Things happen that have never been seen by human beings. The blood flows like vintage wine.
Waldermar Daninsky is a werewolf, living in an isolated village in France. When two graduate students named Elvira and Genevieve visit the area to do their thesis research on witchcraft, they run across the forlorn lycanthrope and befriend him. The girls want help finding the ancient crypt of the Vampire Witch Wandessa d'Arville de Nadasdy. Waldermar offers to help them find the gravesite. Upon locating the sorceress' coffin, Genevieve removes a silver cross from the corpse's chest, and the nasty Nadasdy reawakens after hundreds of years, ready to continue to feast on the blood of humans. Elvira falls in love with Waldermar and he finally confesses his secret to her. She is not frightened, and together they vow to stop the reign of terror and murder that Wandessa has unleashed on the nearby town. Little does Elvira know of what part Waldermar's full moon frolics play in the ever-growing body count.
Werewolf Shadow could be called Las Sombras Oscuras as it is very similar in tone and structure to the Dan Curtis produced 1966-1971 gothic horror soap opera, outside of its Mediterranean roots. It struggles desperately to mix the romantic, the tragic, and the emotional into a gory, scary suspense tale of traditional vampires and werewolves. But it doesn't really work. For everything Werewolf Shadow excels at, there are basic, integral flaws that keep it from being anything other than mediocre. It's not the fault of the actors. As a matter of fact, it is easy to see why Paul Naschy (the pseudonym of Spanish filmmaker Jacinto Molina) has such a devoted and ardent cult following. He exudes charisma, and plays the role of the lost and lonely Waldermar with enough gravitas and pathos to stir even the coldest heart. The rest of the cast is equally good, except for Gaby Fuchs as Elvira, who seems lost in an ever-present gaze of bewilderment. The locations are also marvelous, the rundown ruins of manors, churches, and graveyards making for arresting atmospheric backdrops. Even the tone is novel, with there being a greater focus on the misfortune and solitude of a night creature's existence than on all out horror or suspense. Unfortunately, this is where the film falls apart. Instead of giving us an in-depth and straightforward character study of a tragic anti-human hero, director Leon Klimovsky wants to make a Hammer meets Universal monster mash. But nothing is very frightening or shocking. The makeup is bad, even by early '70s standards, and the gore is handled in a fashion far too matter of fact to have any impact. The film is like a rotted piece of fruit: seemingly fine in all its outer aspects, but spoiled and unacceptable at its core.
Anchor Bay's DVD presentation of Werewolf Shadow, however, is nothing short of exceptional. We are given a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image that is pristine. It looks months, not decades old. The film has even been restored, adding several shots and two new scenes (while the rest of the film is dubbed, these added sections are subtitled), and while the Dolby Digital Mono is nothing spectacular, the extras are a must-have mandate for this title. First, we get a 15-minute interview with Naschy that acts like a rapid-fire commentary track for the film. ANYTHING you wanted to know about his life, career, or the reasons why Werewolf is a success/failure in his mind, is offered here at a rate of several hundred intriguing words per minute. Naschy is passionate about his work and the character of Waldermar, and it definitely shows in this conversation. Next there is a poster gallery and biography scrapbook that offers huge amounts of information and pleasure. Each is several frames long, and offers a complete overview of Naschy and his movies. They are absolutely fascinating. Finally, there is a trailer that looks more 2002 than 1970 since it functions more like an explanation than an ad for the film. In the end, however, these extras reflect on just how average the main feature of this DVD, the movie, really is. Werewolf Shadow has all the proper outer trappings for a fascinating shape shifter saga. But internally, it's just bark at the moon rubbish.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Interview with a Werewolf -- A Conversation with Paul Naschy
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