So goes the catchy tagline for Curse of the Devil, and it doesn't take a film historian to guess the general time period in which this Spanish/German co-production was released. Curse of the Devil is one of a pair of early '70s movies starring Paul Naschy as werewolf Waldemar Daninsky that Anchor Bay Entertainment has recently given new life on DVD. Naschy appeared in twelve movies as Waldemar the Wolfman over the course of nearly three full decades, and Curse of the Devil fills fans of the series in on the origin of his countless years of torment.
As Curse of the Devil begins, a couple of knights are shown awkwardly flinging weapons around, presumably in the hopes of maiming one another or at least giving the audience an opportunity to extensively quote from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We soon learn that the fellow doing the beheading is ridding his kingdom of witches, warlocks, and assorted Satan worshippers. One of his victims, as she burns on a stake, curses the righteous knight's bloodline, condemning them to a hell on Earth.
Flash forward a century or three. Another coven of witches is given new cause to be miffed at the Daninskys, and to ensure that the offspring of that well-intentional warrior remains miserable, a ridiculously beautiful woman is dispatched to sleep with him. Yeah, that'll show him! Feigning an injury, the sultry brunette is spirited off to Waldemar's lavish home, where the nobleman soon finds himself the recipient of Satan's sloppy seconds. Afterwards, she chomps down on one of Wally's man-breasts with a wolf skull drenched in her blood, carving a pentagon into his chest. Beautiful, kinky, and a geometry buff -- the perfect woman, to be sure. Gleeful in accomplishing her mission, she merrily trots off to the woods where the young lass is scattered, smothered, and covered by an escaped lunatic.
The end result of Kinky Gal's ritual should be obvious enough: Waldemar is now a werewolf. Since his reign of terror doesn't leave any witnesses, the townsfolk assume the rising body count is the handiwork of the axe murderer. They're not completely wrong. Wally is able to rescue the younger sister of his lady love from the clutches of the nutjob, but he can't save her from himself. (I usually keep a pen and pad handy to jot down the names of characters, but I neglected to do so with Curse of the Devil. I've given the girlfriend and her sister the clever nicknames of "Dr. Laura" and "Overbite", respectively, which is how I'll refer to them for the remainder of this review.) The local soon clue in that Waldemar is to blame for the increased mortality rate, and he's soon fighting both the vengeful townsfolk and his urges to feast upon Dr. Laura.
Though there isn't much of a plot to speak of, Curse of the Devil goes nowhere much faster than the excruciatingly slow Werewolf Shadow, at least in its first hour. Almost as soon as that fifth digit popped onto my DVD player's counter, pacing abruptly came to a screeching halt. There's not really a beginning, middle, and end. Even an hour in, I still had no idea what the movie was about or where it was going. Waldemar isn't given the sort of third-act destination that convention requres, and character development is limited to becoming a murderous werewolf and screwing three women. Some dramatic wall-pounding and longing glances at Dr. Laura are the closest we get to any expression of inner turmoil.
Anchor Bay's promotional blurb states that Curse of the Devil "is widely considered to be one of the goriest and sexiest horror films of Naschy's career". I guess the implication is that Naschy's films tended to be low on grue and nudity. Though the actor doesn't strike me as much of a lady killer, at least in the figurative sense, his character manages to bed pretty much every woman under the age of fifty that appears in the movie. (Feel free to insert your own witty "animal attraction" joke somewhere in this general vicinity.) There are several lingering shots of topless women, two of whom leave little to the imagination. The most attractive of the lot is the foxy brunette who bares it all while having a go at it with a unitard-clad Satan, following it up with a spin in the sheets with Waldemar. Overbite tosses herself at Wally, who initially rebuffs her with a stern reply before sitting down several feet away. Her art of seduction is limited to silently walking into a room buck-nekkid, and that was apparently all the convincing Waldemar needed. Last and most assuredly least is Dr. Laura, who's shown resting post-coital in bed with her rather unattractive silver dollar-size nipples fully exposed. The text on the back of the box indicates that two of these sequences had never been seen before.
Waldemar appears in wolf form quite a bit more frequently than in Werewolf Shadow, though he's rarely on-screen for more than a couple of seconds at a time. That's not a cartoonish exaggeration -- literally, a good two-thirds of his appearances feature a quick shot of the wolfman lurking in the shadows, followed by a leap towards his victim and maybe a single swipe or chomp. The "gore" is limited to shots of butchered victims with extraordinarily bright red goop splattered across their faces and necks. I'm the type of old-fashioned fella who likes to see flesh and various limbs torn from the bodies of victims. Trickles of unconvincing blood and tiny bits of ripped flesh don't really curl my toes the way I'd like. Oh, and please, don't tell your friends the surprising conclusion of Curse of the Devil. The same general idea -- a close-up of a child's hand following a feature-length film's worth of havoc -- would later be rehashed in 1980's The Children, a movie I would much rather have spent last night watching.
Video: Much like Werewolf Shadow, Curse of the Devil is presented in anamorphic widescreen at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Film grain isn't nearly as pervasive as in its 1971 predecessor, which is a plus, though there are a handful of scattered shots that are on the soft side. The opening medieval sequence, perhaps to give it more of a dated appearance, boasts anemic, washed-out colors. Things improve in that respect once the movie proper begins, though not by as much as I'd expect. The palette overall strikes me as pale, and exteriors often take on a faintly blue-ish-green tint, while a number of interior shots are too golden. This could be an intentional decision by director Carlos Aured to convey...I really don't know what, but colors seem off throughout regardless. Otherwise, the presentation is decent enough, and there's little doubt in my mind that if I were to compare this DVD release with United American Video's VHS, the differences would be night and day.
Audio: The dubbed English dialogue in this Dolby Digital mono soundtrack sounds much clearer and robust than in Werewolf Shadow. Perhaps Naschy's previous films had netted enough cash in the U.S. to warrant a move up to a better recording studio, though the clarity actually makes the dialogue seem all the more artificial and out of place. The score sounds shrill, but otherwise, I have no complaints. I didn't spot any background hiss or a flicker of distortion throughout.
Supplements: The majority of the extra features on Curse of the Devil are shared with Werewolf Shadow. Among them is a fifteen minute interview with Paul Naschy, aptly titled "Interview With The Wolfman". Naschy basically provides an overview of his career as an actor and writer, frequently touching on the werewolf films for which he is probably best known. A text biography and a lengthy series of promotional stills and poster art are also provided. Exclusive to this release is a theatrical trailer.
Conclusion: Curse of the Devil has an audience somewhere that had been eagerly anticipating the release of this DVD. If the lack of anything approximating praise up to this point in the review wasn't enough of a hint, I'm not among them. The DVD itself is decent enough, but I'm hesitant to even recommend this movie as a rental.