Night of the Werewolf (The) AKA El Retorno del Hombre-Lobo (1980) - Special Edition
R0 - America - BCI/Deimos Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (12th August 2007).
The Film

Spanish director/writer/actor Jacinto Molina (AKA “Paul Naschy”) created his best known (well, at least among horror-fans) characters in the film “Frankenstein's Bloody Terror AKA La Marca del Hombre-lobo (1968)”. Despite the phony US title, it’s not Frankenstein, but a Polish nobleman Waldemar Daninsky, which Naschy continued to portray in over 10 movies. When there was a full moon, Daninsky turned into Werewolf, taking the character in several time periods and plot lines. Naschy’s Werewolf battled against the other creatures (such as vampires), while searching for the love - often eternally doomed.

In “The Night of the Werewolf AKA El Retorno del Hombre-Lobo (1980)” (previously known as “The Craving” in the US), Daninsky is in 16th century Hungary, ready to be sentenced to death. He’s not the only one, since his master Countess Elisabeth Bathory (Julia Saly - “Night of the Seagulls AKA La Noche de las gaviotas (1975)”) and her followers are also ready to meet their (evil) maker. The Countess is convicted of sorcery, vampirism and devil worshipping, what at that time was more than enough to warrant eternal damnation. So ends the story of the two infamous evildoers, one with the completely dark soul and the other that is cursed with the uncontrollable rage and bloodlust during a full moon. From this pre-credit sequence we move to the modern Italy, where young Erika (Silvia Aguilar) reveals something very important to his mentor professor (Narciso Ibáñez Menta); She and her colleagues have found the tomb of Countess Bathory in the Carpathian mountains, along with the crave of Daninsky. Erika has a much more ambitious plan than just to explore the tomb in the name of science; she wants to resurrect the evil Countess back to life! What Erika needs is a blood of a maiden (two of her travel companions Karen (Azucena Hernández) and Barbara (Pilar Alcón) are going to provide that) and the rare medallion that the Professor has. The fate of the Professor is now doomed. Without knowing that Erika has already turned to the dark side, all three women begin their travel to the Carpathians. What they don’t know is that Waldemar Daninsky has already been resurrected in a full moon by the unfortunate tomb raiders. When the girls reach their destination, the handsome nobleman Daninsky (as “Janos Burko”) is already waiting in his castle, with his loyal servant Mircaya (Beatriz Elorrieta). The battle for love, good and evil is about to begin. Some might see at this point, that the film is partly a “remake” of the earlier Waldemar Daninsky-film “Werewolf Shadow AKA La Noche de Walpurgis (1971)”.

Paul Naschy was often a busy man when he made his movies. If he wasn’t portraying several roles in the same film, he was the writer (as “Jack Molina”), director (as “Jacinto Molina Álvarez”) and actor (as “Paul Naschy”) like in “The Night of the Werewolf”. After the intriguing opening, the film slows down a bit, but in the Carpathians the film kicks into high gear, showing that Naschy can build an entertaining and quite visual horror-ride. Again there are some problems with the pacing, since not all the scenes (with different tones) blend seamlessly together and some feel slow at times. I also had some problems believing that after the “evil attacks” inside the castle, it’s soon time for calm discussions and romance. The (human) character of Waldemar Daninsky alone is actually not very interesting in the film, but the dilemma between his curse and his longing for love is. In the story he can be “liberated” from the curse, if some woman loves him enough to give her own life as a ransom for his. This adds another dimension to the film, which in the end is also a “love story”. Daninsky has also his very dark side in the form of a werewolf, but it’s different from the likes of Erika and the “ultimate evil” that rages in the heart of Countess Bathory. In the end, Daninsky is also fighting against evil. Naschy doesn’t fully succeed to balance the “horror” and “drama” aspects and it’s still the “horror” that eventually keeps the film going.

Visually the film is almost surprisingly solid and innovative. There are basically two “werewolf transformation”-scenes. While the other is really “old school”, using optical tricks (Lap dissolve), the first one is cleverly edited sequence that works rather well. Sure, this is nothing compared to the classic scenes in “The Howling (1981)” and “An American Werewolf in London (1981)” (where Rick Baker won the “Best Makeup” Oscar), but I have to admit that I like the “head”-make-up (the rest of the body is mostly covered with clothes) of Daninsky the Werewolf. It’s menacing and is a nod to the more classical make-up of the monster. Other well executed, visual scenes include the “vampires flowing in the air”, the mummy-like Theodosius (servant of Countess) resurrecting, Countess bathing in blood and of course the Werewolf battling against the vampires and eventually also the Countess. All the vampire ladies are quite effective and together with beautiful lighting and mist, bringing some originality to their character especially actress Julia Saly as “Countess”, who is great in her role and appears completely unafraid during the more difficult scenes (like the “main event” against the Werewolf). In the deeper sense, Countess and Daninsky fight over domination, since apparently Werewolf has had enough to be her servant. Generally, the strong gothic-atmosphere is present and the (real) castle set-up adds the needed realism (well, meaning that the visual look supports the story, not that there are much “realism” in the story). All things consider, “The Night of the Werewolf” is a good horror-film - plain and simple still, with some fine-tuning the story (especially the “drama”-aspects) and the general pace would’ve been even better. Now the monster-elements are the ones that are too many times cluing the film together.

