Thursday, October 30, 2008

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: Our Love Has No Future

Later remade as NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF (aka THE CRAVING), the 1970 Paul Naschy flick LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS (aka WEREWOLF SHADOW and THE WEREWOLF VS THE VAMPIRE WOMAN) holds a special place in the annals of Spanish horror cinema. Made with a largely Spanish cast and no international stars to boost its pedigree, the film's success helped usher in what Naschy himself refers to as Spanish Fantastic Cinema thanks to its gothic-romance-meets-monster-mash storyline. Not to mention the fact that WALPURGIS marks the first collaboration between Naschy and director Leon Klimovsky, a partnership that would produce some fascinating results for Eurotrash fans.

Brought back to life by a knuckleheaded doctor who is too busy debating science versus legend, serial lycanthrope Waldemar Daninsky (Naschy) sets up shop in his castle on the outskirts of a small village. Under the guise of an author researching the black arts, he's actually searching for the tomb of Countess Wandesa Darvula de Nadasdy (Patty Shepard), a Countess Bathory type who dabbled in black magic and stayed young by drinking the blood of virgins.

When Genevieve (Barbara Capell) and Elvira (Gaby Fuchs) end up lost near his home, Daninsky invites them to stay, only to discover that they're also looking for Wandesa's grave, though for purely academic reasons. The girls conveniently flip-flop their views on Daninsky with Elvira finally falling for him while Genevieve gets sucked into the clutches of Wandesa after they've accidentally reanimated her skeletal remains.

As Walpurgis Night approaches, Daninsky fears that Wandesa, Satan and an army of vampires will reign supreme unless he can figure out a way to end his suffering and, at the same time, stop Wandesa from unleashing hell on earth.

The script by Naschy and Hans Munkel is certainly ambitious and fun, but it's easy to see why the star took on a remake ten years down the line. Though packed with tons of style the Naschy remake can't match, LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS drags in spots and features a completely unnecessary subplot featuring Elvira's boyfriend Marcel (Andres Resino), a police inspector who turns up in town for the final act and does a lot of standing around looking on in disbelief.

Pacing and subplots aside, Klimovsky delivers a flick that looks great, especially when goth Wandesa and sexy Genevieve are around. He shoots the cackling vampire duo in slow motion and frequently bathes them in fog, giving them an otherworldly aura that juxtaposes nicely with Daninsky's earthly werewolf. The film's gore and transformation effects are strictly rooted in the 70s with Naschy occasionally letting loose with some drool or shaking a bloody hunk of meat in his fangs for effect and just about every chick in the movie gets her top pulled down at some point.

I wish Shepard – who could be mistaken for Barbara Steele in some shots – had more to do while Fuchs (the least attractive of the female leads) was more relegated to the sidelines. Naschy delivers an intense, humorless take on Daninsky and his werewolf scenes have real energy. Maybe a bit too serious for its own good, LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS makes for an interesting companion piece to the more entertaining NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF.

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