La Marca del Hombre-lobo (1968)

a.k.a. - Frankenstein's Bloody Terror (USA), Hell's Creatures (UK)

Paul Naschy stars in his self-penned first entry to the classic Spanish Wolfman horror cycle. Media Blasters USA R1 DVD

The Film

Two young lovers Janice and Rudolph visit the ruins of the castle Wolfstein and encounter the mysterious Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy) who tells of them of the legend surrounding the castle - that Imre, the last of the Wolfstein family, was a werewolf and is buried in the crypt still with a silver cross in his heart. Later, two gypsies take refuge in the castle. Getting drunk, they break into the crypt hoping to find treasur - finding the silver cross they extract it and in doing so bring the werewolf back to life - with fatal consequences for them both. The next day the townspeople set search parties to find the wolves they believe to be responsible. During the search, Rudolph is attacked by the werewolf; Waldemar saves him and kills the wolfman, but is bitten himself. Falling soon into a fever, he becomes infected by the werewolf curse and becomes a killer. Rudolph and Janice try to help Waldmar by locking him in the castle and call on the help of a Dr. Janos Mikhelov who had attempted to cure Imre Wolfstein. But the doctor and his wife turn out to be vampires and take Janice and Rudolph under their spell.

Before Paul Naschy, Spanish cinema had rarely entered the world of the supernatural. Jess Franco's Awful Dr. Orloff (1962) was the closest the Spanish had come to a true horror film, but Jess Franco had been forced out of the country by the strong reign of fascist Spanish dictator General Franco who had imposed strict censorship laws. Paul Naschy, inspired by Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman in Universal's Frankenstein meets the Wolfman (1943), wrote a werewolf script that happened to be picked up by German producers. When the film eventually came to America it was sold to distrubutors who had been promised a Frankenstein film, so it had a prologue added to explain how the Frankenstein family had become corrupted into the Wolfstein family (the name conveniently used in Naschy's script) and from then on there are no mentions of Frankenstein or any related mythos.

Although many of the later Daninsky werewolf films were filled with exploitation sex and gore, La Marca del Hombre-lobo is a more serious horror picture. In keeping with the Universal horror films from which it was inspired and by the later Hammer horror films, there is a real economy of characters with the young couple, their fathers, the vampire couple and Daninsky limiting the film to only seven main parts. The settings too are very limited, obviously Naschy keeping the budget in mind, keeps the entire film to just a few locations. The first half of the script is heavily based on Universal's classic Wolfman series with Waldemar being bitten by the werewolf and attempting to find a cure, but the script takes a left field twist in the second half when the vampire doctors arrive and it does lose its way a lot here as the vampires seduce the young couple - Daninsky gets very little screentime throughout this second half and although well paced to start with, the film starts to drag heavily until the rather predictable climax. Curiously there is no attempt to give the film any particular location and although obviously set in the modern day, a lot of the customs seem heavily out-dated and would have been much more suitable in a period setting.

Director Enrique López Eguiluz does a very good job with this film - it includes some impressive smoke-filled/red-lit sequences akin to the best Italian films of the period (cf Mario Bava) as well as good use of real castles and the El Cercon monastery (home of Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)) along with some great looking sets that really help to build the gothic feel. The werewolf effects look good in this film, although we are not treated to many close-ups and the transitions are done off-screen. The soundtrack by Ángel Arteaga is a strange mix of Hammer-like orchestral music and creepy choral sounds that give the film a very strange edge.

Paul Naschy makes his debut leading role here and gives a surprisingly good performance - his mysterious character allows him to stay relatively unemotive while human, but his animalistic werewolf acting is very strong. Unfortunately the general standard of acting is quite poor, both Janice and Rudolph in particular looking quite wooden.

Less entertaining than the later films, La Marca del Hombre-lobo is the most horror-film-like of the Wolfman films until Curse of the Devil (1973). Certainly of interest to Paul Naschy fans, however, werewolf fans might find the lack of wolfman action to be disappointing and the slow paced second half will try the patience of even the most dedicated fan. One to watch for the cinematography and settings rather than the exploitation elements.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Paul Naschy - the Spanish horror icon who later made the unusual and disturbing Human Beasts (1983)
Directed by anyone interesting? Enrique López Eguiluz - aside from an obscure Santo film Santo contra los asesinos de la mafia (1970) a completely unknown Spanish director.
Any gore or violence ? A little blood.
Any sex or nudity? None.
Who is it for? A must see for any fans of Naschy and the Hombre-Lobo series. Certainly of interest to all classic horror fans.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print is in quite poor quality, although the colours are vivid, much of the print is suffering from an odd effect as though it has been run through too many digital filters and there is a real lack of detail. Always watchable.
Audio English mono - not bad, although dialogue can be unclear at times.
Subtitles None.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Audio commentary with US distributor Sam Sherman. Discusses in great detail the American release of the film and stories surrounding it. It was not overly necessary for this to be a commentary rather than an interview, but it is hard to imagine that he would have had enough time to tell all the stories in an interview.
  • Interview with Paul Naschy, discusses the film, its influences and its production in a lot of detail. Spanish with English subs. (28 minutes)
  • A reel of extra footage including Spanish and British title sequences as well as some extra scenes present on the Spanish print but not used on the US print - same quality as the main film although non-anamorphic with burnt-in subtitles for the dialogue. Footage from the main print is used for framing and the extra scenes are indicated by a rather large, obtrustive cross. The scenes do not really add anything to the storyline and were probably cut for pacing.
  • Stills/poster gallery - manual scrolling gallery of still images and film posters of Paul Naschy.
  • Original US Trailers, low PQ. (2m 58s)
  • Radio Spots (1m 40s)
  • Easter egg - the full original recording of one of the radio spots with comments from the announcer - an amusing and incredibly rare curio. (3m 10s)
  • The DVD includes a four page booklet with notes on the film.
  • Bonus trailers for other Media Blasters releases.
Region Region 1 (US, North America) - NTSC
Other regions? Not otherwise available.
Cuts? The film is believed to be uncut as per the original US print, various scenes were trimmed which are included in the extra features. Print language is English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - March 2006 - updated 6th December 2010.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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