Retro-review: Newly released in the Paul Naschy Collection Vol.1 from The Shout Factory!
NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF (1981)
THE RETURN OF THE WOLFMAN, THE CRAVING, THE WEREWOLF, EL RETORNO DEL HOMBRE LOBO
Directed by Paul Naschy
Written by Paul Naschy
Starring Paul Naschy, Julia Saly, Silvia Aguilar, Azucena Hernández, Beatriz Elorrieta, Rafael Hernández, Pepe Ruiz, Ricardo Palacios, Tito García, David Rocha, Luis Barboo, José Riesgo, Pilar Alcón, Narciso Ibáñez Menta
If there is one thing Paul Naschy knew what to play—it’s the role of the tortured werewolf. NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF was the ninth time Naschy played the cursed lycanthrope Waldemar Daninsky and it wouldn’t be his last. Still, he is at his most vicious and sympathetic in this film.
Naschy’s Daninsky is the pawn of Elizabeth Bathory (Julia Saly) in this installment, cursed by the bloodsucking witch to roam the night as a snarling beast. In this film, it is Bathory who is the true threat with Daninsky caught in the middle of a curse Bathory put upon a land when her coven, Daninsky, and herself were murdered by the church. A few hundred years later, Daninsky’s body is exumed, he rises to become the werewolf again when the moon is full. Coincidentally, Bathory’s body is revived as well by a revenge driven woman named Erika (Silvia Aguilar) and the coven is born anew to wreak new havoc. Hoping to cure himself of the curse, Daninsky battles Bathory and her witches, as well as the beast within himself.
While continuity is tossed out of the window from one movie to the next, one thing is the same from one Daninsky werewolf film to the next, Naschy is awesome in the role. Naschy, as usual, plays both hunter and prey—both noble and scourge, in a complex role of man battling the beast within while confronting new terrors threatening everyone else. This places Daninsky into the role of the reluctant hero. In NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF, Daninsky doesn’t want to kill. He doesn’t want to serve Bathory, but he is beholden to because of the curse. This sets up an opportunity for Daninsky to be sympathetic and someone to root for despite his nightmarish appearance and heinous deeds. It’s this kind of depth that Naschy brings to his werewolf role that few others do.
On top of that we get some pretty gnarly effects. Naschy is at his best snarling and drooling as the werewolf. We get some nice bloodletting from Bathory and her gang. And let’s toss in some rotting corpses for good measure. All of the practicals are effective for their time.
And that’s what I love about Nachy’s werewolf films. They don’t settle with just telling the tale of a werewolf. They toss in witches, vampires, and all kinds of monsters to keep things interesting and put Naschy’s character in a sympathetic light. I guess with this being the ninth time Naschy played Daninsky, a film with him alone would be rather tired, so seeing him face off against a menagerie of other beasts keeps things interesting. If you’re looking for a schlocky good time, NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF definitely fits the bill.
Other Paul Naschy Films!