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Werewolf Shadow

Starz / Anchor Bay // R // July 6, 2002
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 29, 2002 | E-mail the Author
Whenever I think of Paul Naschy, the Spanish star of stage and screen, I...trail off, never actually having thought of him before. To fans of the actor, though, he's perhaps most frequently associated with the series of werewolf movies he starred in and often wrote. Naschy appears as the lycanthropic Waldemar Daninsky in twelve movies, beginning with 1968's La Marca del Hombre-lobo and concluding twenty-eight years later with Licáantropo: El asesino de la luna llena. Up until recently, Gotham Distribution's release of Le Furia del Hombre-lobo (The Fury of the Wolfman) was the only entry in the Daninsky series to claw its way onto DVD. Earlier this month, Anchor Bay Entertainment corrected that by releasing two of Naschy's other early '70s werewolf films, Curse of the Devil and Werewolf Shadow.

As Werewolf Shadow begins, the remains of a reputed lycanthrope are being examined by a pair of doctors. The Skeptical One scoffs at the existence of werewolves, deciding the most effective way to prove his point would be to remove the silver bullets from the corpse's chest. According to legend, this should instantly revive the beast. This being a movie with the word "werewolf" in the title, you can probably guess what happens next. Following an exciting title sequence, our furry friend disappears until the movie is half over.

Meanwhile, Elvira (Cassandra Peterson...wait, I mean Gaby Fuchs) has decided to seek out the resting place of Countess Wandessa d'Arville de Nadasdy. A decidedly unpleasant lady, Wandessa was considered to be a great beauty and prolonged her life by consuming the blood of virgins. During their ill-advised search, she and fellow student Genevieve (Barbara Capell) find themselves the guests of reclusive writer Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy). Though he's prone to bouts of blank staring, Waldemar seems like a nice enough fella. If Elvira and Genevieve had seen the prologue, they'd know that the kind soul that's taken them in is really a murderous werewolf.

So anyway, after a late-night strangletastic encounter with Waldemar's nutty sister, Elvira and company give the Countess' tomb a gander. Her headstone labels the five hundred year old lass as "Satan's Favorite Mistress" and bears the warning that her rest must not be disturbed until the day of the final judgment. Elvira shies away, but an undaunted Genevieve and Waldemar pry open her tomb regardless. The silver cross seen in the expository flashback some twenty minutes earlier is still firmly lodged in Wandessa's chest, and Genevieve takes it upon herself to yank it out. Despite the lack of anything particularly sharp in the general vicinity, Genevieve somehow winds up with a nasty gash on her forearm, and a few drops of an unnaturally red liquid inadvertently spill onto the Countess' skull. Wandessa is revived moments later, and one of our fair heroines soon finds herself skulking the French countryside alongside the vampiric countess.

For a movie called Werewolf Shadow, there's not a whole lot of werewolf in it. If the sum of Waldemar's screentime in wolf form tops ten minutes, at least by any considerable margin, I'd be thoroughly surprised. As soon as the title Werewolf Shadow splashes across the screen, Waldemar isn't seen with fur glued onto his face again for close to 45 minutes. One of several alternate titles, The Werewolf Vs. Vampire Women, is a bit more descriptive as to what to expect from the film, though it still only encompasses a couple of minutes of the hour and a half runtime. There are only two female vampires, making the movie a single vamp away from possibly being titled The Werewolf Vs. Vampire Woman. The battles between vampire and werewolf are both exceedingly brief and not particularly exciting, and the latter of the two fights doesn't kick off until the countdown to the end credits is under the five minute mark.

The effects -- I'm intentionally avoiding referring to them as "special" -- aren't terribly convincing. Genevieve and the Countess both have absurdly long and unwieldy fangs, and Paul Naschy's werewolf make-up is of the classic variety, which is to say not very wolflike at all. Attacks by Waldemar are few and far between, and when they do occur, it comes in the form of flailing his arms at the camera or distant swipes at victims. It's rare that a claw is shown actually connecting with flesh, and the aftereffects of the wolf's savagery are reserved for separate shots. Several of the kills in the movie, including a zombie that appears for seemingly no reason of purpose, end with the extraordinarily anticlimatic deflating clothing.

In the final few moments of the film, we get yet another flash of the continually rehashed stock footage of the moon and a cloud that never wants to budge. Waldemar clutches his stomach in pain, falling out of the camera's view behind a coffin before emerging as a fully transformed wolf. Right. This has long been a pet peeve of mine, topped only by the tried and true "spin the camera around and around really quickly" transition in terms of cheesiness. Director León Klimovsky apparently forgot that was left in his bag of tricks despite his attempts to exhaust every cliché imaginable.

Anchor Bay has restored several minutes of footage from foreign (read: not English) prints of the film. These primarily weren't portions that were lopped out of the American release for being too racy or in any way extreme, however. These largely dialogue-heavy additions offer little of interest, and Werewolf Shadow would've been better served if even more such moments had been excised. Werewolf Shadow has a tendency to plod along, mired in awkward, poorly dubbed dialogue with not nearly enough action interspersed throughout.

Video: Anchor Bay's DVD release of Werewolf Shadow is presented in anamorphic widescreen at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The print is respectably crisp and clear, free of any distracting damage or speckling. There is a fair amount of film grain present for the length of the film, causing the image to shimmer somewhat throughout. The level of grain remains relatively consistent throughout, and as a result, it doesn't seem terribly unnatural and can be mentally filtered out after a short while. The restored footage is comparable in quality to the rest of the film, and if not for the Spanish dialogue, I doubt I would have noticed the transitions between the two.

Audio: Werewolf Shadow sports a standard issue and wholly unremarkable Dolby Digital mono soundtrack. The mixing of some elements can be a little wonky, such as the dialogue between Genevieve and Elvira drowned out by thunder following their dinner with Waldemar. As the disclaimer that precedes the film mentions, the footage reinserted into Werewolf Shadow was never dubbed into English. These six minutes or so are in Spanish, and optional English subtitles are enabled by default. For the curious, there is not a Spanish-only soundtrack, nor are there subtitles in any language that run for the film's entirety.

Supplements: The most notable extra on this DVD release of Werewolf Shadow 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. The above supplements also appear on the Curse of the Devil DVD. Exclusive to this release are a theatrical trailer and a television spot.

Conclusion: The scarcity of the titular monster in Werewolf Shadow doesn't make for much of a werewolf movie. Those with more of a familiarity with Naschy's work may still get a kick out of this, his fourth film as Waldemar Daninsky. A neophyte like myself lacks the proper context in which to place this entry, and though I don't know what I'd recommend as a starting point in the series, Werewolf Shadow certainly wouldn't be it. DeepDiscountDVD carries the disc for $13.20 shipped, but I'd recommend holding out for a rental, if that's an option.
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