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Introduction
Since the high profile departure of James Ferman, the BBFC has undergone an extensive re-evaluation of its values and procedures. One of the benefits of this process is that previously unattainable or heavily censored (in the UK at least) material is now being made available. While Straw Dogs is undoubtedly the most famous example, hats must go off to companies like Anchor Bay who rediscover, restore and release such movies. All of which leads us to Werewolf Shadow

Movie
Cursed for eternity with the mark of the werewolf, Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy) lives a life of splendid seclusion in a remote part of the French countryside. However, his monthly ritual of shackling himself in the cellar of his magnificent house during the full moon period is interrupted by the intervention of a pair of unlikely university undergraduates. Attempting to locate the tomb of an ancient vampire queen who is the subject of their thesis, the two sexy students are lost and subsequently stumble onto Daninsky’s land when their car breaks down.

Offering them shelter until the vehicle can be repaired, Daninsky tries to hide his dark past while assisting the girls with his local knowledge. When the sarcophagus of the vampire queen is discovered, the trio ignore all the attendant warnings in opening it and unleash the fury of the resurrected succubus.

The vampiress quickly seduces the younger of the students (Gaby Fuchs) into the blood sucking lifestyle and it remains for the older and calmer student Elvira (Barbara Capell) and Daninsky (who rapidly fall in love) to prevent the pair using the forthcoming Walpurgis night to immeasurably increase their power which would spell doom for the human population. Yet with Walpurgis falling on the night of a full moon, Daninsky struggles to protect both the woman he loves and his secret...

If the above synopsis sounds somewhat stereotypical then that’s a fair conclusion. I doubt even in 1972, after the successful Hammer tradition of horror movies was winding down, that Werewolf Shadow wouldn’t seem overly familiar. In fact, the cliché checklist can be crossed off as you go: nubile young women require assistance, a charismatic host with a secret, a grand abode, the deformed/crazed hired hand, the scientific sceptic of an investigator.

All of these are present and correct which serve to underscore the paucity of a script which could survive in this genre if it were executed with a healthy dose of style or shocks. Alas, the style element is relegated to excessive use of slow motion (which instead of enhancing the ethereal quality of the vampires simply makes them bare their fake fangs ever more slowly) while the shocks are strictly of the old ‘hand on the shoulder’ routine.

Naschy, screen presence though he his, isn’t helped by the werewolf makeup. If you’re scared by a man running around with hairy cheeks, an extreme salivation disorder and a feral roar that sounds suspiciously like someone unconvincingly uttering “Grr…Grr” into a microphone then this film really will appear frightening.

The much-vaunted restoration of scenes of sex and violence don’t really liven up proceedings to any great extent. The lesbianism is implied through sultry glances and the licking of fangs rather than any female to female fondling and the werewolf attacks seem terribly quaint, especially by today’s TV Buffy standards.

Of course, all these criticisms are reason enough to give Werewolf Shadow a go. Definitely rooted in the ‘so bad it’s good’ camp of schlock horror, it benefits from a little of its own pretentiousness as the ludicrous and laughable is always shot through with a straight face, not least the climactic werewolf/vampire queen confrontation.

The key to this is Paul Naschy who manages to hold the film together, despite a constant battle against both his incongruous American dubbed voice and an ill-fitting toupee. Other actors fare less well, even in such low esteemed company, with Gaby Fuchs and Barbara Capell required to do little but snarl and flash a little flesh at the required opportunity but it’s Naschy’s show all the way and he makes the most of it.

Video
You can trust Anchor Bay to pull out all the stops for a movie with even the most obscure origin and it’s pleasing that Werewolf Shadow is no exception. Despite the print being 30 years old, the transfer is vivid with deep blacks and good shadow detail, essential for a film of this kind.

It’s by no means perfect of course in that it’s a little soft with plenty of grain in the brightly lit daytime exterior sequences but once you’ve sampled the shocking unrestored state of the trailer or TV spot in the extras section I guarantee that you’ll be amazed that this presentation looks as good as it does.

Audio
A Dolby Digital mono track is all that’s on offer here and perhaps its unreasonable to expect anything more given the no-budget nature of the movie itself. The dubbed dialogue is high enough in the mix from the centre speaker to be distinct among the howling of the werewolf and the wind.

Extras
First up on the extras slate is Interview With The Wolfman, a 15 minute conversation with Paul Naschy. Under his real name Jacinto Molina, Naschy makes for an engaging subject outlining his experiences working with the Spanish censor that necessitated making the werewolf of Polish origin and the students from an American university, the rigours of the makeup process and the nature of director Leon Klimovsky’s hurried dictatorial shooting style. From the passion and eloquence with which he talks in his native Spanish (subtitles are provided), you’d think that Naschy was reminiscing about the making of a modern classic movie but it’s refreshing at least to see someone who’s serious about their schlock.

To accompany this is a Paul Naschy Biography, a comprehensive text based affair that draws extensively from the subject’s own intriguing autobiography. If you didn’t previously know anything about Naschy (and I daresay that many people won’t) this is an ideal entry point and contains plenty of pointers to other films for which he’s appeared, written or directed.

Completing the trio of features focusing on the film’s main draw is a Paul Naschy Poster Gallery which is a thorough look at the print promotions of his films. Here a definite artistic style emerges for a Paul Naschy film poster, regardless of the movie’s actual content, perhaps attributable to Naschy’s previous occupation as an illustrator.

Next up is a Theatrical Trailer. Running for 3 minutes, this squeezes all the scenes featuring the werewolf into a single sequence with a frankly bored English voice over trying to illustrate how terrifying it all is. Definitely worth seeing for its sheer preposterous nature.

To tie in with the trailer is a shockingly edited 1 minute TV Spot with a highly amusing overblown voice over and abysmal print that makes it worth watching more than once just to grasp how inept was the film’s promotion.

Rounding out the special features selection is a Spanish Pressbook which ties in closely with the poster gallery as detailed above, establishing the visual style and tone of the promotional material.

The thoughtful menu design carries clips from the movie, with the scene access page being particularly well devised, as well as excerpts from the priceless faux funk soundtrack.

Overall
In looking for spine tingling werewolf terror, it really is impossible to recommend this movie. Although once again Anchor Bay must be commended in providing a decent disc, a hackneyed script, shoddy special effects and inept acting sink this mish mash of the werewolf and vampire genres.

However, for fans of lame European schlock horror, Werewolf Shadow will be like a dream come true. For all its’ faults, and no question something of a guilty pleasure, it’s the perfect excuse to park yourself in a comfy chair with a bowl of popcorn to while away the midnight hours...


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