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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Night of the Werewolf
The Night of the Werewolf
BCI Eclipse // R // May 8, 2006
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted May 5, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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Highly Recommended
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The second half of Deimos Entertainment's Spanish horror double feature is The Night of the Werewolf (El Retorno del Hombre Lobo), another installment in Paul Naschy's long-running and loosely-connected series about the lycanthropic Count Waldemar Daninsky. Naschy himself stepped behind the camera as director to bring this mainstay of 1970s Eurohorror into the '80s, but unlike the post-modern take on the mythos in An American Werewolf in London and the darkly comedic The Howling that would follow a year later, Naschy's approach owes more to the traditional, gothic horror of decades past.

The Night of the Werewolf is in large part a glossier version of Werewolf Shadow, which Naschy had starred in and co-written nearly a decade earlier. The movie opens in the early 1600s as the bloodthirsty Countess Elizabeth Bathory (Julia Saly) is sentenced to a slow, agonizing death. Daninsky, her lycanthropic plaything, is eager to meet a more immediate fate and have his torment at long last come to an end. Daninsky's corpse is left in peace for centuries until a pair of graverobbers pluck the silver cross left lodged into his chest, reviving the beast and sparking another reign of terror across the Hungarian countryside.

Three nubile aspiring archaeologists stumble upon Daninsky, who remains in human form until the next full moon and has somehow taken to living in a castle. Karen (the breathtakingly beautiful Azucena Hernández) instantly falls for the Count, with her love the key to once again ending his curse. Erika (Silvia Aguilar), meanwhile, is interested in a different sort of monster, determined to uncover Bathory's tomb and revive the vampiress with her friends' blood. Bathory and her insatiable minions ravage the countryside and vow to return Daninsky to their thrall, a necessary step in amassing the power required to cloak the world in darkness.

I have to admit to not thinking much of some of the earlier films in the series when I first saw them years ago, and I'm sure I would've had the same reaction to The Night of the Werewolf at the time. The pacing is slower and more deliberate than the werewolf movies I grew up with, and Daninsky is rarely seen fully transformed. Really, it's not difficult to argue that despite their titles, Werewolf Shadow and The Night of the Werewolf are better described as vampire films than werewolf movies, and they aren't drenched in blood by either standard. Seeing these movies again through somewhat older eyes, I appreciate them much more now, and The Night of the Werewolf is by far the best of the lot.

The Night of the Werewolf owes much of its success to the look of the film. Naschy and cinematographer Alejandro Ulloa have a keen visual eye, and this film had the luxury of enough time and money to be artful in a way that previous installments lacked. Its earlier moments root the film in a particular time and place -- some bikini-clad, poolside exposition and the girls' arrival by car -- but once the story gets underway, The Night of the Werewolf deftly transforms itself into gothic horror, set entirely in torchlit castles and dusty underground crypts. Swap out some of the wardrobe and it could just as easily be taking place a hundred years earlier. Comparisons to Hammer's monster revivals of the '60s are unavoidable but well-deserved, not just in terms of the story and cinematography but the make-up effects as well. The latex and air-bladders that would earn An American Werewolf in London an Oscar for its effects were only a year away, but The Night of the Werewolf prefers grease paint and spirit gum, following the various stages of Daninsky's transformations with time-lapsed camera fades. The look of its vampires has also been improved over Werewolf Shadow, cutting down the cartoonishly long fangs to something more subtle and effective.

There are a number of sequences that still hold up exceptionally well today, particularly the revival of Bathory; as blood oozes from a naked, lifeless body suspended above, smoke streams from the stone likeness of the Countess that adorns her tomb. Admittedly, the storytelling has its clumsier moments, some of the film's effects probably looked dated even when The Night of the Werewolf was first released more than 25 years ago, and its slower pace and restrained violence may bore viewers weaned on bloodier, more brutal movies. To me, at least, The Night of the Werewolf is such a finely crafted homage to classic horror that what might normally have been shortcomings are really are just part of its charm. Highly Recommended.

Video: The cover art proudly boasts that The Night of the Werewolf was mastered in high-definition from the original negative, and this 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation did turn out extremely well. The image is free of any distracting speckling or damage while retaining its faintly grainy texture. The golden, candlelit tint to the film's palette and its slightly diffused photography give The Night of the Werewolf an almost timeless appearance. The DVD isn't razor sharp, but this tinge of softness appears to be part of the film's aesthetic, and the image is nicely defined overall. It's a solid effort by Deimos, and I'm looking forward to giving The Night of the Werewolf another look when its promised release on HD DVD and Blu-ray surfaces.

Audio: There are three soundtracks on this DVD release of The Night of the Werewolf: monaural English audio, a 448Kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 remix in English, and a stereo Castillian track with optional English subtitles. The Castillian audio struck me as the best fit for the film, even if it's the one that exhibits the most wear. A few pops and dropouts are scattered throughout, and its dialogue is generally on the brink of clipping and sometimes does sound lightly distorted. The Night of the Werewolf uses library music in place of a traditional score, and for the most part, it has a classic horror sound that suits the film perfectly. However, the music does have somewhat of a shrill quality to it and occasionally seems fairly timid in the mix. Demo material it's not, but the audio is perfectly listenable, and viewers shouldn't come away disappointed.

Extras: The extras are along the same lines as Deimos' release of Vengeance of the Zombies, beginning with another brief introduction by Paul Naschy. This version of The Night of the Werewolf uses the opening credits from its American release, which in this case means essentially no credits at all -- just a freeze-frame of a masked, mortally wounded Daninsky. The original Spanish credits -- both opening and closing -- are offered as an extra, presented in anamorphic widescreen and pillarboxed to an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. There are also a pair of extended scenes, both revolving around the "preacher" and his companion. An introductory note explains why these dialogue-heavy scenes weren't re-incorporated back into the movie. Each scene opens in English and segues into the 1.66:1 pillarboxed Spanish material. The last of the video footage is a lengthy anamorphic widescreen theatrical trailer for the film's American release.

As with Vengeance of the Zombies, two extensive still galleries have also been provided. There are a total of 36 production stills, including fully clothed shots of some of the nude scenes in the movie proper. A second gallery features a set of 28 pressbook photos, posters, and lobby cards from Germany and Spain.

The Mark of Naschy webmaster Mirek Lipinski contributes another set of liner notes, this time focusing on Naschy's background as well as his most enduring character. The liner notes are illustrated with a number of production stills, one of which is culled from the final shots of the movie, so keep that in mind if this is your first time through The Night of the Werewolf. The presentation of the DVD is similar to that of Vengeance of the Zombies, including another set of eye-catching cover art by Wes Benscoter and slickly-designed animated menus.

Conclusion: The Night of the Werewolf is a stylish throwback to Hammer's gothic horror, and the quality of Deimos' DVD coupled with its very modest sticker price make for a highly recommended addition to any Eurocult enthusiast's collection.
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