The House That Screamed/La residencia (1969) 

The House That Screamed/La residencia (1969)‘It also provides them with useful exercises and prevents them from indulging in morbid thoughts.’

The strict principal of a private school for wayward teenage girls runs it on the lines of a penal institution. Despite her best efforts at imposing discipline, several girls have managed to escape over the past few months, never to be heard of again. But did they really leave, or do their disappearances have a more sinister explanation?

Spanish psychological thriller with elements of horror and Giallo, written and directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador. Veteran actress Lilli Palmer takes the leading role, and a promising young cast of relative unknowns provide her with the necessary support. Although the plot proves to be nothing special, intelligent writing and handling by Serrador elevates the material and provides a satisfying viewing experience.

Madame Fourneau (Palmer) rules her secluded private school with a will of iron. Her establishment is an all-female one; her pupils are teenagers with ‘difficult’ characters who ‘have not exactly led exemplary lives’. Arriving by horse and carriage is new girl Teresa (Cristina Galbó) who soon falls foul of head girl Irene (Mary Maude) and her small crew of mean girls. By this time, Maude has already had far too much fun using a whip on half-naked rebel Catherine (Pauline Challoner). Pretty Irene (Maribel Martin) has disappeared after planning to run off with Palmer’s blue-eyed son, Luis (John Moulder-Brown) and, as for what’s going on in the woodshed, well, I couldn’t possibly comment.

The House That Screamed/La residencia (1969)

‘Go and have a dozen cold showers immediately, young lady!’

If you’re thinking that all this sounds like an excuse for some down and dirty sleaze starring a once-respected star fallen on hard times, then you couldn’t be more wrong. Yes, the film is all about sex, but the little there is happens off-camera, and there’s no real nudity. These girls even take showers partially clothed! What we have instead is something far more interesting: an examination of the dangers of sexual repression. Palmer is not only a frustrated spinster but quite obviously struggling with her sexuality, particularly her attraction to Chaloner.  She watches stone-faced as the girl is whipped but sends everyone else away afterwards so she can kiss her injured back. Her relationship with son Moulder-Brown is also obsessively overprotective and borderline inappropriate.

Elsewhere the sadistic Maude makes overt lesbian advances towards Galbó and arranges for the girl’s assignations in the woodshed with a local tradesman. A particularly memorable scene has the girls in their sewing class. At the same time, classmate Susana (Conchita Paredes) is enjoying the ambience of a quick extra-curricular session in the aforementioned outbuilding, and there are no prizes for guessing why stitches are getting dropped all over the place. These girls are not criminals, remember, they are ‘wayward’, and I think we all know what means, don’t we? Yes, they are perfectly normal young women trying to express their sexuality in a society that enforces a ridiculously draconian code of morals and behaviour.

The House That Screamed/La residencia (1969)

‘…and don’t forget to tell them about the repeal of the Corn Laws…’

Although it’s not difficult to draw these conclusions from the film, refreshingly they are present as a part of the drama, never overwhelming or distracting from it. The actions of the characters are driven by the unnatural repression of their desires so happen organically, rather than acting as servants of a message that Serrador wished to convey. Of course, this is a far more effective way of getting your audience to consider such issues than placing them front and centre.

Unfortunately, what does dilute the film somewhat is the mystery itself. The plotting here is a little weak. Yes, the conclusion makes perfect sense, but it’s not much of a surprise, part of the issue being a severe lack of viable suspects. Nevertheless, there are a couple of standout scenes; including Moulder-Brown getting trapped in a vent after climbing in to peek at the girls in the showers. But the finest moment is the first murder, delivered in a pitch-perfect combination of slow-motion, framing, angles and soundtrack.

What sells the picture, though, are the performances. The cast is strong throughout, but special mention must be made of Palmer and Maude. Both the buttoned-down headmistress and the bullying prefect are characters that walk perilously close to cliche, and it would have been easy for them to descend into caricatures in less capable hands. The fact that Palmer and Maude can still elicit some audience sympathy in the final stages of the film is a testament to their skills and that of director Serrador. It’s also worth mentioning the excellent cinematography of Manuel Belanger, the production design of Ramiro Gómez and the costume design of Víctor María Cortezo, all of which combine to create a ‘timeless’ period feel.

The House That Screamed/La residencia (1969)

The new lineup of the Pussycat Dolls needed some work.