Video

US-based “Deimos Entertainment” has continued their “The Spanish Horror Collection”-line with the Anamorphic 1.78:1-transfer (“Vengeance of the Zombies AKA La Rebelión de las muertas” was in 4:3), that should please the fans. Restored from the film’s original elements, it boasts strong colors (slightly lacking in some of the exterior scenes) and in most parts solid black levels (perhaps too deep in selected scenes). The print is relatively free from dirt and film artifacts. The transfer looked (slightly) softer than I expected and the film might’ve been shot via filter, making some scenes look a bit more “dream-like”. This is by no means distracting, but just don’t expect a razor sharp transfer. Film grain along with minor edge enhancement and compression issues are sometimes visible, the cover advertises that the film is “mastered in High Definition”, which could be a bit misleading to some. The transfer is indeed taken from the new HD-master (the company has hinted that the HD-version could arrive in the future), but obviously the DVD is mastered in 480 (NTSC) standard definition.

Do note that the transfer includes the “International version” of the film with English credits. It’s missing two scenes worth of extended dialogue scenes involving the (fake) “preacher” and his partner (they can be found from the extras). “Dual layer” disc is coded “R0” and runs 92:20 minutes (NTSC). There are 16 chapters.

Audio

Like “Vengeance of the Zombies “, the film includes three audio options; Castilian Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and English Dolby Digital 5.1. Optional English subtitles are included and they’re not “dub-titles”. I again preferred the Spanish track (even when Naschy sadly didn’t dub his own voice), the English track sounded quite phony (both are still far from perfect, they’re dubs after all). Spanish is preferable for the tone and the look of the film. Spanish-track is clean and you can only hear some mild hiss if you turn the volume up. Dialogue can be “hollow”, but again the track is at least satisfactory. English Mono is not bad either and it’s also clean, but I find the dialogue a bit more muffled and in the lower level. English 5.1-track is loud and might work with the musical score, but sadly the dialogue is mixed to all channels, which makes the whole track to sound artificial and unpleasant (as we know, the right place for the basic dialogue is mainly that “front center” channel in the 5.1-track). The company has informed that the decision to add the weak 5.1-track was made by the authoring house, which is one more reason to stick with the Mono-tracks. All tracks had minor drop-outs in a few selected scenes, but nothing that major.

Extras

Along with the great looking menu-structure, “Introduction by director/writer/actor Paul Naschy” -featurette, running 1:25 minutes (in Spanish, with “forced” English subtitles) is included before the main feature.

-US theatrical trailer runs 3:23 minutes and you can choose from both the English and Castilian audio (although the trailer has a very little dialogue) via you remote (credits are in English).

-Alternate Spanish credit sequence runs 3:56 minutes, including both the opening and credits in Spanish. When the English opening credits has only a handful of people listed, Spanish one has more.

-Deleted scenes-section run 4:46 minutes. It includes (along with some material that is on the film) mainly two scene extensions that are not included in the main feature. “Deimos” states that these scenes were planned to edit back into the main feature, but due to the color and framing differences (between the two film transfers) they eventually added them to the extras. Both sequences involve the (fake) “Preacher” and his partner Creatus, who’re planning to rob Daninsky.
1 - The first deleted sequence happen after the dinner with Daninsky, running approx. 1:42 minutes. In the scene, the Preacher is “preaching” how he’s not afraid of the evil spirits, always relying on his Holy Bible and his faith. When Creatus is burping, the Preacher is criticizing his bad manners. The scene ends when both men leave to the attic to sleep.
2 - The other scene extension happens in the attic, where the two thieves are talking (running approx. 50 seconds). Preacher says who fed up he’s with his partner, doubting their partnership. Creatus then brings up the strange landlord that he saw in the castle. This discussion happens before the vampires attack. Audio is in Castilian (with optional English subtitles) in the deleted scenes, but the material surrounding them is in English. These scenes were most likely added to the “Spanish version” of the film.

-2 Photo galleries are included:
*”Film gallery” includes 36 images from the film. This section has a photo of the alternate “clothed” take (from the sacrifice scene).
*”Poster and lobby card gallery” includes 28 photos (posters, press book-material and lobby cards).

6-page booklet includes liner notes by the “Naschy expert” Marek Lipinski (who has maintains the “The Mark of Naschy” web site). Keep case comes with cardboard Slip case.

Overall

“The Night of the Werewolf” is essentially a gothic monster movie, with some added exploitation vibes from the early 1980s. It’s very enjoyable ride, but the story eventually suffers from the sluggish pace and slower sequences. The DVD-presentation by “Deimos Entertainment” is very good, doing really justice to Paul Naschy and his films. Keep them coming.

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

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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