Director: Leon Klimovsky
Code Red DVD

Filling the void of Spanish horror on DVD as of late, Code Red surprises us with a welcomed “Leon Klimovsky Classic Spanish Horror Double Bill” of the uncut, “unclothed” versions of THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY and the Paul Naschy “El Hombre Lobo” favorite DR. JEKYLL VS. THE WEREWOLF (or DR. JEKYLL AND THE WOLFMAN) if you prefer.

Argentinean-born director Leon Klimovsky was no stranger to vampires, having done Paul Naschy's WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMAN (aka WEREWOLF SHADOW) (1970) and the totally offbeat SAGA OF THE DRACULAS (1972). VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY, Klimovsky's third vampiric effort, was followed by his last, the rarely seen STRANGE LOVE OF THE VAMIRE (aka NIGHT OF THE WALKING DEAD) (1975). While THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY may not be the director’s best work, it's still a considerable slice of Spanish horror, and it manages to evoke a chill or two.

A bus carrying a group of new employees winds up in a mysterious, small village after their driver has a sudden heart attack. The passengers stay at an old inn where the food, drink and service all seem great until strange things begin to occur. When there's not enough meat to keep the guests' appetite satiated, various extremities are axed from locals by a massive woodsman (played by Fernando Bilbao, an immense actor who played the Frankenstein monster in several Jess Franco films). The cuisine turns out to be leg of man, and one hapless traveler (Dianik Zurakowska, FRANKENSTEIN’S BLOODY TERROR) finds a finger on her plate! A sexy Countess (Helga Line, HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB) appears to be the village matriarch and she bribes the visitors with cash for their inconvenience as their bus is stranded. She seduces a young tutor, and then puts the bite on him as we discover the monster that she really is. In the meantime, most of the other guests pay with their lives, as they quickly become vampirized. Only two manage to escape (Zurakowska and American-born Spanish horror staple Jack Taylor) from the bloodthirsty, ghoul-infested community with their lives. They bring the police back to the scene, but all has mysteriously disappeared, all but the now totaled bus that they drove in with.

Klimovsky here gives us a minor endeavor, not quite as memorable as his previous vampire films were, and the film seems to border on black comedy throughout. Stagy shocks and silly antics replace the usual eroticism (when one character unknowingly eats human meat and says, "I've never tasted anything like it," another knowingly replies, "If it's one thing I'm sure of, it's that"), but it still manages to be fairly eerie. The opening shot was likely inspired by Hammer’s KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, while a number of sequences in the film were patterned after NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, still fresh in theater goers’ minds when this was made. There’s a disturbing scene involving two children hiding out from the living dead in a decrepit cemetery, and Helga Line does make a very seductive vampire woman.

Starting with Pagan's UK DVD release, all previous DVD releases of THE VAMPIRES' NIGHT ORGY (including the bargain label U.S. editions) have presented the film in an alternate "clothed" version as opposed to the more desirable version with the female flesh exposed (thankfully, Code Red’s transfer reflects this version). Several nude scenes were replaced on previous DVD releases, including Dianik Zurakowska's undressing for Jack Taylor — the film's hero, a peeping tom who spies through a tiny hole. In the “clothed” version, she appears in a see-through blue nightie, while here she’s on display fully nude. Another altered scene occurs when the Countess (Line, no stranger to nudity) seduces the pretty boy tutor. In this version, she is topless and there is some extended petting, while the “clothed” cut has her wearing in a black nightgown. It's also worthy to note that this scene is accompanied by different music than what’s found in the clothed cut; a kitsch pop tune containing a female singer moaning and groaning on the soundtrack ("kiss me!"). This version also carries the American credits, as this is what played at American drive-ins in 1974 (and beyond) on a double-bill with Naschy's erotic-charged COUNT DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE.

Code Red’s DVD transfer for THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY is culled from a 35mm Fuji color American release print which we were able to show recently at a now-defunct drive-in theater for a rather underwhelming attendance. The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 with anamorphic enhancement, and as stated, represents the more desirable “unclothed” version. The transfer is sharp throughout, with minimal grain, and the print source only has some minor scuffs and light, occasional emulsion lines on display every so often. Fuji color prints tend to turn purplish over time, but the color looks pretty good overall. The mono English audio (the only option) carries the expected pops and occasional scratches, but there’s nothing too severe to complain about here.

