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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Fury of the Wolfman (1971) review


Paul Naschy (Waldemar Daninsky), Perla Cristal (Ilona Hellmann), Veronica Lujan (Karen), Javier Rivera (Doctor Wolfstein)

Directed by Jose Maria Zabalza

The Short Version: Fitfully awful Paul Naschy werewolf hokum will no doubt be enjoyed by bad movie buffs and those who enjoy inflicting pain on themselves. A laugh riot with an increasing amount of stupidity and insipidness that reaches until the final scene. That the director was sauced the entire production speaks volumes about this motion picture whose script is rife with potential, but sadly, never strives for anything above mediocrity and even that's being kind. Highly recommended for trash fans and masochists.

After contracting Lycanthropy from a Yeti bite while in Tibet, college professor Waldemar Daninsky returns home to discover his wife has been having an affair. After a failed attempt to kill him in an auto accident, he transforms into a werewolf late one evening killing both her, and her lover. Escaping into the night, Daninsky is electrocuted in a thunderstorm and presumed dead. A sinister female doctor named Ilona Hellmann, Daninsky's former lover and the daughter of a mysterious Nazi scientist, Doctor Wolfstein, digs him up and takes him back to her castle. There, Daninsky becomes the subject of the devious dominatrix's experiments in mind control. Among dozens of victimized captives chained below in a dungeon, Ilona also has Daninsky's promiscuous wife, who is herself, now a werewolf.

Absolutely terrible and ballistically bonkers Paul Naschy werewolf shit. Director Zabalza strives hard to attain Ed Woodian status and brazenly surpasses the master of the wire manipulated hubcap flying saucer. Purportedly an alcoholic, Zabalza was said to have kept a chaotic set resulting in the films star breaking down into fits of tears at how horribly wrong the picture was turning out. The production was originally started by Enrique Lopez Eguiluz (the director of Naschy's maiden monster flick, FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR), he was inexplicably fired early into the start of the film and replaced with the bottle popping Zabalza.

The man himself considered this the worst movie of his entire career and regretted participating in it. Among the numerous catastrophes involve the film being too short and being padded with several attack sequences lifted from FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR (1968) as well as some additional wide shots of the wolfman utilizing a different actor. These scenes are horribly edited into the film. One minute, it's a frenzied scene of werewolf violence, then suddenly, we see an actor in wolf makeup casually strolling along. There are a number of scenes shot and edited in this kind of abrupt manner.

At one point near the end, Daninsky battles a man in a suit of armor, walks around the castle with Karen, has a duel with Dr. Wolfstein, then the escaped slaves kill some of Ilona's assistants. Next, we see Daninsky and Karen in bed after having sex(!), then a funeral procession for Dr. Wolfstein. Following that, Daninsky has some words with Ilona and in the next shot, he's suddenly chained to a wall again! The narrative and structure is all over the place. It's so easy to believe that this movie is the product of a well oiled director.

For this go round of werewolfery, Daninsky becomes the project of a venomous lady scientist with a hard on for male domination. I assume her efforts in mind control by way of soothing Waldemar, the savage beast is the key to placating male manipulation. There's also killer vines, deformed Nazi doctors, a character hidden inside a suit of armor who kidnaps the heroine and fights Daninsky to the death, a dungeon filled with crazed slaves, a female werewolf and plenty of beautiful women.

There's also a seven minute stretch of "attack" scenes that begins with Ilona whipping Daninsky chained to a wall with manacles. Suddenly, the scene cuts to stock footage of him leaping from a window(!) Then, it cuts to the non Naschy wolfman casually strolling through the woods and around town. He then lackadaisically kills a young man studying in his home. More strolling footage through fog enshrouded locations ensues. Meanwhile, the police are following behind him with dogs having picked up his scent.

Next, our hairy friend watches a pretty young lady getting dressed then nonchalantly enters her room and climbs into bed with her(!!!) For whatever reason, he gets up leaving the woman palpitating just before the police get there to smack her a bit to get her out of her spell. Then we got more strolling with non Naschy wolfguy. Suddenly, a riotously energetic stock attack scene from FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR appears and is suddenly interrupted by the non Naschy wolfman strolling across a river and through the woods. Mind you, the shirts worn by Naschy, non Naschy and the stock footage changes from shot to shot.

If not for the sheer nuttiness of the whole project, this would be a worthless endeavor. Even the star himself, is below par, but then that isn't his fault considering the disasters that were unfolding behind the scenes. Those who love atrocious movies will find a lot to sneer and giggle at here. Fans should face it, most of Naschy's movies are average at best, with the truly worthwhile productions being the ones he directed himself.

The closest approximation I can compare this full moon misfire to would have to be the wild and wooly mess that is VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES (1973) and that movie wasn't beleaguered with production problems and a sauce starved director. It was intentionally insane. I'm sure if the famed horror star could have his way, FURY OF THE WOLFMAN would be swept under the rug never to be seen again. This Spanish DVD is the original version of the film. However, alternate scenes of sex and nudity shot for the export versions are not seen here, but are present on an old Swedish VHS under the title, THE WOLFMAN NEVER SLEEPS. The US release is shorn of these bits. I used to have the old Unicorn tape which was an edited version.

Interestingly, this movies plotline is reminiscent of the one utilized for the lost Daninsky production, LAS NOCHES DEL HOMBRE LOBO (THE NIGHTS OF THE WOLF MAN;1968). In that film, sound waves were used to control the werewolf by an evil professor for reasons of revenge. Here, the scientist is a woman and her motives aren't too far removed from those of Naschy's most elusive motion picture.

While being one of the most bizarre movies on the actors resume, it's also the most disorganized and shoddily put together of his fantasy films. Paul Naschy has a lot of reasons to be embarrassed by the film and he has duly noted his frustration over having appeared in it as well as the removal of his intended director. Eguiluz did direct the brief Tibet scene that opens the movie via scene overlay while Naschy prepares to do in his duplicitous wife and her lover. An out of control, fruit loop of a movie, I'd only recommend it to Naschy die hards and bad film buffs. All others stay far away.

This review is representative of the Divisa R2 PAL DVD


I Like Horror Movies said...

I was afraid I had missed something when I watched a tattered PD version of the film, but from the sound of it the terrible grain and impossibly blackened scenes on my copy only hid more shittiness. This was unfortunately one of the first Naschy experiences I ever had, but man am I glad I kept at it and didnt let this set the bar for films like SHADOW and NIGHT!

venoms5 said...

Oh, it's never boring, Carl. If you can appreciate trash, there's lots of goofy fun to be had with this one. It's definitely an embarrassing movie, though.

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