Werewolf Shadow (1971)

Also known as:
Blood Moon
Nacht der Vampire
Shadow of the Werewolf
La Noche de Walpurgis
The Werewolf Versus Vampire Women
The Werewolf's Shadow

Although my experience of the Paul Naschy "Waldemar Daninsky" werewolf movies still only ranks at two at the time of writing, I'm a fan based on these two views. There's something about these films that really appeals to me, they're beautifully filmed, atmospheric, serious, gory, sexy horror movies from the golden era of cult cinema. It's nice to know Naschy is such a horror fan as well - he was truly committed to making the best horror films he could achieve in Spain. There's so much to enjoy in Werewolf Shadow, but I guess you may need to be a connoisseur of the seventies to fully embrace all the music and fashion as well!

Waldermar Daninsky (Naschy) lies dead on a slab somewhere in storm-swept, rural France at night. The two men attending his autopsy are quickly slaughtered when the cocky coroner removes the two silver bullets the local villagers shot into Daninsky, a werewolf, during his recent reign of terror. The newly revived wolfman lopes off into the night and quickly claims another victim, a girl. We see blood flowing over her prone breasts as the credits roll. And we hear some of the best seventies movie music I've heard in a long time, with breathy female vocals, introduce our film. We then meet Elvira (Gaby Fuchs) a red-headed beauty whose thesis at her University is about Countess Wandessa d'Arville de Nadasdy (Patty Shepard), a hungarian noblewoman who indulged in witchcraft, Satan-worship, virgin-blood-drinking and vampirism. All of the good stuff. She explains Wandessa's history to her boyfriend Marcel (Andrés Resino) at a groovy club, then tells him she's going with her co-thesis writer and friend Genevieve Bennett (Barbara Capell) to that same French village to find Wandessa's tomb, and the special holy silver cross she was impaled and killed with.

Elvira and the cute Genevieve arrive and quickly get lost. They meet the now-human Waldemar who, craving company, invites them back to stay at his mansion. The quiet, brooding man knows all about the tomb of Wandessa as well, and offers to help them in their quest. Even though there is no comfort or facilities at the mansion, they agree. That night his sister, Elizabeth (Yelena Samarina) visits Elvira in her sleep and motions to strangle her - Waldemar shows up and comforts her as Elizabeth dissapears. Waldemar later explains that Elizabeth is insane and is only content when she lives with him.

Later Elizabeth viciously attacks Genevieve as she explores a bloody, chain-filled dungeon - the room where Waldemar is kept under lock and key when he changes into a wolfman. Recovering, she threatens to leave but agrees as long as Elizabeth is kept away. The next day, Elvira, Genevieve and Waldermar triumphantly find the evil Countess's tomb near local church ruins. Elvira doesn't want to exhume the corpse though, and leaves the other two to it. Genevieve pulls the ornate cross from Wandessa's skeletal remains - then promptly cuts herself and drips blood into the evil skull's mouth. Waldemar hears screams and investigates - then watches in horror as a skeletal monk chases a terrified Elvira through the ruins. He stabs the zombie-monk with the cross and it crumbles to dust.

They all begin to suspect that they had better pray that night, and that they had done the wrong thing in exhuming Wandessa. Sure enough, her now-human-looking hand claws it's way out of the dirt. Genevieve is the first to be called - the black-shrouded vampire woman appears in a mist inside the house and calls the bewitched girl out into the night. Draining her blood from the wound caused by the cross, Wandessa brings Genevieve into the vampire fold. The newly vampiric Genevieve visits Elvira and tries to convert her too. All the vampires in this film move through a haze of mist and in slow-motion. It's quite a creepy effect and works extremely well. Still, Waldermar shows up and forces Genevieve away with the cross. Waldemar and Elvira profess their new love for each other. Elvira later finds Elizabeth dead, a victim of one of the vampires.

The distraught Waldermar drives a stake through his sister's corpse, then beheads her with an axe. Filmed in medium shot, this is quite a startling scene as there's no cut away, folks. It's obviously only a dummy but still has a visceral impact. That night, Waldemar begs Elvira to lock herself in a sealed room. Agreeing to, she has a terrible dream about Genevieve and Wandessa, long fangs bared, invading the room and drinking her blood from a large goblet. Waldermar transforms into his lupine self and kills again. He returns the next day in a dishevelled state and explains his curse to Elvira. That night Genevieve returns and finaly bites Elvira on the throat. She attacks Waldemar in a cemetary, but the man manages to get the upper hand and impales her on a fence. The dead Genevieve looks to be at peace, and the marks on Elvira's throat disappear. Wandessa flees into the darkness of the ruins as the sun begins to rise.

Meanwhile, Marcel has been doing some investigating of his own and manages to track down Elvira at Daninsky's abode. He leaves for the village but can make little sense of the Mayor and the villagers. The chained-up Waldermar transforms again and attack his handyman, who was just in the process of revealing himself to be crazed and kidnapping Elvira. He slaughters Pierre (José Marco), inadvertantly saving Elvira. Marcel finally turns up at Waldermar's mansion and wants Elvira to come home with him - and Waldemar agrees and finally convinces Elvira to escape the coming of Walpurgis night, when Satan and Wandessa's power will reach their greatest. They drive off into the night and are intercepted by Wandessa - and awaken chained in her dungeon about to be sacrificed to Satan, who begins to emerge as a shadow.

Waldermar appears, having tracked Elvira and Marcel to the ruins. He wields the sacred cross, and as Satan fades away, he's gripped by the power of the full moon again. As a werewolf rises in his place, Wandessa attacks, baring her fangs in a feral frenzy. Can Elvira and Marcel be saved from evil? Who will survive the final clash of the werewolf and the vampire. Will Daninsky's soul ever know peace?

I just adore this film. Cinematography, sets, costuming, sound effects and musical score are all wonderful. The vampires are always accompanied by the creepiest music out! The gore and makeup effects are generally effective, although the actual werewolf makeup is pretty basic compared to the updated version of him in Curse of the Devil. Still, a minor complaint. There's the odd bit of sex and nudity for the exploitation fans. As an homage to the old Universal horror films, the film's obviously a labour of love. Co-writing under his real name of Jacinto Molina, Naschy has crafted a wonderful little entry into werewolf lore. The actors all take their parts seriously, and Naschy acquits himself well as the long-suffering Daninsky. The women are all beautiful and sexy, especially Barbara Capell as the naughty-look-in-her-eye Genevieve. If you feel like a trip into gothic horror atmosphere from a bygone era, then Werewolf Shadow may well be worth your viewing time.

© Boris "Owooo!" Lugosi, 2006.

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Review written: 08/16/2006 22:00:02