Wednesday, June 25, 2008
WEREWOLF SHADOW (1970) d. Leon Klimovsky
Reviewed by Rick Trottier
As I get older, I realize that many things that once brought me delight have begun to pale. Food has lost its zip and sometimes tastes like ashes in my mouth. Modern television seems dull and tired at best, more often it is crass and boorish, driving me into the arms of the classic shows that I still love, but even they are losing their zest. Most music doesn’t hold the draw for me that it once did, and it is only occasionally that a band can really make my blood sing. Sometimes not even a morning out on my boat or even a walk through an arboretum is able to soothe my soul like was once the case. I suspect that it is a phase of aging I am passing through and I hope that there is an end to this tunnel down which I must grope. One bright spot in the long dark is unearthing something old that feels new again, and one recent discovery I have made would be WEREWOLF SHADOW (aka THE WEREWOLF vs. THE VAMPIRE WOMAN), which I have seen in many forms and guises over the years. All of my past experiences have been enjoyable, for Leon Klimovsky’s film is a classic of the Euro-Horror genre, but all of those viewings were marred by murky, oppressively dark or overexposed and/or damaged transfers, bad sound and terrible dubbing. It was only when Anchor Bay delivered quality remasterings of this film a few years ago that Americans really got a chance to see WEREWOLF SHADOW in a proper format. Now, BCI Eclipse/Deimos dvd have brought out the WEREWOLF SHADOW the way it has always meant to be seen with enhanced visual components and an audio track that is appropriate to its original language.
WEREWOLF SHADOW is the story of Waldemar Daninsky, a cursed aristocrat who carries the Mark of The Werewolf. In an attempt to evade the bloodlust of his curse, Daninsky hides in an old manor deep in the remote French countryside. It is there that he is discovered by two beautiful young women, Elvira and Genevieve, who are researching the history of Black Magic and are specifically looking for the resting place of Countess Wandessa, a 15th Century Witch and Vampire. With Daninsky’s assistance, the women unwittingly awaken Wandessa at exactly the moment when she can summon the power of Satan on the Night of Walpurgis. As one evil contests another and unselfish love is intertwined with lust and desire, blood flows like vintage wine and souls become the prize in a battle like no other, between werewolf and vampire.
If you are looking for a deeply technical exploration of the advantages of the new BCI release over the older Anchor Bay disc, you won’t find it here. I will leave that to better versed technophiles like George Reis, who can do a better job of analyzing very specific characteristics of the new dvd. Please read his review of this film and CURSE OF THE DEVIL, which I will be reviewing soon. I would rather turn my lyrical talents towards praising this fine old gem and why I had such a good recent experience.
Leon Klimovsky knew how to make a film and WEREWOLF SHADOW is arguably one of his best. It is atmospheric, filled with misty country sides, dark corridors, shadowy woods, beautiful actresses and exotic scenery. Add to that, werewolves and vampires tearing open the throats of simple villagers, black rites and sinister sorcery aimed at Satanic Supremacy and you’ve got a masterful mix of malevolence. To see all this clearly, with sharp contrasts between light and shadow and bright colors fully restored makes the experience even more pleasant. What makes BCI’s WEREWOLF SHADOW an ascendant apex of enjoyment is hearing the original Castilian language track augmented with English subtitles. Some people prefer a film to be dubbed, and while I usually say, “To each his own”, in this case I just can’t see the appeal. Like all of the Romance Languages, Spanish is simply lovely to listen to and to have that sonorous speech blended with the outstanding imagery in scene after scene makes this a truly transcendent horror experience. For those who want to revel in a muddy, dubbed and unpleasant viewing, the U.S. version of THE WEREWOLF vs. THE VAMPIRE WOMAN is available as part of the extras menu, but why bother? Expend a little effort reading the subtitles and let the sites and sounds of this masterwork flow over you in resplendent rivers of hue and resonance.
Speaking of the extras menu, while WEREWOLF SHADOW is not crammed to the gills with goodies galore, it does have its charming little tidbits. In addition to the afore mentioned alternate U.S. cut of the film, there is the theatrical trailer and a sizable stills gallery which is a mix of poster art, behind the scenes photography, publicity stills and screen grabs. Most enjoyable of all continues to be the liner notes by Mirek Lipinski. I have read each and every one of his liner notes from BCI Spanish horror films that have crossed my path, and they are always well written, engaging and worthwhile. I have learned much from his writings and no longer feel the want of knowledge that I may not have been able to so easily access. It is hoped that Mirek Lipinski’s writings will continue to grace the inside of future Euro-Horror releases. They make the entire experience far more erudite.
It has been rumored that no more of these Spanish Horror Special Editions will be forthcoming from BCI Eclipse/Deimos dvd. If that is the case, it is a tragedy. For those of us who remember the miserable condition in which these films were presented on VHS and in their first editions on dvd, no one wants to return to those days or see badly authored bootlegs show up on line or in stores. While watching this version of WEREWOLF SHADOW, for a brief spell, the sites and sounds were as fresh and intoxicating as when I first looked on such things as a youngster going the movie theater. I want that kind of experience to continue. I want to be able to pop an older film like WEREWOLF SHADOW or HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB or NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS into my dvd player and have it all seem unsullied and clean again. I know I can never go back to simpler times in my life, but I long for it none-the-less. The essence of most film experiences especially that of horror, is escape. Not only do I seek escape mentally, I seek for my earthbound soul to bet set free and travel to times and places where anything seemed possible and the future was bright with promise. Seeing WEREWOLF SHADOW, in essence for the first time, allowed me a brief respite from the slough of despond. It is hoped that other people will feel similar emotions so that BCI Eclipse/Deimos dvd will continue to bring forth other brimming cups from the Fountain of Youth.