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Plot: French students unwittingly awaken age-old Countess from slumber

The box office success of The Mark Of the Wolfman (1968) had abundantly proven that there was a legitmate domestic market for horror. Within the year a follow-up was produced with the Universal Monster/science fiction mash-up Assignment Terror (1969) with an aging Michael Rennie as the lead. The Fury Of the Wolfman (1970) was eventually released after a deeply troubled production period. For the fourth chapter in his El Hombre Lobo saga Naschy, the Spanish Lon Chaney, surrounded himself with professionals. The Wolfman vs the Vampire Woman was produced to profit from the gothic horror revival of the early seventies and was written accordingly. In other words there’s plenty of skin and blood to satisfy anybody’s craving. A dashing leading lady and a swathe of ravishing supporting actresses ensured that The Wolfman vs the Vampire Woman would become the highest grossing Waldemar Daninsky episode up to that point. Helmed by former Argentinian dentist Léon Klimovsky The Wolfman vs the Vampire Woman made made horror into an industry in Spain – and as a throwback to the Universal Horror of the 1930s it is an highly atmospheric genre piece with more than plenty dream-like surrealism to draw in fanatics of the French fantastique.

When we catch up with Polish nobleman Waldemar Daninsky (Jacinto Molina Álvarez, as Paul Naschy) he is lying on a medical slab awaiting to be autopsied somewhere in France by Dr. Hartwig (Julio Peña) and his assistent Muller (Barta Barri). Muller reminds Hartwig to be cautious as Daninsky is rumored to be a werewolf. “It’s a werewolf, right?" Hartwig sarcastically remarks, “According to the legend, if the bullet that killed him is extracted from his heart, he should come back to life.” Hartwig’s skepticism is immediately rewarded with a gash to the throat and Muller doesn’t fare any better despite heeding old folklore. Before the titlecard the wolven Daninsky has slashed a hapless traveling maiden (María Luisa Tovar), but not without ripping her shirt open first – because it’s that sort of production.

Meanwhile in a Parisian nightclub archeology student Elvira (Gaby Fuchs) fills her boyfriend inspector Marcel (Andrés Resino) in on the details on an excursion into the French countryside she and her friend and fellow student Genevieve Bennett (Barbara Capell, as Bárbara Capell) are embarking on in order to do research for their final thesis. As convention would have it the intrepid duo’s BMC ADO16 Sedan breaks down in the middle of nowhere in the rural French countryside. “Perhaps Count Dracula will appear,” Genevieve remarks jokingly in a line that foreshadows Count Dracula’s Great Love (1973), “and he will invite us to spend the night in his castle.” Mere moments later Waldemar Daninsky invites the stranded intrepid student duo to the comforts of his opulent mansion where he’s studying the history and architecture of gothic churches and has been grimly brooding over the lycanthropic affliction that seizes him whenever the moon is full. Over dinner the two girls inform Waldemar of the reason of their excursion into the farther regions of the French countryside. That night Elvira is assaulted and almost injured by Daninsky’s live-in mentally unstable sister Elisabeth (Yelena Samarina).

Elvira and Genevieve are searching for the tomb of 18th century aristocrat Countess Wandesa Dárvula de Nadasdy, who is patterned after Hungarian countess Erzsébet Bathory, in the French coutryside. Daninsky spents the next day exploring the region with Elvira, scouting the location where he believes the tomb of the Countess is to be found. According to the girls the Countess is from the 11th century, even though the etchings on her gravestone put her in the 15th century. In a scene recreated wholesale from Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960) Genevieve cuts herself while removing the lid from the unearthed sarcophagus, dripping copious amounts of blood on the Countess’ skeletal remains. Before long the maiden’s blood has resurrected Countess Wandesa Dárvula de Nadasdy (Patty Shepard, as Paty Shepard). Soon Genevieve is seduced and vampirized by Wandesa and Waldemar struggles to protect Elvira from the Countess and Genevieve’s sanguine predilections as well as his own wolven inclinations. It wasn’t the first time the two had met. Daninsky crossed paths with Countess Wandesa Dárvula de Nadasdy earlier in The Mark Of the Wolfman (1968) when she called herself Wandessa Mikhelov and was played by Aurora de Alba. With the spate of murders that the Countess leaves in her wake it isn’t long before inspector Marcel hurries to rural France to rescue Elvira from two very different but equally grave threats…

Greenville, South Carolina actress Patty Shepard - one of the two daughters of retired United States Air Force general Leland C. Shepard Jr., who was stationed air force base in Torrejón de Ardoz, Spain at the time – was tipped as the new Barbara Steele, but she quickly faded into obscurity once interest in Spanish horror started to wane in the mid 1970s. At age 18 she moved to Spain to work as a model. Her modeling work led to her being cast in continental European exploitation movies. In a career that spanned two decades Shepard appeared in over fifty Spanish, Italian and French films from the 1960s to the 1980s. Shepard debuted in Jess Franco’s Dan Leyton Eurocrime caper Residence For Spies (1966) and soon moved up the industry ladder with the gialli My Dear Killer (1972) and The Killer Is One of Thirteen (1976). Among her more enduring efforts were the Bud Spencer-Terence Hill actioner Watch Out, We’re Mad (1974) and Slugs (1988) from Spanish pulpmeister Juan Piquer Simón at the tall end of her career. After retiring from acting Shepard had a boutique in the Plaza de España (whether in Sevilla or Madrid is unclear) that also went out of business eventually.

