1973 gave us a trio of interesting Paul Naschy films directed by Carlos Aured, a former assistant of Leon Klimovsky. The titles included LA VENGANZA DE LA MOMIA (AKA THE MUMMY'S REVENGE), LOS OJOS AZULES DE LA MUNECA ROTA (AKA HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN), and EL RETURNO DE WALPURGIS (AKA CURSE OF THE DEVIL), the seventh excursion for Naschy's Waldemar Daninsky/werewolf character. For the first time, he is placed in a period setting for the entire film, adding a nice atmosphere. Again Naschy scripted this conventional mix of horror, sex, romance and violence under his real name, Jacinto Molina.
The opening scene has Naschy playing an ancestor of Daninsky, a righteous knight battling an evil warlock in a jousting bout. After beheading the warlock, the nobleman slays a coven of witches, later burning some of them at the stake. In a scene reminiscent of Bava's BLACK SUNDAY, the wife of the warlock vows revenge as she is toasted by the flames.
Centuries later, Waldemar Daninsky is a wealthy nobleman overseeing a large property in Hungary. While hunting a wolf one afternoon, Daninsky shoots the animal, only to discover a local gypsy with a large bullet hole in his chest. After a rather kinky satanic ceremony involving a demon in black leotards and several naked lovelies, an old stereotypical witch sends a beautiful girl (Maritza Olivares) to Daninsky's home. The girl entices him into a false romance, engraves the pentagram on his chest with a wolf's skull, and curses him with lycanthropy. She runs away but is hacked to pieces by an escaped maniac. With a homicidal nut on the loose and Daninsky transforming into a werewolf, the villagers have plenty to be upset about. But as our hero terrorizes the town with his beastly alter ego, he manages to find love with a young woman (Fabiola Falcon).
Aured's contribution to the werewolf saga is decidedly bloodier and sexier than usual, making it a preferable choice of Naschy fans. The atmosphere is lush and the production values look exceptional. Like I stated earlier, this is the first Naschy werewolf film to be a period piece, and the makeup is also much different than before. The quieter than usual werewolf has a darker appearance and sometimes looks like a cross between a wild bear and Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees, but aside from a few instances where Naschy's pale neck is revealed, it's still pretty effective.
Like Anchor's Bay's wonderful WEREWOLF SHADOW DVD, CURSE OF THE DEVIL is miles above the previous VHS releases. The film is now correctly formatted in its original hard-matted 1.85.1 aspect ratio with Anamorphic enhancement. After a somewhat washed-out opening and title sequence, the film explodes with beautiful Eastman-lensed colors and a fresh crispness that really does it justice. The audio is strong, giving the English-synched dialog a clarity like never before. CURSE OF THE DEVIL is also presented fully uncut, and if I'm not mistaken, there are alternative "sexier" shots not seen in previous video versions.
Extras include the 15-minute "Interview With the Werewolf," an excellent, solid conversation with Naschy recorded in 2000 (this also appears on the WEREWOLF SHADOW disc). Naschy talks about how he got into acting, how he derived his name, and how he came to write and star in MARK OF THE WOLFMAN in 1968. He also discusses the development of his werewolf character, as well as childhood inspirations (FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN). There's also a photo gallery featuring dozens of posters, lobby cards, and video art from various Naschy titles. Also included are a European theatrical trailer, and a well-written Naschy bio. (George R. Reis)
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