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Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Analog Abattoir


Starring Paul Naschy, Julia Saly and Silvia Aguilar
Written and directed by Paul Naschy
Shout Factory

Paul Naschy understands me. He understands my love of mist-shrouded tombs and beguiling yet deadly female vampires. Naschy understands that werewolves need to have technicolor blood dripping off their fangs at all times and that making vampires Satanic only makes them cooler. If you feel the same way, you’re in good company. An imposing figure, Naschy is a legend in Spain, mainly for his output in the Euro-horror genre. His most famous recurrent role is Waldemar Daninsky, a brooding romantic figure often cursed by evil. Imagine a young, bearded and somehow less dour Glenn Danzig… who is also a werewolf. The Daninsky films usually involve Valdemar attempting to move past his lycanthropic curse, only to be forced into battle with evil supernatural beings, and NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF, aka  El Retorno del Hombre Lobo (The Return of the Wolfman), is a standout among them.

Our story begins with the execution of Satanic witch Elizabeth Bathory and her posse of unholy followers. The stunning Julia Saly imbues Bathory with defiant blasphemy in her last moments, promising she will return and convert a God-fearing world “Into an inferno of death and blood.” (Slayer, are you taking notes?) Among those executed is the penitent Waldemar Daninsky, sentenced to wear a very Black Sunday-esque death mask and kept from revival via a silver crucifix/dagger driven into his heart. We then jump to the present day (the early ’80s) and meet Karen (Azucena Hernández) and Barbara (Pilar Alcon), who are lounging poolside. The two plan to join their friend Erika (Silvia Aguilar) as she travels to Europe for their joint studies on anthropology and the occult. Their two dimwitted male companions describe the absent Erika as “Drooling about black masses, witchcraft, invoking the devil.” (Again, Venom, take not!). Meanwhile, Erika is making good on her black metal credentials, strangling her professor of the occult after revealing her plan of using Karen and Barbara as blood sacrifices to resurrect Countess Bathory. 

Before Erika can put her plan in motion, Waldemar Daninsky is brought back to life by a group of bumbling grave robbers. Regretful for his part in Bathory’s reign of terror, he is still a victim of the werewolf curse and subject to the rising of the full moon. Rescuing our trio of gals from rapey highway robbers, Waldemar ultimately falls in love with Karen. However, the undead will not stand idly by, even for romantic subplots. The film culminates in a violent standoff between the werewolf, Daninsky, and the resurrected vampire, Bathory in a climax I like to call a Nasty Naschy Monster Mashy (Copyright pending). 

Without spoiling too much, the success of the film lies in its combination of high drama, gothic sensuality and an unapologetically loyal commitment to monster violence. Like many Hammer films, NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF examines themes of redemption, corruption and doomed lovers. What elevates Naschy’s film is that his gothic horror amplifier goes to 11. The fog machines are cranked for longer, Bathory’s blood-bathing scene is filled with transgressive eroticism and the confrontations between the monsters have a hypnotically dreamy quality. Suffice it to say, I imagine quite a few Doom Metal bands have seen their fair share of Paul Naschy movies. 

NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF was released as a gorgeous Blu-ray transfer by Shout Factory as part of its Paul Naschy Collection. A second collection was released, and together the two volumes comprise some of Naschy’s best films (I’m partial to Horror Rises from The Tomb). So, when you feel that night chill, throw some wood in the fireplace, light your black candles and put a Paul Naschy film on. As the gothic horror envelops you like a shroud, don’t resist, embrace the darkness… It’s all the sweeter that way. 

Death to false horror,
Dr. Benny Graves

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