Barbara Capell was a German import that had been a fixture in raunchy domestic comedies and dramas from Franz Jozef Gottlieb and directors of similar ilk in the late 1960s. Gaby Fuchs was brought in from Austria and like Capell she too had done her share of sex comedies early in her career. Firmly establishing her name were the soft erotic Grimm retelling The New Adventures of Snow White (1969), the British-German Inquisition classic Mark Of the Devil (1970), and Around the World with Fanny Hill (1970) that had Christina Lindberg in a supporting role. Betsabé Ruiz was a few years away from a memorable bit part in Amando de Ossorio’s The Loreley’s Grasp (1973), which made better use of her considerable talents, and Andrés Resino was yet to drive glorious Gloria Guida to the end of her wits in Monika (1974). María Luisa Tovar would encounter more vampires in Léon Klimovsky’s The Dracula Saga (1973), and Curse Of the Vampire (1974) as well as making an uncredited appearance in The Loreley’s Grasp (1973). Hungarian actor Barta Barri on the other hand was an experienced veteran having starred in diverse offerings as Ignacio F. Iquino’s Brigada Criminal (1950), Eugenio Martín’s swashbuckling epic Conqueror of Maracaibo (1961), the Jess Franco spy spoof Kiss Me, Monster (1969), and was yet to star in the highly atmospheric Horror Express (1972) and The Strange Love of the Vampires (1975).

As every Naschy production worth its salt The Wolfman vs the Vampire Woman doesn’t shy away from blood, nudity and sapphic love. Moreso than The Mark Of the Wolfman (1968) and The Fury Of the Wolfman (1970), The Wolfman vs the Vampire Woman has Fuchs finding herself inexplicably drawn to the diminuitive Daninsky, while suggesting that Capell and Fuchs were lovers at one point or another during their university studies. The Wolfman vs the Vampire Woman pushes Capell towards Shepard once Fuchs couples with Naschy and wastes absolutely no time whatsoever in getting to the point by having María Luisa Tovar getting her dress torn open when she is savaged by the wolven Daninsky. Later Capell gets her blouse ripped open by Daninsky’s deranged sister, and Fuchs appears topless in the obligatory love scene. Betsabé Ruiz on the other hand is terribly, and unforgivably, wasted on what amounts to nothing more than a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo. She would be put to greater use in The Loreley’s Grasp (1972) and The Dracula Saga (1973). To add to the sleaze factor Daninsky’s creepy handyman Pierre (José Marco), who has a predilection towards kidnapping and raping attractive female tourists that come to town, is violently killed and mutilated during one of Daninsky’s multiple lycanthropic episodes, but only after he has sufficiently threatened life and limb of Gaby Fuchs’ Elvira. At least in the international English language version, whereas in the Spanish original he offhandedly fills Elvira in on some historical peculiarities of their surroundings.

Helmed by transplanted Argentinian Léon Klimovsky and assistant director Carlos Aured The Wolfman vs the Vampire Woman makes full use of the mist-shrouded locales and foggy, candlelit interiors. The slow-motion vampire scenes greatly add to the unearthly, almost surreal atmosphere. As before the werewolf make-up was styled after Lon Chaney, Jr. and the entire production bathes in Boris Karloff stylings. The delightfully creaky score by Antón García Abril is in line with much of the earlier El Hombre Lobo installments, and Carlos Aured would helm his own feature with Curse Of the Devil (1972). One scene in particular probably served as an inspiration to Amando de Ossorio to write Tombs of the Blind Dead, which was made just a few months later in 1971. While at the ruined chapel where the Countess is buried, Elvira is accosted by a hooded zombified monk. The decomposed cleric bears more than a passing resemblance to de Ossorio’s own famous Templar Knights from the famed Blind Dead franchise. The English-language cut as Wolfman vs the Vampire Woman truncates several scenes, omitting some of the more gratuitous gore and excising a least part of the rampant nudity as well as having a different score and opening montage. In all it trims 8 minutes of footage compared from the original Spanish language version.

Plot: where Monika goes confusion follows. Hilarity ensues!

Monika (released domestically as La Ragazzina that translates to Young Girl) is historic for being the debut of blonde bombshell Gloria Guida. In a blitz career that would only last 8 years Guida would be the star of a series of almost interchangeable bawdy sex comedies that banked heavily, if not entirely, on her willingness to shed clothes. The credit of discovering one of Italy's most enduring and popular commedia sexy all'Italiana Lolitas is Mario Imperoli, who would direct her in Blue Jeans (1975) and shoot her to domestic superstardom with nothing but a pair of very low-cut jeans.

