Werewolf Shadow (US - DVD R1)
La luna es llena y Paul Naschy, El Hombre Lobo, ha vuelto para la sangre.
Paul Naschy returns for the fourth time as the immortal Waldemar Daninsky, a man cursed for eternity with the mark of the werewolf. After two hapless coroners foolishly remove the silver bullet from his heart, everyone’s favourite wolfman goes back into hiding. But when he rescues two young (and busty) women researching the legend of a vampire queen, the ménage a trios accidentally unleashes a ferocious rampage of bloodlust, lycanthropy and lesbianism.
Werewolf Shadow may be Paul Naschy’s most popular and commonly seen movie. The film marked the actor/writer’s fourth time staring as the tortured wolf man Waldemar Daninsky, a role he’d chew his way through on a total of twelve official occasions. Unlike some of the new BCI Eclipse Spanish Horror Collection releases, this isn’t the first region one availability of this particular film. The censored American version, under the titillating title The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman, was released by Madacy, under the studio’s ‘Killer Creature Double Feature’ series with The Screaming Skull. Besides being cut to ribbons the print was filthy, dark, and cropped into full-frame. Later genre champion Anchor Bay Studios (before they were purchased by Starz) released the uncut version under the title Werewolf Shadow, though that release has since gone out of print.
I’ve stated before that the Hombre Lobo films, the ones I’ve seen, aren’t my favourite among Paul Naschy’s campy horror catalogue. The series is repetitive and often these films take themselves too seriously to really tear it up. Werewolf Shadow is one of the two or three best in the series, but the attempts at poignancy, drama, and tragedy are all too common. There’ve only been a small handful of occasions where Naschy’s films have managed any genuine drama, and usually those films are otherwise filled with enough bizarre moments and strange creatures to keep the entertainment flowing. This is not one of those movies. No one watching the film (except maybe children) is going to feel genuinely bad for Daninsky, and no one is going to genuinely worry about his lady friends.
There are a few nominally chilling sequences, and an effective disco gothic atmosphere, but this is no gutter transcendent feature—the special effects are wonky, the acting is ripe even by cheap Spanish horror standards, and what is meant to be scary is usually just unintentionally funny. The balls-out silliness promised by the American release’s title isn’t ever really fulfilled (there’s very little werewolf on vampire woman action), but the pace is quick, the blood is red, and the lesbianism is rampant. Werewolf Shadow isn’t on my Naschy short list, but it’s a good time at the drive-in.
BCI Eclipse has once again done a bang up job cleaning the living hell out of an aged and cheap movie, and only a small niche of consumers are going to appreciate it. The clarity is rather amazing, and details are as sharp as one can expect from the production. This new clarity is especially valuable during the outdoor scenes that take place at dawn, where the light levels are so low the image could’ve devolved into black silhouettes. This image is discernable even during these dark scenes, yet the original intended effect doesn’t appear to have been lost, as the mood is still dark. Colours are a bit flat, but solid and relatively vibrant, and most importantly, consistent.
I’m assuming that BCI is planning on releasing all of these Spanish horror flicks on Blu-ray eventually, and given the studio’s output so far I’m also assuming the hi-def release will look very similar to this. There’s really only so much to be done with such original footage. There’s not a lot of compression noise on this print, though grain is a constant, edge enhancement is an issue, and some reds (and other warm colours) dance with low-level noise and or blooming. We can likely suspect these minor issues to go away with the Blu-ray release, assuming it’s still coming.
Werewolf Shadow features another two solid but damaged BCI audio tracks, one English, one Castilian. Also as per the norm both tracks are dubbed in post, despite the fact that most of the actors were likely speaking Castilian on set. Both tracks are presented in Dolby Digital two-channel Mono. The English track is (again) the stronger track, featuring a fuller soundtrack, clearer voices, and a generally warmer production quality. The Castilian track has its advantage on the musical track, which is a touch louder, and not over-powered by the ‘old dark house’ sound effects, but the overall volume level is noticeably quieter. The Castilian track is also a bit more consistent, as sometimes sound effects overlap what’s being said on the English track, but the overall sound is fuzzier and tinny. It’s really up to the viewer in the end.
The Anchor Bay release featured a remixed 5.1 English track with six minutes of Castilian only during the scenes that had been previously missing from the US print. I can’t remember the track very well, but based on the time period the disc was released, I’m guessing it was basically the same as this mono track, only with a fully, though perhaps artificially produced LFE channel. If my memory serves me correctly the English drop out is basically identical between this and the Anchor Bay release.
I believe this is the first BCI Naschy release without a Naschy introduction, and I also believe it’s the first to be missing a trailer. The only extras are the full American The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman version of the film, and a still gallery. The inclusion of the US version is a point of controversy among fans, as it apparently is missing parts of the US soundtrack, and it generally looks like crap. I, myself, am unclear as to why BCI didn’t just assemble the US cut from their awesome looking original cut, or maybe even do a seamless branching version. I actually recommend skipping this version all together, unless you have found memories of seeing the film at the drive-in when it was first released, and are able to ignore the apparently missing soundtrack.
Werewolf Shadow is one of Naschy’s better El Hombre Lobo efforts, but it still doesn’t quite compare to the mad grandeur of Hunchback of Rue Morgue or Horror Rises from the Tomb. It’s a great weekend double feature, especially with another Naschy werewolf feature ( Curse of the Devil has also been re-released by Deimos, though I couldn’t get a review copy). Fans should be happy with the immaculate video quality, though they’ll likely be disappointed by the lack of extras.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 10th June 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Castilian, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono English
Extras: Original US Version, Still Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: León Klimovsky
Cast: Paul Naschy, Barbara Capell, Gaby Fuchs, Andres Resino, Valerie Samarine, Patty Shepard
Length: 94 minutes
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