Director: Jacinto Molina (Paul Naschy)
BCI Eclipse/Deimos

BCI’s first two entries in its new line of Spanish horror DVDs (NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF and VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES) exhibit a great respect for their genre superstar subject, Paul Naschy. Naschy’s most famous screen character is that of the tormented werewolf Waldemar Daninsky, and this film actually marks the umpteenth time he’s portrayed him. Using his birth name Jacinto Molina, Naschy always scribed the screenplay for the Daninsky outings, but by this stage of the game, he was directing as well. With this effort, he brings the character into the 1980s, reinventing him somewhat.

In a pre-credit sequence set in the Middle Ages, Countess Elisabeth Bathory (Julia Saly) is condemned to death along with her manservant Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy), a being known to transform into a werewolf. In the late 20th Century, two greedy grave robbers remove the dagger from Daninsky’s chest, therefore releasing him from his sleep and once again unleashing a monster among the villagers. Meanwhile, three lovely students – Erika (Silvia Aguilar), Karen (Azucena Hernández) and Barbara (Pilar Alcón) – trek out to Bathory’s castle where the strangely-dressed Daninsky greets them after saving their lives from some highway scoundrels. Erika is actually a heinous Satanist set on reviving the Countess, while innocent Karen is the one who can give Daninsky the love he needs to end his infernal curse.

Known in Spain as EL RETURNO DEL HOMBRE LOBO and released in the U.S. in the mid 1980s as THE CRAVING, NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF incorporates elements from past Daninsky glories (especially WEREWOLF SHADOW), but despite the familiar territory and a sometimes patchy script, it culminates into an enjoyable movie and a respectable, stylish directorial effort from its star. Although there are doses of blood and female flesh to satiate modern audiences, this is basically an old fashioned monster movie, and Naschy injects plenty of gothic trappings (namely the immense, ruined castle) while the candelabras are always lit and the fog machines are on full blast. There are no ground-breaking werewolf transformations here, just the traditional lap photography method, and Naschy fans would probably wouldn't have it any other way. Naschy’s werewolf make-up is different than it had been in the past and is quite effective, especially in close-ups.

The werewolf sequences are also some of the best in any Naschy film, as he is seen attacking various villagers, including a couple of lovemaking travelers – he carries off with the topless female, a key image in the Spanish advertising publicity. Other ghoulish individuals include Daninsky’s disfigured female servant, Countess Bathory’s mummified brother (who bursts out of his crypt centuries after his death) and of course the vampire women themselves. As Elizabeth Bathory, Julia Saly comes closer to real-life portraits of the notorious murderous than any other actress in cinematic history. Silvia Aguilar, a stunning Jacqueline Bisset look-alike, is a most fetching vampiress, and takes a crucifix to the head ala HORROR OF DRACULA. Narciso Ibáñez Menta, who played Dracula in León Klimovsky’s SAGA OF THE DRACULA, guest stars as a professor who gets knocked off early in the film. The eerily appropriate music score, provided by the CAM library, contains bits used in various other films. If the main title theme seems familiar, that’s because its culled from Stelvio Cipriani's score for TENTACLES.

NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF has been released with a High Definition transfer, presented widescreen at 1.78:1 and anamorphic. The image is very clean, with sharp detail, good colors and very little grain. Overall, the picture is excellent and its hard to imagine the film looking better. The audio contains three different options; Castillian with optional English subtitles, English-dubbed mono and English Surround Sound. The audio on all is fine; there were several minor sound pops detected, but luckily none interfere with any dialogue. This version of the film is also fully uncut, restoring several minutes of dialogue not found in the U.S. release version.

Extras include a warn and welcoming intro by Naschy himself (in Spanish with English subtitles) who also mentions several other upcoming DVD titles, the original Spanish beginning and end credits, an international trailer in English (under NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF), a few minutes of deleted scenes (mainly comprised of dialogue between two thieves out to rob Daninksy) and two extensive still galleries (one of still photos, the other of advertising poster and lobby card art). Topping off the extras is a pull-out booklet containing excellent liner notes by Naschy historian Mirek Lipinski, and hopefully he will be doing the same for further releases in this DVD series. (George R. Reis)