Miss Teen Italy 1974 Gloria Guida

In the wild and exuberant seventies Gloria enchanted everyone everywhere she went. Guida was Miss Teen Italy, 1974 and bound to turn heads. In 1974 Gloria was 19 years and starred in only two movies. The following year would be one of her busiest as she starred in 7 (!!) movies and played, chronologically, a novice nun, a disgruntled socialite heiress, her world-famous schoolgirl, a naughty maid, a young and willing debutante, and a wayward prostitute. Gloria was frequently paired with slapstick specialists Lino Banfi, and Alvaro Vitale, as well as genuine comedic talent as Enzo Cannavale, Lando Buzzanca, and Vittorio Caprioli. In 1981 Guida married to crooner, actor, and showman Johnny Dorelli. Like her husband Guida maintained a singing career until that ended too in 1991. Since retiring Gloria has lived in Italy with her husband and remains a star domestically despite not having done anything significant in many years.

Monika (Gloria Guida) is a fun-loving sixteen-year-old who has an unrequited love for her art professor Bruno De Angelis (Andrés Resino). She doesn't like her boyfriend Leo (Gian Luigi Chirizzi) too much, and when he isn't annoying her she's courted by an uncredited middle-aged gentleman. The situation at home isn't much better. Her lawyer father Massimo Moroni (Paolo Carlini) is married to his job leaving his bored, stay-at-home wife Sandra (Colette Descombes) to seek her pleasure elsewhere. To Monika's dismay her mother holds up an affair with her art professor when she's not tempting her neighbour with topless sunbathing, striking sexy poses, and skinny dipping. All Monika wants is to be loved, but all men seem only interested in one thing. If only Monika could meet the right man...

As low on story as Monika is it never fails to showcase Gloria at her finest. In that capacity she can be seen sporting impossibly short mini-skirts, getting the prerequisite medical check-up, in the shower as well as a a bout of topless sunbathing, and her soon-to-be signature: running around across the countryside with little to no clothes on. While most of Gloria's comedies tend to be identical there are thankfully some exceptions. Her most creative probably is The Minor (1974), and her most iconic La Liceale (1975). Usually (but not always) her sexy melodramas tend to be stronger than her comedies and as such That Malicious Age (1975) and So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious (1975) come highly recommended. If Gloria has one classic to her name it would be the Fernando Di Leo satire To Be Twenty (1978), a scathing polemic so rich in political subtext and some of the darkest cynicism disguised as a sex comedy that it was misunderstood upon original release. It also helped that it co-starred that other famed Lolita from the Golden Age of commedia sexy all’Italiana, miss Lilli Carati.

Supporting Gloria Guida are Paolo Carlini, Colette Descombes, and Andrés Resino. Paolo Carlini debuted in 1940 and his first big break came with the William Wyler directed Roman Holiday (1953) with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Carlini also appeared in It Started In Naples (1960) with Clark Gable and Sophia Loren. In the 1970s Carlini frequently appeared in comedies and Imperoli would cast him once more for the crime flick Like Rabid Dogs (1976). Colette Descombes was a French actress that ended up in Italy, and her most notable entry is the giallo Orgasmo (1969) from Umberto Lenzi. Andrés Resino played a professor earlier in the León Klimovsky directed Waldemar Daninsky epic The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971) with Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy.

Never underestimate the appeal of a blue-eyed blonde that's prone to get naked. Guida played just about every possible male fantasy figure, everything from a naughty nun, a night nurse, and (more often than not) sex-crazed socialites or horny Catholic schoolgirls. The only thing that Gloria never came around to play was the l'insegnante or the teacher. As unbelievable as it may sound Gloria etched out a career almost exclusively in sex comedies and coming of age dramas. Whereas her contemporaries Barbara Bouchet, Evelyne Kraft, Edwige Fenech, and Rosalba Neri branched out into a variety of Eurocult genres, for some reason she never did. Imagine what a giallo with Gloria Guida could have been. Imagine what Renato Polselli or Luigi Batzella could have conjured up with her starring.

Monika comes from a time when Gloria Guida had yet to define herself as the penultimate Italian sexbomb, and the once-and-future queen of lowbrow Italian sex comedies and coming of age melodramas. It seemed that everybody realized early on where Guida's strengths lie, and in the years to follow she would be taking her clothes off in increasingly absurd (and sometimes genuinely comedic) situations. While not all Guida comedies are created equal she did some excellent work with Silvio Amadio, and Mariano Laurenti. She would never equal or surpass her lone stint with Fernando Di Leo (and neither would her co-star Lilli Carati for that matter) and fortunately she never ended up working with hacks like Alfonso Brescia in her post-1975 and post-To Be Twenty (1978) years. Gloria was wise to quit when she did, by her own volition and with her dignity intact.