way into her bedroom the night before the wedding. The killing is pretty gory as the victim has her heart torn out, and De Ossorio doesn’t skimp on the claret. As a result, hunter Tony Kendall gets the gig of guarding the local girl’s school, an appointment that doesn’t meet with the approval of uptight teacher Sylvia Tortosa. Just for once it would be nice to see a film where the roguish charmer and the stunning ice-maiden don’t end up making goo-goo eyes at each other before the final credits roll but, predictably enough, this isn’t it.

The course of true love doesn’t run smooth, though, as Kendall starts a thing with the mysterious Helga Liné, who favours a skimpy dark-green bikini with tassels and hanging around in damp places. Although we suspect this relationship is not going to end in a church wedding and Sunday morning trips to the garden centre. De Ossorio’s script also throws in a scientist researching cellular mutation, a torch bearing mob who give up after a couple of minutes, a blind violinist who seems to know more than he’s telling (he doesn’t), and the Lorelei getting all gnarly and eating hearts during a cycle of seven full moons (is she a werewolf then?)

‘Wanna go for a swim, babe?’

In puzzling developments, Kendall is the reincarnation of Siegfried (I think!) and a trio of sirens wrestle for his affections. The mayor admits they should ‘probably start an investigation’ after his town suffers the fourth brutal murder in as many days. Where are the police? I have no idea. Still, we can leave it all to Kendall who rocks a white suit, rifle and motorbike combo, following up with a bare chest and blue & white striped flared trousers that he stole from a fairground.

The girls at the school show some skin at the swimming pool, fawn over Kendall, and form an orderly queue to be the next victim while poor Liné freezes her bits off attempting to exhibit grace and poise gallivanting about half naked and barefoot on a muddy lakeshore. Toward the climax, the Lorelei (Loreley?) talks about spending eternity with Kendall in Valhalla (perish the thought!) but, hang on, isn’t that Norse mythology anyway? Finally, everything comes to a rather soggy and abrupt conclusion, courtesy of everyone wanting to get back inside in a hurry where it’s nice and warm.

It’s fair to say that De Ossorio’s strengths were in his visual style, rather than his scripts, but even that seems to have deserted him here. There are a few good shot compositions (particularly the landscape down by the lake) but, most of the film betrays little of his talent in that regard. Together with the hopelessly muddled storyline, there’s more than a little flavour of a project hurried into production before everything was ready. The tale had been tackled on the big screen before (a 1927 German silent) and it has potential, but sadly this is little more than a mash-up of old horror tropes and half-formed ideas.

The Loreley's Grasp (1973)

‘You do remember my ‘safe word’ right?’

De Ossorio returned to his ‘Blind Dead’ series, the second of which ‘Return of the Evil Dead’ (1973) also starred Kendall in the lead. In fact, several of the cast appear in both films and, as locations in and around Madrid are another common factor, it’s quite possible that the two projects were shot back to back. If so, it’s pretty obvious where De Ossorio’s heart lay (and even the attentions of the Lorelei couldn’t change his mind!)

Arguably, Kendall and Liné both left their best days behind them in the previous decade; Kendall as James Bond wannabe ‘Kommissar X’ and Liné in other Eurospy projects and two films featuring supervillain ‘Kriminal’. Having said that, the German-born actress remained very active in Spanish film and television until 2006. Although less regularly employed, it’s pleasing to report that Tortosa is still working, and is currently attached to a forthcoming project starring Alexander Siddig; familiar to ‘Star Trek’ fans for his regular role on ‘Deep Space Nine.’ And who can forget that she took a ride on the stylish ‘Horror Express’ (1972) with Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and a wildly overacting Telly Savalas?

Not a terrible film by any means, but one that squanders a potentially interesting idea and delivers instead an occasionally entertaining but rather generic experience.

Count Dracula’s Great Love (1972)

Count_Dracula's_Great_Love_(1973)‘The old sanitarium will be coming into view real soon now…’

After a stagecoach accident on a mountain road, a group of young tourists are forced to take shelter in an isolated sanatorium which has just been bought by an Austrian doctor. He proves to be a charming host; however, in reality, he has his own agenda…

Paul Naschy (real name Jacinto Molina) was a horror star in Spain and mainland Europe, whose career was at its peak in the 1970s. He was most famous for playing werewolf Waldemar Daninsky in a long running series of films, but had allegedly also played the other classic Universal monsters (uncredited) in the ridiculous ‘Assignment Terror’ (1970). Returning to the role of the most famous vampire of them all, here he came up with the story and co-wrote the screenplay; which has a couple of unusual twists on the more familiar legend.

This begins as a fairly standard vampire film. The touring group comprises one guy and four hot young women (who would have guessed?) and their reception from the suave doctor is appropriately charming. But we’ve already seen two labourers come to a sticky end when delivering a mysterious crate (wonder what was in that?) and the doc’s lack of alternative transportation is predictably suspicious. The vampire effects are pretty laughable when they arrive, but are kept to a minimum early on and there are a few quite creepy moments. Also there’s some girl-on-girl bloodsucking action as the film nods its head in the vague direction of Hammer Studio’s excellent ’The Vampire Lovers’ (1970) and Jesús Franco’s ‘Vampyros Lesbos’ (1971).