DR. JEKYLL VS. THE WEREWOLF marks Paul Naschy’s sixth appearance as his trademark Waldemar Daninsky/El Hombre character (that is, if you’re convinced that 1968’s LAS NOCHES DEL HOMBRE LOBO was even filmed). A young blonde woman named Justine (the gorgeous Shirley Corrigan, SYNDICATE SADISTS) travels with her much older husband Imre (Jose Marco, HORROR EXPRESS) from London to his ancestral home in the Carpathian mountains. Imre is attacked and stabbed to death by a pack of car thieves, but Justine is spared from these would-be rapists by local nobleman Waldermar Daninsky (Naschy), who lives in a big castle with his witchy-looking housemaid. Since Naschy wrote the script under his real name (Jacinto Molina), Justine instantly falls in love with him, despite his affliction of lycanthropy, and they make their way back to London to look up an old friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jack Taylor, who also starred with Naschy in THE MUMMY'S REVENGE).

The modern Dr. Jekyll still loves Justine, but he decides to help curse her new lover, Waldemar, of his hairy problem. By using his grandfather’s old formula, Jekyll successfully transforms Waldemar into the essence of evil — “Mr. Hyde” – turning him back to his good self and thus canceling out his wicked werewolf transformation. Put the plans backfire when his sultry, jealous assistant Sandra (Mirta Miller, COUNT DRACULA’S GREAT LOVE) literally stabs him in the back and reverses the injection. Now Daninsky has to contend with turning into both a werewolf and Mr. Hyde, the latter which gives him the opportunity to don 19th century fancy dress, roam the busy streets of London, pick up women in disco nightclubs, murder prostitutes and be an all around son of a bitch. He doesn’t get any kind of break either; as the werewolf (who is at one point let loose in a swinging nightclub, after entering as Mr. Hyde), the usual fate is in store for him.

As ridiculous an idea as this is, it actually works and remains one of the favorites in the Daninsky/Werewolf series, with Naschy’s screenplay showing his true admiration for classic monsters by melding two that had never been brought together before in a live action film. Klimovsky treats the rather campy premise with considerable style, with the action moving from the traditional horror movie motifs of the old country (the angry villagers, local superstitions, freakish looking scavengers) to modern London where the scenic images include a rather seedy early 1970s Soho district. Naschy acts and looks as great as ever as the werewolf, but his Mr. Hyde, well he’s a pisser. With contact lenses to make him more sinister, a goth-rocker hairstyle and attire 100 years out of date, Naschy’s Hyde is one of the most sadistic ever. The film boasts a few standout scenes including when Waldemar finds himself stuck in a hospital elevator with a very nervous nurse. When the proper amount of time has elapsed, he is transformed into the beast in front of her very eyes. This, followed by her being mutilated, and a shock surprise for a group of anxiously waiting people makes for one hell of a slick sequence, one of Klimovsky’s best.

Mondo Macabro released the film in England on a PAL DVD about ten years ago, and although the quality was quite attractive, the print represented the “clothed” version of the film with only a Spanish language dub on hand (a dollar store DVD was released in the U.S. with MOON OF THE WOLF on the same disc, but it was a butchered print). Code Red’s transfer thankfully represents the “unclothed” version, because let’s face it, that’s what we want. So, all the female nudity crammed into the second half of the film is on display here, especially Corrigan’s topless torso being nastily assaulted by Hyde and the wicked Sandra. The film print the transfer was taken from is surprisingly clean and mostly blemish free, presenting it in a fitting 1.66:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The original source obviously had some color fade, but colors are boosted and corrected enough to look stable enough throughout the presentation, and detail is also acceptably sharp. The mono English audio track has the expected cracks and pops, but nothing at all too distracting.

The DVD starts with a full trailer for FAMILY HONOR, while other trailers on the disc (accessible through the main menu) include THE VAMPIRES NIGHT ORGY, CLASS OF ’74 and THE GIRLS NEXT DOOR. A classic drive-in intermission spot precedes each of the feature films. (George R. Reis)