The story begins with our hero Waldermar Daninsky lying stone-cold dead on a mortuary slab after being dispatched with those requisite, werewolf-busting silver bullets in a previous movie. A doctor removes the bullets from Daninsky's body on the night of a full moon to prove to his superstitious colleague that there's nothing in all this werewolf malarkey; but before you know it, hairy paws are fingering his collar and salivating fangs are tearing out his throat! Daninsky is back in business -- and he doesn't waste any time in going on a hair-raising rampage (literally!) which results in a nubile young lady (who just happens to be wandering around in a forest in the middle of the night, for no apparent reason) getting a large chunk ripped from the side of her neck! The blood flows in rivers between her exposed breasts and, ignoring the bloody wound completely, the camera seizes this perfect opportunity to zoom in for a nice big close-up of them like there's an overexcited schoolboy behind the lens. All this, and we haven't even got as far as the opening titles yet!
This is the first of the Waldermar Daninsky films to be directed by Leon Klimovsky. It was made cheaply and quickly but Klimovsky's professionalism and several of the creative touches employed (particularly the use of slow motion in the vampire scenes) ensure it actually looks quite classy at times - although it's slightly let down in the end by a lot of dodgy dubbing and some ropy acting. That is nearly always a given in these type of movies though, and there is still plenty of entertainment to be had here.
Two young students of the occult, Elvira and Genevieve, set out on a journey through rural France where they are convinced they will find the tomb of a supposedly mythical witch called Countess Wandessa d'Arville de Nadasdy. When their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, they are pleased to encounter handsome Waldermar, who lets them stay in his massive castle where he lives alone apart from his mentally retarded, but sexually veracious, sister. Waldermar seems overly interested in the girls' investigations into the whereabouts of the countess's tomb and together, they eventually find her decomposed remains in the ruins of a nearby monastery. The tomb is guarded by a zombie monk (why not?) but heroic Waldermar soon puts paid to him and they remove the ancient crucifix that has been thrust through the countess's heart; Elvira manages to cut herself during this procedure and the blood drips onto the corpse. You can guess what's coming next I'm sure.
But first, it's time for the romantic subplot to kick in. Elvira falls in love with the hunky Daninsky (who comes over like the Milk Tray man, all dressed in black and everything). Of course, she is unaware at this point that he regularly turns into a hairball spiting beastie, who has to be chained up in a secure room by his sister every full moon, but she is soon made all too aware of the fact when he eventually escapes and begins prowling the village. Meanwhile, the resurrected witch is, of course, a vampire — and she soon gets her teeth into Genevieve and is very keen to do the same with Elvira! The scene is now set for a massive showdown: who will win out between the lusty queen of the undead and the snarling, testosterone-fuelled fuzz-ball?
The scenes with the vampire queen, played by Patty Shepard, are extremely effective and really rather creepy. Klimovsky uses slow motion to film her and her vampire slave Genevieve, and these scenes are always accompanied by some very unnerving music. The vampires have the quality of spectral apparitions and also bring to mind Jean Rollin's female vampire creations. There is a very effective scene where they pursue Elvira down a misty corridor; it looks like a back projection of the two vampires moving in slow motion has been used behind the actress being chased (who is still moving in real time) and the combination of the two creates a very odd ghostlike effect.
The film's drawbacks revolve mostly around the fact that we only have the English dub and not the original Spanish language track on this disc. Everybody is dubbed with a broad American accent (probably voiced by the same actor) and the English translation seems incredibly clumsy at times ("My castle is very close. In fact, it's quite near"). Some of the special effects are not very persuasive but, to be honest, that adds quite a lot to the endearing character of these movies for me, so I'm not too bothered by this. The biggest fault of the film is that it gets too bogged down with exposition in it's latter half. Most of these scenes have been restored to the English language version from a Spanish print of the film so they are the only parts of the film that are in Spanish with English subtitles, but, although it's good that we have the full version, it is a distraction to have too much unnecessary talk when all we want is more vampire on werewolf action!
The climatic show down is worth waiting for though, although I don't think there is ever really any doubt about who is going to win in the final face-off. When I was a kid, I used to enjoy playing Monster Top Trumps, the card game where horror icons would square up against each other under categories such as scare factor, Strength, special powers, etc. Now obviously, when your special power involves being able to move in slow motion, you really have not got much of a chance against a creature who moves with the speed of a rabid terrier and who's only aim in life is ripe out as many throats as it can, as quickly it can! There is none of that "slowly sinking your fangs in to your victims' neck and having a long, erotically charged suck" kind of deal here, thank you very much! Daninisky's strategy is to charge straight in, have a good munch while shaking his victim around the room by their throat and then it's on to the next hapless victim! There is really no contest — but that's not to say it's not an extremely entertaining battle, if not a little undignified for the poor vampire queen!
The DVD from Anchor Bay (available in both NTSC and PAL formats) presents the film uncut and with a magnificently crisp and clear transfer; colours leap off the screen (as they say) and the mono audio track is also very clear (although the few Spanish language scene are not quite up to the same quality). AB have also given us the more salacious unclothed version of the film which contains all the nudity filmed for the international version. Thanks very much!
For our extras we get a 15 minute interview with Naschy which features clips from this film and another Daninsky feature called "Curse Of The Devil". The man gives us another insight into his passion for the horror genre and his recollections about seeing his first Larry Talbot werewolf film featuring Lon Chaney. Naschy actually wanted Chany to star as the werewolf in his first film but the actor was now too old for the role and Naschy was forced to take the part himself. We also have the usual biography of Paul Naschy and a trailer and TV spot of Werewolf Shadow. Particularly interesting is the gallery of posters and stills included for most of Naschy's films. I hope we will see more of them released on DVD someday soon.