Palmer was an award-winning German actress of Jewish descent whose career began in earnest after her family fled the Nazis and relocated in Great Britain in the 1930s. Her star rose quickly after featured supporting roles in Hitchcock’s ‘Secret Agent’ (1936) and anti-war parable ‘Thunder Rock’ (1942). The following year she married actor Rex Harrison, and the couple moved to Hollywood after the war, her career going from strength to strength opposite Gary Cooper in Fritz Lang’s ‘Cloak and Dagger’ (1946), and John Garfield in noir classic ‘Body and Soul’ (1947). She even hosted her own network TV show in 1953. Her later career saw her blossom as a character player, particularly notable in ‘The Counterfeit Traitor’ (1962), Michael Powell’s production ‘Sebastian’ (1968) and the wonderfully overblown b-movie ‘The Boys from Brazil’ (1978).

It’s a surprise that none of her younger cast-mates made much of an impact in the film world. Maude did a couple of cheap horrors; the dreary ‘Crucible of Terror’ (1971) and poorly regarded Italian picture ‘La Muerte incierta’ (1973) before returning to British television where she occasionally appeared until the early 1990s. Galbó was an ex-child actress with a featured role in famous Giallo ‘What Have They Done To Solange?’ (1972) and was the lead in Jorge Grau’s memorable horror ‘The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue’ (1974). But her career had fizzled out by the end of the decade, and she left the business to become a professional flamenco dancer.

An accomplished thriller that’s a little light on story, but well presented and featuring an excellent cast.

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.

Return of the Blind Dead/Return of the Evil Dead/El ataque de los muertos sin ojos (1973)

Return of the Blind Dead (1973)‘You wretched bastards! You will die, you evil warlocks!’

In the middle ages, a cult of murderous Knight Templars imposed a reign of terror on a rural district of Portugal, before being blinded and burned to death. Every year, the descendants of the villagers responsible celebrate their delivery from evil with a drunken festival. Unfortunately, the custodian of the local churchyard plans to resurrect the Templars and have them crash this year’s party…

Spanish director Armando De Ossorio had enjoyed considerable success with his first movie featuring the undead Templars, ‘Tombs of the Blind Dead’ (1972), so a sequel was fairly inevitable. However, rather than continue the narrative of the first film, he opted instead for starting from scratch and developing a plot along the lines of George A Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968).

Our main man is Tony Kendall, late of the ’Kommissar X’ Eurospy/Crime series, who swaps his trademark smirk for a sheepskin jacket, moody stubble and a permanent cigarette. He’s the pyrotechnic expert brought in to give the celebrations a bit of a punch, but instead winds up on the wrong end of some fisticuffs, courtesy of Town Mayor Fernando Sancho and his pet goon squad. The problem? Kendall has previous with Laurette Tovar, who happens to be the Mayor’s intended, and the two rekindle their romance with a wrestling match in the abbey ruins. But all this backstory is quite perfunctory really, as De Ossorio knows exactly why everyone is here, and we get to it pretty quickly.

The undead Templars are as impressive as in the first movie, their slow-motion gallop across the screen providing genuine chills, although, I couldn’t help but wonder where they get their phantom horses? After they scythe their way through the town square and the local population, a small group of survivors barricade themselves inside the local church, and we are firmly in Romero territory. There isn’t a lot of story development after that, which is the film’s main weakness. From the start, there’s been a sense of characters being introduced simply to be killed off, and even the leads are so sketchily presented that it’s hard to have much emotional investment in what happens to them.

Return of the Blind Dead (1973)

Some people had been waiting a long time in the queue for the new iPhone 7

The Templars are a scary proposition but, aside from them and the excellent music by Anton Garcia Gabril, there’s not a lot else to get excited about. The action is no more than competently staged, and there are one too many shots of dummies that would have been better consigned to the cutting room floor.

There’s also a disappointing lack of fireworks. After all, that’s why Kendall’s in town in the first place, so it would seem reasonable to expect some interaction between the undead and the pyrotechnics at some point. But it never happens. Furthermore, the resolution of our remaining heroes into a makeshift family unit is so predictable that you see it coming from the moment the Templars surround the church.

De Ossorio certainly had a fine visual sense and there are some truly memorable moments here involving the Templars. They look very impressive and may have inspired SFX man Rob Bottin’s work on John Carpenter’s ‘The Fog’ (1980). However, De Ossorio’s screenwriting ability couldn’t match his directorial flair, and having created the undead horseman, there’s a suspicion that he didn’t really know what to do with them. His script is a procession of very obvious beats; not the worst you will ever see by any means, but bereft of any true invention or personality.

A good, solid Euro-Horror of the period, but with a few more ideas, it could have been so much more.

La Marca Del Hombre Lobo/Hell’s Creatures/The Mark of the Wolfman/Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror (1967)

La_Marca_del_Hombre_Lobo_(1967)‘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.


‘If you insist on waking me up in the morning, I’d prefer a cup of tea…’

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)!

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.

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.