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.

El hombre y el monstruo / The Man and The Monster (1959)

‘Crazy,El_hombre_y_el_Monstruo_(1959)_2 you say? It’s a monstrosity!’

A promoter visiting a reclusive concert pianist finds a dying girl who has apparently been killed in a mysterious road accident. Then the musician seems to be more interested in promoting his protégé than appearing on stage himself. The plot thickens when a strange hairy creature starts running amuck…

Fright film ‘El Vampiro’ (1957) was a massive domestic hit in Mexico and, despite being a fairly standard riff on Dracula, kick-started a whole decades worth of home-grown cinematic horror. Leading actor Abel Salazar rode the wave for all he was worth, starring and producing a whole series of pictures in the same genre. He usually took the romantic lead, rather than playing any children of the night, and the results never wandered too far from their main inspiration: the Universal classics of the 1930s and 40s.

The plot of this one is fairly transparent after about five minutes or so, as is the main inspiration behind the story: ‘The Wolf Man’ (1941). Having a classical music motif means there are some variations of course; a deal with the devil and an old corpse sitting in a chair. That’s not the only faint echo of ‘Psycho’ (1960), except mother takes a much more active role in developments here.

El_hombre_y_el_Monstruo_(1959)

Teen Wolf was finding it difficult to face up to the death of the American Dream…

The SFX are predictably poor and the wolf man/demon makeup rather hard to take seriously. Of course, we always have to bear in mind that this is the U.S. version, imported by that legendary film distributor K. Gordon Murray and redubbed in his Florida studios. In this case, obviously without a great deal of care and attention as, although we clearly see Martha Roth’s hands on the keyboard (so she could obviously play) what we hear on the soundtrack bears very little resemblance to her hand and finger movements.

Even by 1962, Mexican horror was beginning to incorporate some more outlandish elements; robots, wrestling and Brainiacs (Salazar again!), so it’s quite possible that this film already looked a little old fashioned, even on release. Certainly, when viewed today, it’s nothing special; an overly familiar non-mystery with predictable plot development and absolutely no surprises.

Wolf Blood (1925)

Wolf_Blood_(1925)‘Gee! I thought it was the undertaker with his embalming fluid!’

The foreman of a logging company is left for dead in the forest. A transfusion of wolf’s blood keeps him alive but he believes he is turning into one of the pack…

There’s something rotten in the great Canadian wilderness; big business Consolidated Logging are trying to put their rivals out of business and they’ll resort to any lowdown tactics to do it, even murder. Their main target is the Ford Company and its foreman Dick Bannister (George Chesebro). They get his men hooked on poison liquor, shoot at them and cut down nearby trees without due care or attention. Pretty soon, old Cheeseburger has a field hospital full of casualties and writes to the owner, demanding help. But instead of a someone ‘100 years old, probably with the gout’; the head of the business turns out to be a young, vivacious woman who has previously been more interested in ‘old king jazz’ than the great Canadian Redwood.

This independent silent has a claim to be the first werewolf movie ever made, but that’s really pushing it. There are no silver bullets, pentagrams, full moons or wolfbane of course, because all that was invented by Curt Siodmak for Universal’s classic ‘The Wolf Man’ (1941) but there are no transformations either. What we have instead is something a lot closer to the real life malady that probably inspired the legends; someone who believes he has taken on the characteristics and behaviour of a woodland beast due to delusion or injury (citation needed!)

Wolf_Blood_(1925)

‘The Larch! The Pine!
The Giant Redwood tree!
The Sequoia!’

Unfortunately, all the ‘wolf man’ stuff occurs in the final 15 minutes and the journey to get there has been nothing special. Heroine Marguerite Clayton has brought along her stuffy fiancée (who happens to be a doctor!) and it doesn’t take a genius to see what’s going to happen there… yes, scenes of nature’s great beauty inspire old Cheeseburger and the fluffy young Miss and, what with helping injured critters and gifts of woodland pansies, the old Doc’s heading for the big freeze out.

As entertainment, this is only vaguely interesting and not remotely convincing. Characters are delivered in typically broad strokes and the acting is very much in the style of the time. A modern audience will inevitably find it difficult to invest in the drama and, although some compensation comes with the scenery, most of the action takes place in the logging camp. A similar setting can be effective when executed with great design and visual flair, such as in Frank Borzage’s ‘The River’ (1929), but there’s little evidence of that level of talent here. This film is of some historical interest, but nothing else.

Cheeseburger co-directed (with H. Bruce Mitchell) but you are more likely to recognise him from the background of more than a hundred ‘B’ Westerns in which he appeared over the next three decades. He was usually uncredited.

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.

Curse_of_The_Devil_(1973)

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.