Werewolf Shadow
Spain - Germany / 1971
Directed by Leòn Klimovsky
Starring
Paul Naschy
Gaby Fuchs
Barbara Capell
Color / 95 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
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2002 Anchor Bay edition

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Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
6
    7   10 = Highest Rating  
Paul Naschy, the Lon Chaney Jr. of Spain, once again stars as Waldemar Daninsky the "Larry Talbot" of Europe in this mini-monster rally known to American horror fans as The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman. It's a leisurely paced chiller, heavy on gothic atmosphere, with a style reminiscent of Amando Ossori's better known Tombs of the Blind Dead.
    A fun pre-title sequence gets things off to good start. On the night of a full moon, a doctor is performing an autopsy on the body of one Waldemar Daninsky, shot to death by rural Austrian villagers who believed him a murderous lycanthrope. (I can't verify it, but supposedly this film is a direct sequel to Fury of the Wolf Man.) The doc scoffs at such superstitions as he removes the silver bullets from the corpse's chest. Within moments Daninsky comes back to life and transforms into a werewolf, attacking and killing the doctor. The monster takes off into a nearby forest, where he encounters a young woman whose blouse he rips off before biting her. Perhaps the post-mortem should've been conducted during normal business hours...
    After the credits
which look as if they were created for the DVD the film follows two college gals, Elvira (Gaby Fuchs) and Genevieve (Barbara Capell), who are researching the history of a Satan-worshipping 15th Century noblewoman, Countess Wandessa d'Arville de Nadasdy. (Wandessa was a meanie, all right, shown sacrificing a virgin to the devil and drinking the girl's blood in a flashback as Elvira recounts the legend to her boyfriend.) The two women take a trip into the French countryside to look for the Countess' grave, the location of which was kept secret because she was thought to be a vampire. Elvira thinks that clues in an ancient text can pinpoint Wandessa's hidden tomb. The search hasn't truly begun when their car runs out of gas. Stranded in the country, the ladies are rescued by a handsome fellow who lives in a ramshackle manor house nearby. His name: Waldemar Daninsky. He offers to put them up for the night, apologizing for the lack of amenities. His house has neither electricity nor phone service and he doesn't own a car. Faced with the alternative of a miles-long hike to the nearest village, the girls accept Waldemar's hospitality.
    Their host seems genial enough. However, he neglects to tell them about his mentally unstable sister, Elizabeth, who enters the guest room during the night and gives Elvira quite a scare. Genevieve's discovery of manacles and blood-spattered walls in an outbuilding also doesn't bode well. Despite these events the girls decide to stay on at the house for a few days; Waldemar says he can help them find the Countess' hidden grave. He, too, is looking for it but for a very different reason. According to legend the undead Countess was slain with a silver crucifix-dagger fashioned from a sacred chalice. Waldemar, tortured by guilt for the people he's murdered as a werewolf, can only know final peace if he himself is killed by the same holy weapon. (Hmm. Wouldn't silver bullets work just as well, providing they're left in his body? He was dead at the beginning of the movie...) He'd moved to this part of France with the express purpose of searching for it. The historical clues provided by Elvira and Genevieve, combined with his knowledge of the area, eventually lead them to their goal. The skeletal corpse lying within the grave has the crucifix-dagger imbedded in its chest. The artifact is removed. Almost immediately weird and terrible things begin to happen. The Countess (Paty Shepard) is revived by the removal of the crucifix, rising from her grave to vampirize Genevieve. Together the two go on a killing spree in the surrounding countryside. Waldemar, too, adds to the body count with the coming of the full moon. Elvira, who elects to stay with Waldemar after falling in love with him (even after learning about his curse), is targeted for initiation by the vampire women. Her lover keeps them at bay with the holy crucifix. With Elvira's promise to keep him chained up during nights of the full moon, Waldemar vows to destroy the Countess and end her reign of terror once and for all. But what of his own fate?
    Werewolf Shadow is slow and plodding at times, a low budget affair that redeems itself with a healthy dose of gothic atmosphere. Like the undead Templars of Tombs of the Blind Dead, the vampires in the film are often shown in slow motion
a simple yet surprisingly effective technique that ups the creepy quotient considerably. Thus the vampire scenes possess a languorous, dreamlike quality imparting a sensuality not present even in more explicit fare. (It doesn't hurt, either, that Barbara Capell's Genevieve makes for a very sexy nosferatu.) Continuing the Blind Dead comparison, director Klimovsky makes good use of actual ruins for many of the settings; the music of Anton Garcia Abril, who also scored Tombs, is quite similar. (I have it on good authority that the success of Werewolf Shadow directly inspired the Blind Dead filmmakers.) As for headliner Naschy, the bland and stoic Waldemar is offset by his dynamic, physically demanding portrayal of the Wolf Man. When in werewolf mode he really throws himself into the role full throttle. The monster makeup isn't exactly the greatest nor, certainly, is it the worst but Naschy handily sells the character with his performance.
    So that's the good stuff. On the down side, Waldemar and Elvira's almost instant romance isn't very believable. The story is supposedly set in northern France, although Waldemar's villa is located in a rugged mountain range
hardly the topography of Normandy or Picardy. (Why not just have it take place in the Pyrenees? That would've at least helped explain some of the Spanish-style architecture.) The battle between the werewolf and the Countess during the finale is about as anticlimactic as one can get. And for such a deliberately paced film (sometimes almost glacially so), time is remarkably compressed. Most inexcusable is what may be the shortest night in film history Walpurgis Night in the movie, the time when evil rules supreme. The sun goes down, the Countess rises from her tomb, we get the not-so-thrilling battle of the monsters, and then the sun comes up... all within five minutes!

Region 1 Naschy fans should be most pleased with Anchor Bay's new disc. Supposedly the film under the Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman title, as well as Blood Moon looked pretty wretched on American VHS. I can't speak to the quality of these previous incarnations, having never seen them, but for a low budget Eurohorror over 30 years old the flick fares rather well on DVD. It's letterboxed (anamorphic 1.85:1), with good color balance and no noticeable print damage to speak of. The digital mono audio track was perfectly acceptable. Extras include the somewhat worn U.S. TV spot and a "theatrical trailer" that I suspect was created for the DVD. (It looks too new.) There's also a substantial image gallery of Paul Naschy movie posters spanning his long career. The most significant bonus feature is a 15-minute video interview with Naschy (cheekily entitled Interview With the Werewolf), conducted fairly recently. Speaking in his native Spanish (with English subtitles), the athlete turned actor/screenwriter/director (real name: Jacinto Molina) recounts his entrance into the film world and his great love for the Universal horror classics of the '30s and '40s, most notably Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, the film that has served as inspiration and muse throughout his career. He also explains his development of the long-running Waldemar Daninsky character (a part he played a whopping 13 times between 1968-96) and the birth of Spanish horror cinema in the late '60s-early '70s. 8/22/02
UPDATE The disc reviewed here went OOP in 2007. In June 2008 BCI/Deimos released a new remastered edition with different bonus features. (It, too, was OOP as of 2010.)
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