Curse of the Devil (1973)

a.k.a. - El Retorno de Walpurgis (ESP)

Paul Naschy stars in this well written and effectively dark and eerie Spanish Wolfman horror. Anchor Bay USA R0 DVD.

The Film

Medieval times - two knights on horseback meet. A Christian Knight, Irineus Daninsky (Paul Naschy) and Roulka Bathory, the leader of a coven of Satan worshippers. Exchanging words they clash and Daninsky is victorious, but Bathory's wife is watching and swears revenge. Attempting to call up Satan in a black mass, the witches are disturbed by Daninsky's men and Bathory is burnt at the stake, but not before she curses the Daninsky family. Moving forward to the 19th Century, wealthy landowner Waldemar Daninskiy (still Paul Naschy) is attacked by members of a witches coven and is stricken with the curse of the werewolf. Meanwhile, an engineer and his family move to the area and his two daughters take an immediate interest in Walemar who has to try and save them from himself...

Curse of the Devil is much darker than Naschy's previous films - Werewolf Shadow (1971) was mostly set in the broad daylight, while Dr. Jekyll versus the Werewolf (1972) was a largely tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Universal moster films, the atmosphere here is most akin to Naschy's first lycanthrope film Mark of the Wolfman (1968). Curse of the Devil is unique among these films and the vast majority of Naschy's output, for having a real historical setting - he would usually set his horror stories in the modern day, but in remote areas that resembled the gothic era, here the setting is distinctly 19th Century which never particularly affects the storyline, but adds a bit of variation.

The storyline is solid, the historical opening sequences set the scene and provide a good backdrop, while the main body of the film contains a large number of distinctive characters. The police chief is logical and proudly not superstitious, the engineer's daughters are naturally competitive over the only sophisticated man in the neighbourhood while Daninsky's feverish dreams bring to mind the later American Werewolf in London (1981). The pacing is often slow and deliberate but never drags; it takes a good 40 minutes before the wolf man appears, most of the film being build-up and scene setting and when he does appear it is only in a few short scenes, but as a result they do have a lot more impact and the sight of the lupine never becomes passé. The climax is relatively low-key, but the ending is strong.

The ambience of the film is very much like the later 1970s Hammer films and this film could easily be mistaken for a production from the British studio with its effective 19th Century atmosphere and rural settings. Director Carlos Aured does some good work throughout - the night-time scenes in particular are well made, using shooting at night rather than using the obvious blue-for-night filters of the earlier films. Similar to Werewolf Shadow, the werewolf attacks are suitably bloody and there are a couple of female topless and nude shots. Gone is the mix of light jazz and minimalist horror in the soundtrack from the earlier films, replaced with a light orchestral track helps to keep the Hammer feel to the whole piece.

Paul Naschy (Jancito Molina) is in the lead role again - his human acting has improved since the earlier films and he still looks very good as the vicious wolf-man. Spaghetti Western regulars José Manuel Martín and Fernando Polack appear in the film, but there are few other familiar faces.

Perhaps less entertaining than the previous films, Curse of the Devil is a much better horror film with a dark feel throughout and quite creepy in places, some might find it scary. Often resembling a later Hammer Horror film (in a good way) this is a recommended film, certainly to Paul Naschy fans, however werewolf fans might find the relative lack of lycan action to be disappointing. Generally classic horror fans should enjoy this - the familiar feel should make it accessible to most viewers.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Paul Naschy - the Spanish horror icon who also starred in El Gran Amor del Conde Dracula (1972)
Directed by anyone interesting? Carlos Aured - a Spanish director known only for his Naschy collaborations which are often rated as the actor's best films from the era, including Los ojos azules de la muñeca rota and El espanto surge de la tumba.
Any gore or violence ? Plenty of blood.
Any sex or nudity? A couple of short topless and nude scenes.
Who is it for? Certainly of interest to Euro-horror and Paul Naschy fans. The Hammer-horror style means that it should be of interest to most 1960s/70s horror fans.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The disc is strong visually, good colours, minimal print damage or grain.
Audio English mono - sounds fine.
Subtitles None.
Extras The disc includes:
  • 'Interview with the Wolf Man' - a Spanish language, subtitled interview with Paul Naschy. Illustrated with clips from this film and Curse of the Devil (1973) as well as various still photos. Covers much ground, and provides extensive background to the film. Same extra as included on the Werewolf Shadow Anchor Bay release. (14m 51s)
  • A lengthy theatrical trailer, possibly newly created. Contains spoilers. (3m 20s)
  • Poster gallery - a 74 image gallery of posters, stills, lobby-cards and VHS covers for a wide range of Naschy films.
  • On screen, manually scrolling biography of Paul Naschy.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Other regions? Released by BCI in the US as part of their Spanish horror collection with a reportedly lower quality print, but the option of Spanish audio with English subtitles.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print language is English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - Feb 2006 and 5th January 2011.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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