Werewolf Shadow (1971)

a.k.a. - La Noche de Walpurgis (ESP), The Werewolf Versus The Vampire Woman (USA)

Paul Naschy stars in a mix of the classic Wolf Man mythos, and the vibrant colours, blood and sex of the Hammer era. AB UK R2 DVD.

The Film

Two doctors are performing an autopsy on a dead man, shot by villagers with a silver bullet. Mocking the local superstitions the doctor removes the bullet only for the man to come back to life and transform into a werewolf, brutally killing both men. Meanwhile, in Paris, Elvira (Gaby Fuchs) and her friend Genevieve prepare to head up into the northern countryside to locate the tomb of Countess Wandessa d'Arville de Nadasdy, a 15th Century Countess who practiced the Black Arts and drank the blood of virgins. Running out of fuel on their drive they are helped by Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy) who lives in a near-by remote house. He helps them find the tomb, but when Genevieve cuts herself on the sword and bleeds into the Countess' body, she is restored to life and comes after the girls...

Written, like almost all of his films, by Naschy himself, Werewolf Shadow is actually the fifth part of the Waldemar Daninsky saga (if you count the possibly apocryphal Las noches del Hombre Lobo (1968)) but the opening scenes are perhaps most suitable when seen as a sequel to the first film La Marca del Hombre Lobo (1968) as the only film in which he is shot with silver bullets, although no direct reference is ever made to this or any of the previous films in the storyline. Although rather light on plot, the script for Werewolf Shadow shows that Naschy was very aware of what would make his films sell - beautiful women, a snarling werewolf, sexy vampires and plenty of rather moronic townspeople to become bloody victims, while keeping the film at a good pace throughout. Indeed the success of the film would see many of the elements here become repeatedly re-used by Naschy in his horror scripts and so the breaking down car, the rural location that allows a contemporary film to seem like a period piece, the largely female cast and the women all too ready to fall in love with the anti-hero are all elements that would be instantly recognisable from his later works.

Unfortunately there are a lot of holes in the plot - Daninsky's house is meant to be remote and in a valley where people fear to tread, but yet there seem to be plenty of passing potential victims; a lengthy subplot with Elvira's boyfriend coming to find her all revolves around his bizarre concern that she has posted a letter from one village but it is postmarked from another. Similarly a few elements are introduced briefly that could have been quite interesting - mention is made several times of the plight of the local village, but this is never developed, but certainly most interesting is the fact that Daninsky has a sister - something never referred to in any of the other films. Unfortunately Naschy was perhaps unsure what to do with this crazy, possibly sapphic character and so she is killed off early on, leaving a lot of unanswered questions. That the ending is quite predictable is no surprise - all genre movies like this are going to end the same way - but it does feel disappointingly rushed as though just going through the motions.

Director Leon Klimovsky is often overlooked because of his workmanlike Spaghetti Westerns and Macaroni Combat films, but he manages to make Werewolf Shadow punch well above its weight visually, incorporating a number of visual themes suggested by Naschy, most notably the slow motion effects used for the vampires that really help to emphasise their otherworldly feel. The daytime scenes are very vivid, using a lot of bright sunlit shots to provide a real contrast with the terrors of the night (most of the night-time scenes are shot in the inevitable 'day for night' process, but it is largely inoffensive and the scenes are quite short). The special effects work is particularly strong, with Naschy's wolfman make-up standing up to very close scrutiny and the gory effects all looking realistic. Composer Antón García Abril gives a score much like that which he provided for the Blind Dead films - very minimalist and giving the film an almost surrealist edge, although with a rather upbeat theme song, a long way from the orchestrally scored Hammer and Universal films on which this saga was based.

Naschy continues his development of Daninsky here, getting a lot more screentime in human-form than in some of the previous films and he gets a chance to show some able acting, while continuing to excel as a genuinely animalistic beast under the make-up. Gaby Fuchs, who also appeared in Mark of the Devil (1970), is rather wooden as the female lead and is outplayed by Barbara Capell as her friend Genevieve (who despite a filmography consisting almost entirely of raunchy films, such as The Sweet Pussycats (1969), has only the most disappointingly brief topless shot here).

With Werewolf Shadow, you get what you pay for; it is a 1970s exploitation film with plenty of bloody werewolf action and attractive women. The plot might not be up to much and the acting won't win any awards but the film looks pretty good and has a great soundtrack. Compared to the more effective, but less entertaining Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971), Werewolf Shadow is generally fun to watch and a good place to enter the weird and wonderful world of Paul Naschy films. Recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Paul Naschy - the Spanish horror icon who also starred in Hunchback of the Morgue (1973)
Directed by anyone interesting? Leon Klimovsky - an Argentine born director who worked on a variety of Euro-cult films throughout the 1960s and 70s, from Spanish horror La saga de los Drácula (1974) to Spaghetti Western Pochi dollari per Django (1966).
Any gore or violence ? Plenty of blood, but none of the anatomical gore from later Euro-horror films.
Any sex or nudity? A couple of brief topless scenes, plenty of revealing costumes.
Who is it for? Certainly of interest to Euro-horror fans. Werewolf fans should also see this last stand of the traditional looking movie-werewolf. A good starting place to explore the world of Paul Naschy.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print is incredibly good looking with only a little grain and print damage in a couple of scenes.
Note: there is no drop in picture quality in the scenes missing from the English audio track.
Audio English mono - sounds good throughout.
Two scenes are in Spanish - these were originally cut from the film when imported into American, and not covered by the original English dub track - audio quality is the same as the English.
Subtitles English optional subtitles for the two Spanish language scenes. No other subtitles.
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 Curse of the Devil Anchor Bay USA release. (14m 51s)
  • A lengthy theatrical trailer - letterboxed. Contains spoilers. (3m 04s)
  • A 'TV Spot' (actually a cinema trailer, under the US title Werewolf versus the Vampire Woman) is in poorer condition, and gives an odd impression of the film. (1m 01s)
  • 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.
  • Pressbook - illustrations of stills from the film included in the pressbook for the movie.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Released by BCI in the US as part of their Spanish horror collection with a reportedly slightly better print and optional full Spanish audio with English subtitles as well as a print of the cut US version of the film (although this is missing some musical cues). Previously released on an identical disc to that reviewed, from Anchor Bay USA (although now out-of-print). Available in Spain from Divisa - no English options.
Cuts? The film is presented in its "integral" version - all of the nude and gory scenes are present as well as two dialogue scenes not present on the English language print. Print language is English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - July 2005, October 2006 and 20th December 2010.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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