Thursday, February 7, 2013

La noche de Walpurgis (1971)

... aka: Blood Moon
... aka: Night of the Vampire
... aka: Shadow of the Werewolf
... aka: Walpurgis Night
... aka: Walpurgis Night: Wolf vs. Vampire
... aka: Werewolf Shadow
... aka: Werewolf vs. Vampire Woman, The
... aka: Werewolf versus the Vampire Woman, The

Directed by:
León Klimovsky

This is either the third or the fourth in the Spanish El Hombre Lobo werewolf sage (a West German co-production this time out) and follows the verifiable FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR (1968) and ASSIGNMENT TERROR (1970) in the series. It may also follow a third film called The Nights of the Werewolf. No known prints of Nights have ever surfaced and there's zero evidence of its existence. No posters, no production stills, no one to come forward to claim they were in it or saw it... The only person to vouch for the film was Naschy himself, who claimed it was filmed in France in 1968 for a director named René Govar. Govar doesn't appear to have any other credits and his identity remains a mystery to this day. There was a rumor floating around that he had died in a car crash before the film could be finished, so the footage was then scrapped. Naschy himself claimed it was indeed completed, just not released. Either way, it sometimes pops up on Naschy's filmography and sometimes doesn't. What is known is that The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman was the third release. Filmed under the title La noche de Walpurgis ("The Night of Walpurgis") in 1970, this ended up becoming one of the highest-grossing entries in the entire series upon release in 1971; prompting many more films in this series.

Waldemar Daninsky (Naschy) is dead and two doctors, led by the skeptical Dr. Hartwig (Julio Peña), who doesn't believe in any of the area's silly superstitions, show up to perform an autopsy on the body. His associate warns of a pentagonal scar on Waldemar's chest, which supposedly in the "Mark of the Werewolf," but Hartwig removes the silver bullet from his chest anyway. Waldemar springs to life, kills both doctors and then retreats into the night, claiming another female victim on his way out. Meanwhile in Paris, Elvira (Gaby Fuchs) has been studying up on witchcraft and the like to prepare for an essay she has to write; becoming fascinated by the legend of notorious Hungarian Countess Wandesa d'Arvula De Nadasdy in the process. Rumor has it that Wandesa practiced witchcraft and drank the blood of young virgins to retain her youth and beauty. After discovering that Wandesa was a vampire, one of her lovers had put an end to her evil ways by driving a silver cross through her heart.

Elvira and her cute friend Genevieve Bennett (Barbara Capell) find an ancient document describing the Countess' hidden burial spot and decide to take a trip to a secluded German village to locate it. They become lost on their travels and bump into Waldemar, who claims to be a writer working on a book about Gothic churches and is desperate for intelligent conversation. The two ladies take up his offer of food and lodging for the weekend and transportation to the small village rumored to have the Countess' tomb the next day. Their first night there, Waldemar grows cold at the mere mention of Wandesa and then a strange woman bursts into the ladies bedroom at night. She - Elizabeth (Yelena Samarina) - is Waldemar's mentally deranged lesbian sister who likes to rip open women's tops and strangle them until they're unconscious. She is however kind enough not to kill. She just wants them to leave, which of course they don't.

Despite the fact that Elvira is dating a police inspector named Marcel (Andrés Resino), she finds herself drawn to - and quickly falling in love with - her brooding host. The women, along with Waldemar, discover Wandesa's tomb - located atop a mountain. The gravestone calls her "Satan's Favorite Mistress" and warns of the consequences of opening it, but they do anyway, Genevieve removes the silver cross from the body, cuts herself and dribbles blood onto the remains, which is enough to eventually revive both her and her zombie monk helper Baptiste. Genevieve is soon seduced over to the dark side by the restored Countess (an effective - though underused - Patty Shepard). Both ladies begin claiming other victims and Waldemar tries to keep tabs on what's going on so he can drive a stake through victims hearts and decapitate them before they can return as vampires themselves. Wandesa must be stopped before Walpurgis Night, or else the world will be overrun with bloodsuckers.

I'd previously only seen this one on VHS many years ago, so it's nice to finally view the restored and uncut DVD (released by Anchor Bay under the title Werewolf Shadow). It's adequately bloody and nicely-photographed at scenic locations, but it's also very poorly paced and disjointed, with lots of brief, clipped scenes, characters who seem to forget what's happened by the very next scene, characters who disappear for long stretches or who disappear and forget to come back and various mythologies clumsily thrown out like some kind of afterthought. The film's two most interesting characters; Elizabeth and Wandesa, both get set on the back burner while this unfortunately concentrates its energies elsewhere. Pointless scenes featuring Resino's character, who talks to his boss on the phone asking for time off so he can go to the village and talks to the uncooperative mayor once he gets there, had been removed from the original U.S. theatrical release print (for good reason), but restored for the DVD. The female nude scenes are very brief, even in the uncut version.

As far as the Werewolf vs. Vampire aspect is concerned, the two get into a brief tussle at the very end... which last all of 10 seconds. Director Klimovsky also made the Waldemar entry DR. JEKYLL AND THE WEREWOLF (1972) and many others with Naschy. Assistant director Carlos Aured (billed as "Carlos Aubed") went on to direct the Naschy movies CURSE OF THE DEVIL, HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (both 1973) and BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL (1974).

Naschy himself directed, wrote and starred in a remake: THE NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF (1981), which was a minor improvement over this original.

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