Two young lovers Janice and Rudolph visit the ruins of the castle Wolfstein and encounter the mysterious Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy) who tells of them of the legend surrounding the castle - that Imre, the last of the Wolfstein family, was a werewolf and is buried in the crypt still with a silver cross in his heart. Later, two gypsies take refuge in the castle. Getting drunk, they break into the crypt hoping to find treasur - finding the silver cross they extract it and in doing so bring the werewolf back to life - with fatal consequences for them both. The next day the townspeople set search parties to find the wolves they believe to be responsible. During the search, Rudolph is attacked by the werewolf; Waldemar saves him and kills the wolfman, but is bitten himself. Falling soon into a fever, he becomes infected by the werewolf curse and becomes a killer. Rudolph and Janice try to help Waldmar by locking him in the castle and call on the help of a Dr. Janos Mikhelov who had attempted to cure Imre Wolfstein. But the doctor and his wife turn out to be vampires and take Janice and Rudolph under their spell.
Before Paul Naschy, Spanish cinema had rarely entered the world of the supernatural. Jess Franco's Awful Dr. Orloff (1962) was the closest the Spanish had come to a true horror film, but Jess Franco had been forced out of the country by the strong reign of fascist Spanish dictator General Franco who had imposed strict censorship laws. Paul Naschy, inspired by Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman in Universal's Frankenstein meets the Wolfman (1943), wrote a werewolf script that happened to be picked up by German producers. When the film eventually came to America it was sold to distrubutors who had been promised a Frankenstein film, so it had a prologue added to explain how the Frankenstein family had become corrupted into the Wolfstein family (the name conveniently used in Naschy's script) and from then on there are no mentions of Frankenstein or any related mythos.
Although many of the later Daninsky werewolf films were filled with exploitation sex and gore, La Marca del Hombre-lobo is a more serious horror picture. In keeping with the Universal horror films from which it was inspired and by the later Hammer horror films, there is a real economy of characters with the young couple, their fathers, the vampire couple and Daninsky limiting the film to only seven main parts. The settings too are very limited, obviously Naschy keeping the budget in mind, keeps the entire film to just a few locations. The first half of the script is heavily based on Universal's classic Wolfman series with Waldemar being bitten by the werewolf and attempting to find a cure, but the script takes a left field twist in the second half when the vampire doctors arrive and it does lose its way a lot here as the vampires seduce the young couple - Daninsky gets very little screentime throughout this second half and although well paced to start with, the film starts to drag heavily until the rather predictable climax. Curiously there is no attempt to give the film any particular location and although obviously set in the modern day, a lot of the customs seem heavily out-dated and would have been much more suitable in a period setting.
Director Enrique López Eguiluz does a very good job with this film - it includes some impressive smoke-filled/red-lit sequences akin to the best Italian films of the period (cf Mario Bava) as well as good use of real castles and the El Cercon monastery (home of Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)) along with some great looking sets that really help to build the gothic feel. The werewolf effects look good in this film, although we are not treated to many close-ups and the transitions are done off-screen. The soundtrack by Ángel Arteaga is a strange mix of Hammer-like orchestral music and creepy choral sounds that give the film a very strange edge.
Paul Naschy makes his debut leading role here and gives a surprisingly good performance - his mysterious character allows him to stay relatively unemotive while human, but his animalistic werewolf acting is very strong. Unfortunately the general standard of acting is quite poor, both Janice and Rudolph in particular looking quite wooden.
Less entertaining than the later films, La Marca del Hombre-lobo is the most horror-film-like of the Wolfman films until Curse of the Devil (1973). Certainly of interest to Paul Naschy fans, however, werewolf fans might find the lack of wolfman action to be disappointing and the slow paced second half will try the patience of even the most dedicated fan. One to watch for the cinematography and settings rather than the exploitation elements.
|Anyone famous in it?||Paul Naschy - the Spanish horror icon who later made the unusual and disturbing Human Beasts (1983)|
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Enrique López Eguiluz - aside from an obscure Santo film Santo contra los asesinos de la mafia (1970) a completely unknown Spanish director.|
|Any gore or violence ?||A little blood.|
|Any sex or nudity?||None.|
|Who is it for?||A must see for any fans of Naschy and the Hombre-Lobo series. Certainly of interest to all classic horror fans.
|Visuals||Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print is in quite poor quality, although the colours are vivid, much of the print is suffering from an odd effect as though it has been run through too many digital filters and there is a real lack of detail. Always watchable.
|Audio||English mono - not bad, although dialogue can be unclear at times.|
|Extras||The disc includes:
|Region||Region 1 (US, North America) - NTSC|
|Other regions?||Not otherwise available.|
|Cuts?||The film is believed to be uncut as per the original US print, various scenes were trimmed which are included in the extra features. Print language is English.|