In 16th Century Hungary, the notorious Countess Elisabeth Bathory is sentenced to death, along with her followers including the Polish nobleman Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy), accused of being a werewolf. In contemporary Rome, three young women plan to travel to Hungary to research the burial site of Bathory - the leader of the group Erika discusses the plan with her professor who is shocked to find that she is not interested in the historical aspects, but is a black witch who plans to raise Bathory from the dead. As the girls arrive in the Carpathians, grave robbers steal a silver cross from a tomb, only to find themselves killed by a werewolf and it is the newly restored Daninsky who comes to the aide of the girls when they find themselves being robbed by a group of local townspeople. Inviting them to stay with him, he is disturbed by Erika's plans to restore Bathory to life but having found the tomb she begins the rituals to unleash evil on the world...
After the decline of Euro-horror in the mid-1970s, Paul Naschy embarked on a series of dark films exploring his lack of faith in humanity, but returned to horror in the early 1980s as part of production deal with his friend Masurao Takeda who was able to secure considerable amounts of Japanese funding for the productions. Bringing his legendary lupine back to the screen after a six year absense, Naschy looked to his break-out film Werewolf Shadow (1971), adapting his own screenplay from that film for the appropriately titled El retorno del Hombre-Lobo (The Return of the Wolfman).
The story opens in a quite typical manner with a flashback to a witch-hunter style execution of the main characters - an idea dating back to Mario Bava's Black Sunday (1960) and used repeatedly by Naschy (including Horror Rises from the Tomb (1973)) - before jumping forward to the modern day, although again like most of his scripts, Naschy sets the film in a very rural area allowing a classic gothic era atmosphere to prevail throughout. The plot is not too detailed, but sufficient to keep the film moving at a good pace and allowing for plenty of vampire and werewolf attacks, building to a very effective (if not unexpected) climax. The original Werewolf Shadow script suffered from a number of gaping and quite distracting plot holes but Naschy goes to a lot of trouble here to tie these up and keep the film flowing smoothly. Rather surprisingly, considering the era in which the film was made, Night of the Werewolf is light on the exploitation elements, particularly sex scenes and while blood flows, the gory effects are certainly no match for the contemporary Italian productions.
Visually the film is a real treat. Pulling triple duties and directing his werewolf for the first time, Naschy bathes the film with gorgeous lighting and visual effects that really help to drench the production in a gothic atmosphere to the extent of the very best of Mario Bava and Terence Fisher. The vampire and werewolf effects look very good and the film features a wonderful long werewolf transition sequence, pre-dating the famous scene in An American Werewolf in London (1981) (although it is lacking latter film's amazing Rick Baker effects), however there is in the rest of the film an overuse of the old Universal horror-style timelapse transitions which are flow destroyingly slow and while it might have been acceptable once as a tribute to the Lon Chaney films, it is used several times, even in the middle of otherwise fast moving scenes. The music, consisting of a variety of library tracks, is well chosen, several tracks remniscent of the James Bernard Hammer scores, while the opening and closing titles run underneath some absurdly upbeat tunes in a probable tribute again to Werewolf Shadow.
Naschy is on very strong form - his acting has progressed considerably even since his popular 1970s films and he is strong both as the human Waldemar and the effectively animalistic werewolf. Many of the cast from Naschy's earlier Human Beasts (1980) return here, including the beautiful Azucena Hernández as the love interest, Silvia Aguilar who is very convincing as the evil Erika and Julia Saly in a quite demanding part as Bathory.
Night of the Werewolf is more than just a tribute to the classic gothic horror films of the 1960s and 70s, it is a genuine competitor with them - Naschy fills the film with some amazing imagery and atmosphere that has rarely been matched. While the script lifts many ideas from Werewolf Shadow, it is different enough to be interesting and more successful than some of the other "original" horror films on which he worked. Certainly ranking among the very best of his films, it comes highly recommended to all classic horror fans and a must see for any fans of Paul Naschy.
|Anyone famous in it?||Paul Naschy - the Spanish horror icon who also looked to update gothic horror in Panic Beats (1983)|
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Paul Naschy - also working behind the camera, Naschy made his directoral debut with Inquisición (1976) and went on to direct the majority of his later films, including El carnaval de las bestias (1980).|
|Any gore or violence ?||Several bloody scenes but nothing particularly vivid.|
|Any sex or nudity?||A couple of short sex scenes.|
|Who is it for?||A must see for Naschy fans and fans of the classic Euro-horror era in general.
|Visuals||Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print is very strong throughout with good detail and strong colours.
|Audio||English and Spanish - both sound strong and are well dubbed.|
|Subtitles||English optional subtitles for the Spanish audio.|
|Extras||The disc includes:
|Region||Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC|
|Other regions?||Available in Spain from Tripictures - no English options.|
|Cuts?||The film is fully uncut as per the original US release (two short dialogue scenes were trimmed, these are included in the extra features). Print language is English.|