Through no fault of his own, Naschy isn’t a great fit for Dracula; being well-built, dark and full in the face. Physically, he’s far more suited to his lycanthropic pastimes, in much the same way as Lon Chaney Jr, who never quite looked the part as the ‘Son of Dracula’ (1943). The supporting cast struggle to make much of an impression, although Rosanna Yanni has a nice line in sarcasm. The wild, forested locations are quite impressive, but we don’t see enough of the old sanatorium. It’s a location with plenty of atmospheric possibilities, but few of these are realised. It might be any old abandoned big house.

However, there is a far more serious problem. The English language version of the film is atrociously dubbed, and appears to have been edited by our old friend; the blind man with a chainsaw. This isn’t too obvious over the first hour; with the action building slowly until the point where most of the girls have grown fangs and adopted blood as their beverage of choice. After that, however, the final half hour seems to have been cut down from footage that may have lasted twice as long. Day follows night and night follows day at such an alarming rate that it appears the Earth may have spun off its axis. Scenes are laughably short, and the film disintegrates into almost complete incoherence.


It was going to be a Cruel, Cruel Summer…

Suddenly, there’s some palaver about using the blood of village virgins to revive Countess Dracula (the old man’s daughter), but this seems to have popped in from another film, as it’s the first we’ve heard about it. Worse still, we never get any sense of the developing relationship between Dracula and pretty young Haydée Politoff which is central to the plot and informs the film’s unusual climax. Without that, the ending just comes across as a bit silly.

Many Spanish horrors of the period suffered from collapsing budgets; the final results often being fragmentary and confusing. Perhaps that was what happened here; but it looks far more likely that the film was casually butchered to fit a 90 minute slot on stateside release. The footage that remains isn’t of a quality that suggests a lost classic by any means; merely a different take on an old tale, made with serious intentions. But it would be nice to see the film in a more complete version.

El Retorno de Walpurgis / Curse of the Devil (1973)

Curse_of_The_Devil_(1973)‘Light the fire. Send me to my master. Take me, Satan, take me!’

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.


Thing hadn’t found parts easy to get after the cancellation of ‘The Addams Family’.

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.



Los Monstruos Del Terror/Assignment Terror/Dracula Versus Frankenstein (1970)

Los Monstruos Del Terror (1970)‘Their passion… is what makes them strong, stronger perhaps than their nuclear weapons.’

Aliens from the planet Ummo plan to take over the earth by releasing ancient monsters to scare mankind into submission. But some of their party are finding it hard to keep their minds on the job and the monsters prove harder to control than anticipated…

Michael Rennie came to our planet once before as an alien in the classic ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ (1951) but this time around his intentions are far from peaceful. The planet Ummo is dying and his people need a new home. The answer: destroy the human race and take the Earth. The plan: well, errm… to revive Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Mummy! This will scare the population into submission… or something. It’s a pretty sophisticated strategy from beings that have travelled 8 light years to get here, even if I do seem to remember hearing about rather a similar scheme once before… ‘Plan 9’, wasn’t it?

This monster mash is mostly a homage/rip off of ‘House of Frankenstein’ (1944), even down to the discovery of ‘Dracula’ as a skeleton in a fairground act. Rennie is assisted by various Euro beauties including Karin Dor, just two years after she met James Bond and even less time since she starred in Hitchcock’s ‘Topaz’ (1969)! Also, to be pedantic (and despite one of the film’s titles), this isn’t Dracula, after all (it’s Count de Meirhoff) or Frankenstein, it’s Farancksollen (or something equally unpronounceable beginning with an ‘F’). Whether the film makers ran into some kind of legal trouble when this Spanish horror was released in the States is unrecorded but the ‘Assignment Terror’ title card is completely mismatched with the rest of the credits so it would seem likely.

Sadly, the film is a complete hodgepodge of odd scenes that just don’t hang together as a coherent story at all. Some of the aliens go to Egypt for a couple of minutes to get the Mummy. The local police inspector starts an affair with the magistrate’s daughter. The Wolf Man scares a couple leaving a party. Rennie’s troops start fancying each other so he keeps them in line by strapping them to a chair and playing loud noises at them. Frankenstein’s monster (sorry, Farancksollen’s monster) fights with the Wolf Man but never even meets Dracula (sorry, Count de Meirhoff), who does almost nothing at all anyway.

Be afraid... oh, go on!

The Farancksollen Monster relaxing at home.

This was Rennie’s last movie, and he  looks very ill, so the obvious assumption is that he died during production, leaving the filmmakers to salvage what they could from the footage they’d managed to shoot. Not so. Rennie was still alive more than a year after the film’s original release, although he may have been too ill to do as much filming as was needed. Whatever the reason, there are lots of repeated close ups of his eyes.

Perhaps of most interest is that all the monsters were played (where possible) by Euro horror star Paul Naschy, who also originated the story and co-produced (under his real name of Jacinto Molina). Naschy was best known for playing werewolf Waldemar Daninsky in a loose series of pictures that weren’t directly related beyond some of the same story elements. No extended universe for him! This was the 3rd of Daninsky’s 12 film appearances. Naschy was still at it with the yak’s hair over 30 years later in ‘Tomb of the Werewolf’ (2004) for U.S. director Fred Olen Ray. He was over 70 years old at the time.

The follow up to this feature was ‘The Werewolf Vs. The Vampire Woman’ (1971) and it’s nowhere near this bad. It’s probable that the production simply ran out of money in the middle of filming… it would explain a lot.