Our review of Fright Pack: The Devil Made Me Do It, published August 9th, 2005, is also available.
Damn The Exorcist! The devil won't let go!
When the star's name is misspelled in the opening credits, you know you're in for a long evening.
Facts of the Case
In days of old, when knights were bold…a Central European ruler named Daninsky (Paul Naschy, or "Nashy" as the title card bills him) executes a coven of witches. For his trouble, he's cursed with a peculiar form of lycanthropy that appears to transform its sufferers into German shepherds.
Centuries later, a group of latter-day witches conjure up a black-garbed, stocking-masked figure I presume is Satan—though he may actually be Rex Smith as Daredevil in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, I can't be sure. The Prince of Darkness proceeds to engage in the time-honored tradition of carnal knowledge with each of the nubile sorceresses. (Why, I wonder, does the devil have a zipper down the back of his suit? And why the stocking mask? Is he preparing for a post-coital spree of convenience store robberies?)
A wizened old crone who's been observing the Satanic orgy (but, thankfully for the audience, has declined to participate) sends one of the girls to the castle of Daninsky descendant Waldemar (Naschy again), who promptly decides that he'd like to "get to know her better," again in that time-honored manner. While Waldemar sleeps, his seductress carves a pentagram into his chest with the jaw of a wolf's skull (John Wayne Bobbitt, upon viewing this sequence, was quoted as saying, "Hey, buddy, it could have been worse") and flees.
Things deteriorate for Waldemar from this point. He's tortured by nightmares depicting gruesome murders. There's a lunatic with an axe running loose on his castle grounds. A maggot-eaten corpse is discovered in his barn. He turns into a werewolf. He gets busy with several comely women. (Okay, so it doesn't deteriorate completely. But I'm at a loss to explain how a guy who looks like Bluto from National Lampoon's Animal House after a visit to Steve McGarrett's hairstylist scores so incredibly with the chicks.)
You can guess how it all turns out. How does every werewolf movie you've ever seen turn out?
Bad movies exist for a number of reasons. Some stinkers can be chalked up to the fatuous egos of the people involved, who think they can hurl fermenting compost on the screen and the public will eat it up (witness Ishtar, Leonard, Part 6, Hudson Hawk). Other movies stink because filmmakers succumb to the whims of greedy, tasteless studio executives and survey-driven marketing wizards (witness the nauseating and inexhaustible Police Academy and Friday The 13th sequels). Then there are those movies that reek to high heaven simply because the people who made them lacked the resources (i.e., talent) to make movies that didn't stink, despite their earnest desire to create High Art. In this latter category we find the films of such cinematic legends as Arch Hall, Sr., Edward D. Wood, Jr., and Paul Naschy.
Until Curse of the Devil landed in my review pile, Paul Naschy and his oeuvre had faded into distant memory, a vestigial recollection from my salad days poring through Forrest J. Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland and its competitors back in the day. In the decades since, I meandered blithely through life, blissfully unaware that an entire cult of film fanaticism had sprung up around Mr. Naschy and his ultra-cheap, horrendously awful monster flicks. But I now observe that there are dozens of websites scattered across the Internet devoted to Naschy's dubious contributions to cinema. To borrow a line from H.L. Mencken, I guess no one ever lost money underestimating the taste of postpubescent fanboys hungry for nudity and gore.
That Naschy got to make as many bad movies as he did (more than four dozen, if the Internet Movie Database can be trusted) is testimony to the fact that somebody out there really does love this stuff. Especially popular were Naschy's portrayals of the tormented lycanthrope Waldemar Daninsky, Europe's answer to Lawrence Talbot, Lon Chaney, Jr.'s famous character from The Wolf Man and its progeny. Waldemar actually has quite a bit in common with his American predecessor: neither Naschy nor Chaney Jr. could act (Chaney Jr. coasted through his lengthy career largely on the good name of his talented father); both Naschy and Chaney Jr. were presented as romantic leads despite their homely visages and fire-hydrant physiques; both were saddled with werewolf makeup that wouldn't fool Gene Hackman's blind man in Young Frankenstein (Naschy in Curse of the Devil looks for all the world like Wile E. Coyote after a mishap with an exploding Acme delivery). In the interview that accompanies the movie, Naschy notes that he wrote his first Waldemar script for Chaney Jr., but the actor had become too ill to play the role. So Naschy decided to take on the challenge himself, and the rest is history.
Despite all of the foregoing, Curse of the Devil is one of the better known and better made (if that's the way to put it) pictures in the Waldemar series. That's not to say it's good. It isn't. It's laughably wretched. Worse—it's boring. After a molasses-slow opening sequence, the pace picks up to roughly the speed of glacial ice navigating the Arctic. We see far too little of the wolf man, although when one considers the comical cosmetic misfortune Naschy's sporting, that may be a good thing after all. Unclad starlets parade through the film, often for no apparent reason other than director Carlos Aured felt a few nude girls would distract the audience enough that they would fail to notice the plot is incomprehensible. (No, that's not quite accurate—the plot is non-existent. Tracing a narrative thread through Naschy's self-penned script would be harder than finding vegans at your local Stuart Anderson's Black Angus.)
To their credit, Anchor Bay has bent over backward to turn this sow's ear into a ditty bag on DVD. (A silk purse would have been out of the question.) The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is relatively clean for an aging low-budget foreign flick. That scarcely makes up for the blanched color spectrum, inaccurate flesh tones and occasional graininess, but it helps. The mono soundtrack sounds predictably canned and trebly, but the dubbed dialogue (there's no audio option for the original Spanish) presents clearly and the score, such as it is, is more or less unobtrusive.
The primary extra on the disc is actually worth a look: a 15-minute interview with Naschy himself, in Spanish with English subtitles. The man born Jacinto Molina ("not a very interesting name") reminisces about his athletic career (he was Spain's lightweight powerlifting champion in 1958) and his big break into show business (as an extra in Nicholas Ray's 1961 Biblical epic King of Kings). He reveals the origin of his now-famous stage name ("Paul" came from a photo of Pope Paul VI, "Naschy" from a Hungarian weightlifter he admired) and of his best-known character, Waldemar Daninsky (Naschy made the character Polish because the Spanish censors would only permit him to portray violence and sexuality onscreen if the characters were not from Spain). It's evident from this conversation that Naschy remains passionate about and fiercely proud of his movies (maybe a mite too proud, given their quality).
A detailed text biography and filmography of Naschy are included, along with an impressive gallery of poster art (several dozen slides' worth) from Naschy's pictures. The theatrical trailer for Curse of the Devil rounds out the disc. (Curiously, it never shows the werewolf, except for one hairy paw.)
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Where did Naschy's crew buy the fake blood they used in this flick—at the far end of the "red" aisle at the Sherwin-Williams store?
I know there are legions of dyed-in-the-wool Naschy lovers out there who will carpe discum this howler off the video store shelves in less time than it takes to say "Jacinto Molina." Don't you be among them. If you get a hankering for some werewolf action by the light of the next full moon, stick with An American Werewolf in London instead. At least the laughs in that one come from stuff that was intended to be funny.
The Judge wants to take this disc out and bust a sterling silver cap in its shiny round hide. Paul Naschy is sentenced to time served and 100 hours of community service helping Forry Ackerman clean out his attic. Court stands in recess.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Featurette: Interview with the Werewolf Featuring Paul Naschy
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