Who is Paul Naschy? Naschy is a writer, director, actor and producer who boasted a long legacy of cinema work. Naschy (born Jacinto Molina) is known in the horror genre for his extensive work writing and starring as classic monsters including Count Dracula, Mr. Hyde, a hunchback, a mummy and perhaps his most-acclaimed role; wolfman Waldemar Daninsky. His versatility and broad resume’ earned Naschy the title of the “Spanish Lon Cheney.” “Night of the Werewolf” is introduced by Naschy himself, setting the stage for the gothic horror tension in the movie, and plugging his other films with a passion for the genre evident in only a few sentences
In a time when werewolves vs. vampires means young adult literature, action figures and kids’ meal toys at Burger King, I felt it was particularly meaningful to revisit Night of the Werewolf, a film that paints these creatures in the darkest, most bloodthirsty light possible. This film doesn’t present werewolves or vampires as loveable, misunderstood creatures. It displays them for what they’ve been for decades; things that go bump in the night, and that you certainly wouldn’t want to cuddle with.
“Night of the Werewolf” opens with the tribunal of Countess Elizabeth Bathory herself. Bathory is sentenced to being buried alive for her crimes, and her family and servants are each subsequently sentenced to death. Bathory, known for drinking the blood of innocents, vows that she will return from the dead to slaughter her judges. The council also introduces and sentences Waldemar Daninsky, Bathory’s servant who has been known to transform into a wolf, to wear the mark of shame forever. Unlike Bathory, Daninsky is penitent and begs forgiveness from God.
The film then introduces anthropology student, Erika, preparing to set out for a tour of Europe, dedicated to finding the history behind the black magics and the supernatural. Erika, obsessed with knowledge and power, has promised the devil that she will unite with Bathory and bring the spirit of the countess back from Hell. As she confers with her mentor, a bumbling pair of grave robbers descends into the crypt to steal the treasures of the buried werewolf. They unleash Daninsky, who gives in to his thirst for blood immediately.
Erika and her two female companions are jumped on the way to the ruins in Carpathia, but a mysterious figure rescues them from the depths of the jungle. Unmoved, Erika proceeds to the dangerous ruins, set on the single-minded goal of finding the Countess’ crypt. They are met on the castle grounds by Waldemar himself. Soon the wolfman and the crafty Erika begin the chess game, revealing only what they choose for one another.
Waldemar soon courts Erika’s counterpart, Karen (Hernandez). Erika has fed Karen a lie, stating that a sacrifice will make him fully human. While this is true, she does not reveal that she needs him to be made whole so that he can once again be controlled by the Countess. These events are all foreseen by Waldemar’s dedicated, disfigured servant, Mircaya.
What follows is the desperate search for Waldemar and Karen to stop the Countess and her growing horde of minions. If they fail, Waldemar will have to face them on the night of the Holy Moon, when he is most powerful, and has the least control. The film reaches its climax as werewolf hero faces Vampire Queen, in the stone walls of one of Europe’s most documented castles.
Night of the Werewolves is a glamorous, gothic love story, featuring a tragic hero, and a war between the powers of light and darkness. The film is shot beautifully, using darkness to make things ominous, and light to paint the deepest glamour of the seductive villainess. The script includes several senseless killings; a grisly reminder that viewers are witnessing a war between nightmarish creatures.
Naschy’s dedication to the genre and his films is evident in this first on-screen transformation. This werewolf isn’t some pleasant, on-demand alternate form. Becoming this thing tortures Waldemar, and Naschy both performs and directs this well.
Daninsky was one of Naschy’s most prolific roles, appearing first in 1968’s “Las noches del Hombre Lobo” and again in films including “Assignment Terror”, “Night of the Howling Beast”, and “Curse of the Devil.” “Night of the Werewolf” is considered by many a loose adaptation of Naschy’s 1971 work, “Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman.”
The uncut edition of the film is joined by several special features. DVD Extras include the U.S. theatrical trailer, an extensive gallery of production stills and advertising materials, liner notes by Naschy expert Mirek Lipinski, deleted scenes, and Naschy’s introduction of the film. Audio options include Spanish and English, with optional English subtitles. The film runs 93 minutes, in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1).
Naschy’s autobiography, released in 1997, is aptly titled “Memorias de un Hombre Lobo”, or “Memoirs of a Wolfman.” For more information on Naschy, check out the website, “The Mark of Naschy”, at www.naschy.com.