"See the wolf monster attack - lusting, slashing ripping
in gory, flesh hungry, blood mad massacre !"
The American release was shown in "Super 70mm Chill-O-Rama" !
(which I'm sure is a whole creepier then regular 70mm !)
At first glance, Naschy would seem to be an odd choice for a leading man in Gothic horror, as the former championship weightlifter was short, stocky and barrel-chested with an obvious comb-over (that's even more apparent as his films make the transition to HD). He did, however, have a magnificent screen persona as with his dark brooding looks and piercing eyes he was able to project both an aura of sinister evil along with a melancholy sadness in his characters.
Released in Europe in 1967, this was picked up in 1971 by producer Sam Sherman for release in the U.S. as a co-feature to Al Adamson's woeful DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN. Sherman had promised his distributors a "Frankenstein" film for the double bill and as his production of a proposed 2nd feature fell through he looked to acquire an overseas production that he could re-tile. All of which makes it odd that he chose a movie with no Frankenstein monster in it - and even more bizarrely he passed on Tuilo Demicheli's 1970 "monster rally" type feature ASSIGNMENT TERROR which included a Frankenstein type monster, along with Naschy's werewolf (plus Dracula and a mummy !).
Although taking place in contemporary times MARK OF THE WOLFMAN, like many a Euro-horror film, seems to exist in a strange nether-world where jet setting rich folk dash about in sports cars and live in richly appointed Gothic estates while gypsies in period costumes trod about in horse-drawn wagons and everybody speaks about ancient curses, vampirism and lycanthropy matter-of-factly with no doubt to their existence.
Some nice candelabra action here !
The film opens with a masquerade ball in the home of the young Countess Janice von Aarenberg (Dyanik Zurakowska THE VAMPIRES' NIGHT ORGY and THE HANGING WOMAN) who's dancing with her just returned from school boyfriend Rudolph. Naschy's Waldemar Danisky bursts into the party (dressed as a satanic Robin Hood) and immediately sets his eyes on the young Countess which causes concern for Rudolph. The fathers of Rudolph and Janice also look on with disdain as Danisky has a reputation locally as a shady character (it's these sequences that were exercised by Sherman).
Over the course of the next few days, Danisky continues to coincidentally "run into" Janice and shows both her and Rudolph around his ancient family estate where he relates the legend of a cursed ancestor who is buried in the family crypt. Later a very colorful and over the top gypsy couple take refuge in the castle and looking to steal some treasure, they open up the tomb of the cursed relative and upon removing a silver dagger from his chest they allow him to be reborn as a werewolf.
As the werewolf begins to bloodily ravage the countryside the villagers gather together for a wolf hunt with Danisky being wounded by the werewolf while saving Rudolph's life. Now cursed with being a werewolf Danisky starts his bloody rampage, while Rudolph feeling indebted to Danisky, attempts to help him find a cure. Added by Janice they locate a document that references a Dr. Mikhelov who may have a cure. Realizing the doctor is now dead they write to the address and soon the a mysterious Dr. Janos Mikhelov (Julián Ugarte from ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK) and his "assistant" Wandessa (the very beautiful Aurora de Alba who also appeared with Naschy in THE HANGING WOMAN and VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES) show up. All of which set up vampirism, satanic rituals and a one-on-one werewolf fight to the death.
As mentioned, this is one of the most beautifully shot films from the golden age of Spanish horror. Filled with weird Mario Bava like lighting with the camera seemed to literally drink up the Gothic atmosphere (there are several times you want to hit pause, just to study the set design). There are also several instances of quiet poetic like beauty such as Wandessa's seduction of Rudolph as a flowing satin veil slowly covers the couple and later as Janice and the vampire waltz through ruined catacombs as they move through various colors and swirling fog.
Some years ago Shriek Show released FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR on DVD which contained the long European cut (with English dub) along with Sam's animated prologue. Hampered by some uneven coloring and obviously coming from different film sources, it does contain an informative & fun commentary by Sherman as he relates the convoluted distribution of the film and says that he's still in possession of a 70mm 3D print. It's also been released in Germany by SubKultur (under the title DIE VAMPIRE DES DR. DRACULA) on Blu-Ray as part of their ongoing Naschy series.
This was my (as I'm sure it was many a "monster kids") first exposures to Naschy as it seemed to run almost continuously on my local late night 70's TV. The original ad campaign promised a free burial to anyone who died of fright while watching the film!
*With the exception of the two title cards from the American release which were taken from the Shriek Show DVD all the above screencaps are from the SubKultur Region B Blu-Ray*