Thursday, August 25, 2011

El aullido del diablo (1987)

... aka: Howl of the Devil

Directed by:
Paul Naschy

Famous horror actor Peter Kerensky aka Alex Doriani (Señor Naschy) supposedly committed suicide. Not long after, his notoriously unfaithful wife Lorena (Isabel Prinz) died from an overdose of heroine; orphaning their young son Adrian (Naschy's real-life son Sergio Molina, as "Serge Mill"). Adrian is now in the care of Alex's twin brother Hector (also Naschy), an egotistical, abusive, failed actor who's been in and out of mental institutions and is still bitter over the fact he was never able to achieve his brother's success. Hector is also a pervert and sadist who enjoys drugging women and then forcing them to participate in his twisted sex games. The women often walk away rattled but physically unharmed, but are immediately butchered by a gloved killer as soon as they leave his crumbling, remote mansion home. Also sharing space there is Eric (Howard Vernon), a chauffeur and servant who formerly worked for Alex and has now resigned himself to Hector's sick ways (one of his chief responsibilities is running out and fetching prostitutes for his master to play with and then throwing them out of the home). Though he's rumored to be a necrophile and often uses black magic to keep in contact with the spirit of Alex, Eric isn't such a bad guy after all, as he's kind to Adrian and ultimately wants to oversee the downfall of Hector.

Another frequent presence in the home is Carmen (Caroline Munro), an attractive cook and maid. Despite the fact she's disgusted by Hector's constant attempts to proposition her and buy her hand in marriage, Carmen sticks around because she's desperate for money to care for her ailing, elderly parents and has motherly affection toward poor, young Adrian, who is forbidden to go to school, have friends or live an otherwise normal life by his uncle. Instead, Adrian has retreated to a fantasy world with a bunch of make-believe friends... they're all monsters... and they're all played by Naschy! So in addition to getting to play twin brothers (including one who enjoys dressing up as Rasputin, Marquis de Sade and Fu Manchu, and the other who appears as a pale ghost), Naschy also gets to play Mr. Hyde, The Frankenstein Monster, The Phantom of the Opera, Quasimodo, a rotting zombie, Satan and even his most-famous horror character; the werewolf Waldemar Daninsky.

Carmen has made the mistake of having an brief affair with local priest Father Damián (Fernando Hilbeck), and now he continues to lust after her, regardless of the fact she's called the whole thing off. Damián won't take no for an answer, starts researching into the pasts of both the Doriani brothers and Eric and has even paid off drunken bum Zacarías (Cris Huerta) to spy on the Doriani home. During one scene, Carmen has a nightmare referencing both FRIDAY THE 13TH and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, where a masked man threatens to cut off her legs with a chainsaw.

Nearly all of the male characters are big time misogynists with dialogue like "Bitches! You use them and then throw them away!," so they're all suspects when the females start dropping like flies. A woman sitting in a car outside the Doriani home has her neck sawed open. A foul-mouthed prostitute who just indulged Hector's Rasputin fantasy is stabbed while walking home, a pot-smoking female camper has her throat cut while taking a piss, a female thief gets gutted and another woman looking for her missing sister is killed after having her nipple threatened by a poisonous snake. Someone sneaks into the morgue and dismembers one of the bodies with a chainsaw. Brigitte (Roberta Kuhn), a French student and writer actually enjoys being drugged, tied up and threatened with a knife. She shows up a second time only to get impaled while taking a bath. By the way, this has full nudity from four different women and naturally, being the ladies man he is (or at least fancies himself to be!), Mr. Naschy gets love scenes with most of them.

It's an incredibly busy and fast-paced film, and certainly no masterpiece, but it's fun and very entertaining. There are many enjoyable references to Naschy's career and his reputation as a horror star, the acting is pretty good, the story is entertaining, the characters are well-drawn, it delivers when it comes to sex and violence and there's even one of those great 80s synthesizer scores. Well, great, if you enjoy them! It's impossible to really evaluate the production quality since the version I watched looked like a second or third generation dupe recorded off of TV.

Unfortunately, this film was never English-dubbed or even released in America (to theaters or to video)... and for the life of me, I don't understand why. The film not only boasts Naschy (who also co-wrote and co-produced) in more roles than most genre legends play during their entire career, but also internationally-known actors Munro and Vernon, plus it's actually better than many of Naschy's earlier films that have received deluxe DVD treatments here in recent years. Oh well, maybe one day.

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