Directed by Leon Klimofsky
Written by Paul Naschy & Hans Munkel
Starring Paul Naschy, Gaby Fuchs, Barbara Capell, & Paty Shepard

Though I’ve been reading about him and hearing about him since I was a little kid, it wasn’t until recently that I started to appreciate the coolness that is Paul Naschy. Naschy may not be a huge name to Johnny Movie-goer, but he is looked at as a big deal in the halls of horror and in his home in Spain. Think of him as the Lee Marvin or Charles Bronson of Spanish horror and you might understand the presence Naschy has on camera. He’s a man’s man. The kind of guy who grabs a woman and plants a smooch on them and they don’t seek the authorities. The kind of guy who knocks someone out with a karate chop or a single punch. The kind of guy who can sport a mock turtle neck and still not garner guffaws. Naschy was a sizable presence on film. Muscular and broad, who better to embody the horror of man taken to its most primal corners? I’ve seen two of his Hombre Lobo films so far (FURY OF THE WOLFMAN (1972) and WERWOLF SHADOW), but I can’t wait to see more. Naschy made 12 “Waldemar Daninsky” films which featured a man of action cursed by a beast that fights all sorts of monster hunters, occultists, vampires, zombies, and other things that go bump in the night. Sometimes Naschy played the cursed victim; other times he played the snarling villain, and sometimes the noble savage.

I plan on returning to the deep werewolf well of Naschy, but for this column, I’ll focus on one of his earliest and most lauded performances, WEREWOLF SHADOW. With his body cooling in the morgue after his run in with a silver bullet from his previous film, Waldemar Daninsky continues his ferocious killing spree when a mortician removes the silver bullets from the pentagram over his heart, which everyone knows is the mark of the beast. Daninsky soon makes a run for it after carnaging his way through the hospital morgue and two morticians. Daninsky exiles himself to a secluded castle where most of WEREWOLF SHADOW’s action takes place.

The castle Daninsky is residing in has a history with black magic and vampirism. Shrewd horror hounds will notice similarities to Bava’s BLACK SUNDAY as a vampire is resurrected after a cross of silver is taken from her corpse and as it always happens, a virginal cutie cuts her hand on the cross and drips blood into the decayed corpse’s mouth. This awakens a she-vampire who stalks and seduces a pair of women who Daninsky has brought to his home (told you Naschy had a way with the ladies) in true vampire fashion. With the local authorities closing in on Daninsky in hiding and the she-vamp seducing his women, it doesn’t seem like the hairy guy can get a break.

In this film, Naschy definitely plays the cursed soul. His Daninsky is trying to connect with others, but wary of doing so in fear of wolfing out on them. The highlights of this film (and FURY OF THE WOLFMAN, which in my opinion is not as good, but it does feature Naschy lashing out much more savagely as a more central figure to the story) are the scenes of Naschy as the werewolf. Naschy goes all out as the nimble footed, bug eyed, stringy haired beast. Though crude compared to the computer generated morphs of today, with some slow fades and creative cuts by director Leon Klimofsky, between hair applications they prove to be pretty effective. Seeing Naschy lash out toward the camera is indeed a fearful sight with the whites of his teeth and eyes surrounded by black shadows and fur.

The scenes with the vampiress are very haunting as well. She wears this dark veil and with the combination of the dramatic music and some well done slo mo, the scenes of the toothy temptress prove to be scarier than the camp I was expecting. This film wasn’t afraid to dole out the blood and boobage either, making this a somewhat more erotic and visceral feeling film than FURY OF THE WOLFMAN. WEREWOLF SHADOW seems to fall smack dab in between the bright red bloody horror of Hammer in the sixties/seventies and the more visceral tone of Italian horror films of the seventies.

Both Naschy’s 5th Hombre Lobo film (FURY OF THE WOLFMAN) and the focus of this review (which falls into the 4th spot) are products of their age with a lot of choppy editing, mismatched music, and somewhat amateur camerawork, but the appeal lies in Naschy’s conviction as the werewolf. Even without the makeup Naschy is a powerful presence. Here, mixed with a pair of nubile ladies, a zombie monk, a loony housekeeper, and a vampire seductress, Naschy shines as one of the best werewolves ever to howl on the silver screen. I can’t wait to check out more of Naschy’s horror outings in future columns.