Loreley's Grasp (The) AKA Las Garras de Lorelei (1974) - Special Edition
R1 - America - BCI/Deimos Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (10th February 2008).
The Film

In Germany, there´s a legend of a young maiden who committed suicide by jumping into the Rhine river and turned into a Siren. Some say that her hypnotic voice can be still heard near the rock of Loreley. It was this folklore that inspired director/writer Amando de Ossorio (e.g. “Tombs of the Blind Dead AKA La Noche del terror ciego (1971)” and its 3 sequels) for another quality Spanish horror-film “The Loreley's Grasp AKA Las Garras de Lorelei (1974)” (known in the U.S. as “When the Screaming Stops”, with added “red flash warnings” during the film). In the hands of Ossorio, however, there´s a monster with a black cape, reptile skin and sharp claws, first mangling its victims and then stealing their actual hearts! The small town near the river is suddenly under fear and terror.

The nightmare starts on one ordinary night, when a young upcoming bride is brutally murdered. What once was a beautiful woman is now a bloody mess, with the heart missing from her body and the wedding turned into a funeral. In the local tavern, the Mayor (Luis Induni - e.g. “Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf AKA Dr. Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo (1972)”) and the town folks are puzzled about this gruesome incident. It won´t be long before the ancient legend of “Loreley” is mentioned. It has been said that in the seven full moons, Loreley will take the form a beast, hunting and devouring human hearts. For the Mayor, this is a bunch of superstitious nonsense, but he knows that the killer might strike again. The thread becomes even more real when Professor Elke Ackerman (Silvia Tortosa - e.g. “Horror Express (1973)”) arrives on the scene. Being a teacher of the girls´ boarding school at the far side of the town, Ackerman is very worried about the current news. She wants protection, since her school is the ideal target for this mysterious murderer, evidently stalking young women.

A man called Sigurd (Tony Kendall - e.g. “The Whip and the Body AKA La Frusta e il corpo (1963)”) is the answer, and soon this experienced hunter arrives at the school (with a motorcycle and a gun - that´s all he needs!). Sigurd drives the young students crazy, but he´s not there to have fun. With a sharp eye and accurate aim, Sigurd is patrolling in the night, being that watchful eye for the others. But he´s not alone. Who´s the pale faced woman (Helga Liné - e.g. “The Mummy's Revenge AKA La Venganza de la momia (1973)”) that´s wandering in the area? And does one professor Van Lander (Ángel Menéndez) have the answer for the murders? Time is running out, since the body count is increasing, and the only real lead is the trail of water and mud near the victims…

I personally liked “The Loreley's Grasp” right from the first scene. I mean, for the fans of more obscure Euro horror, what´s there not to like? There´s a nasty monster on the loose, gorgeous women in almost every scene and a macho hero that´s of course both the lover and the fighter. Add the obsessed scientist, nice visual scenery, groovy 1970s music and some old-fashion gore, and you probably have at least some good time. Of course, there´s no reason to lie; the film is often as silly as they get, especially the scenes surrounding our hunter Sigurd. With his white jacket and tight trousers he looks almost like a younger Elvis, and it´s hard to keep a straight face when the “mysterious woman” frolics in the wildlife, wearing only a bikini. So yes, you probably end up smiling as often as being “scared”.

The surprising part still is that “The Loreley's Grasp” is not a very exploitative effort, so there isn´t any real nudity and the gory scenes are in quite short “bursts”. Despite the scenes of the monster ripping out hearts, the film has also strong “fantasy”-elements, especially in the second part. This might disappoint the fans looking for full-blown carnage and blood, but the truth is that it probably only works in the films favour. Since the story is loosely based on the folklore, the fantasy elements often just support the overall mood. This is a monster-movie, but also a “fable” of some kind. With some added work on the lead character Sigurd and by tightening and polishing the script, “The Lorelei's Grasp” could´ve been great horror-fantasy film. Now there are just too many odd scenes and minor silliness for the viewers to take it fully seriously. The good news is that this doesn´t stop the film from being quite an entertaining effort, and it definitely comes recommended. Beware the moonlight.

Video

U.S.-based “Deimos Entertainment” continues to bring these partly forgotten gems to the wider audience. The Anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer is quite excellent, with deep blacks and vivid colours. Everything looks “vintage”, but in a nice way - and I doubt that the film could look significantly better in a DVD-format. There´s some grain and some shots looked inferior, but the print is very clean and quite stable (some finer details gets a bit “restless”, though). There was some “jerkiness” during some of the panning-shots, but fortunately not that much.

There are some problems originating from the production, since some of the establishment shots e.g. of the river looks quite murky (probably stock footage shot in late autumn) and often very different from the rest of the film (which can be quite sunny in places). There are also scenes where you have blu-ish “day-for-night”-shots (I assume) and proper night scenes edited together, so certain inconsistencies happen here-and-there during the film. Some scenes are also a combination of studio and location (meaning that you´ll instantly know which one is which). The cover is advertising that the film is “mastered in High Definition”, but the film on the DVD is obviously in 480 (NTSC) standard definition. IMDB lists the aspect ratio as 2.35.1, but this seems to be a mistake. At least I didn´t see any evidence of cropping and I believe the DVD is transferred from the film elements. “Single layer” disc is coded “R1” and runs 84:37 minutes (NTSC). There are 15 chapters.

Audio

The disc includes two audio options; Castilian Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. Optional English subtitles are included and they´re not “dubtitles”. Since there aren´t any English speaking actors in the film (despite the name, Tony Kendall is Italian), the Spanish track is the way to go with this film, even when the dubbing in that is not exactly perfect. Spanish track has minor hiss in the background, but it´s still a pretty good Mono-track. Compared to the English one, the Spanish track sounds more “harsh” (during the “scream-scenes” by the various ladies, it almost breaks up), so in a purely technical sense the English track sounds slightly more pleasant (and quiet). Like with the Spanish track, hiss is not a problem. Quite decent job on the audio front.

Extras

-International theatrical trailer runs 2:47 minutes and you can choose from both the English and Castilian audio via your remote (credits are in English, like they´re also in the main feature).

-Alternate Spanish credit sequences runs 2:31 minutes, including both the opening and end credits in Spanish.

-Photo gallery includes 16 photos (15 stills from the film and one Spanish lobby card).

6-page booklet includes informative liner notes by the “Spanish horror” expert Marek Lipinski (he also maintains the “The Latarnia Forums”). Keep case comes with cardboard slip case.

Overall

Not a masterpiece, but entertaining enough - and a must for the fans of Spanish horror. That´s a short way to sum up “The Loreley's Grasp”. Director Amando de Ossorio knew how to create an effective film on a low budget, and despite some weak (or just unintentionally humorous) sequences the film holds up quite well. The DVD-presentation by “Deimos Entertainment” is again very good, but this time it´s a bit short on the extras.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Deimos Entertainment.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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