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Plot: Waldemar Daninsky fights bandits, witches, cannibals, vampires, and a Yeti too!

La Maldición de la Bestia (or The Curse of the Beast, released in Europe under the more descriptive title The Werewolf and the Yeti and in North America as Night Of the Howling Beast) is the eighth chapter in the epic El Hombre Lobo saga and according to director Miguel Iglesias it did better on the international market than at home. The final of the classic era at long last explores that burning question first raised in The Fury Of the Wolfman (1970) some five years before. What horrible fate exactly befell noted anthropologist Waldemar Daninsky on that ill-fated journey into the Himalayas? The Werewolf and the Yeti was Paul Naschy’s ultimate pièce de résistance and saw his cursed Polish nobleman face off against Nepalese bandits, witches, cannibals, and his ancient arch-nemesis, the ravenna strigoi mortii Wandesa – and a Yeti, too. The Werewolf and the Yeti is probably the best El Hombre Lobo this side of The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971) and the ambitious The Return Of Walpurgis (1973).

This time Waldemar Daninsky has quite the gallery of rogues to withstand. His first order of business are a bunch of Himalayan cave-dwelling cannibal vampires Second, and more importantly, he has to defeat a band of Nepalese bandits led by Temugin and face the even greater threat of warlord Sekkar Khan. To top things off, Khan is but a plaything for the mighty Wandesa Dárvula de Nadasdy, the ancient and nefarious sorceress he had faced two times before in The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971) and The Mark of the Wolfman (1968). Finally, and probably more of an afterthought than a real adversary, a Yeti is on the loose and killing people. It’s up to Waldemar Daninsky to stop all of them from wreaking havoc upon the innocent. One way of describing The Werewolf and the Yeti is like a greatest hits of sorts. What better way to start exploring the crazy El Hombre Lobo saga than with an episode that has a bit of everything (and plenty of craziness of its own) that came before? For one, it’s probably the single-most breakneck paced and veritably insane of the series.

Esteemed Polish anthropologist and psychologist Waldemar Daninsky (Jacinto Molina Álvarez, as Paul Naschy) is summoned to London, England at behest of his old friend and archeologist professor Lacombe (José Castillo Escalona, as Castillo Escalona). Lacombe has come into possession of irrefutable proof that the mythical Yeti does exist. Tragically, it was the last sign of life from the doomed Sylas Newman expedition into Dathokari, Kathmandu. Lacombe is mounting an expedition into Tibet with his daughter Sylvia (Mercedes Molina, as Grace Mills) and his team – Lacombe’s assistant Ralph (Ventura Ollé), Melody (Verónica Miriel), as well as strongmen Norman (Juan Velilla), and Larry Talbot (Gil Vidal) - with Daninsky acting as their guide. In Tibet native liaison Tiger (Gaspar "Indio" González) and his sherpas will guide the expedition deep into the land. The way Daninsky sees it the best place to start is where the Newman trail went cold. That place is the mountain range of Karakoram on the borders of Pakistan, India, and China.

Bad weather conditions force the expedition to seek an alternative route to the Rombuc barrier and the pass that the Newman expedition mentioned in their communiquées. Tiger is none too happy with the prospect and issues a dire warning that local folklore and superstition claim the "Pass of the Demons of the Red Moon" is cursed and thus to be avoided. Not wanting to endanger the life of his men Tiger helps the group find someone willing to venture into the cursed land. That man is cross-eyed, semi-alcoholic, and half-mad adventurer Joel (Víctor Israel). Waldemar volunteers to follow Joel into the pass but when he disappears under mysterious circumstances Daninsky soon finds himself lost in the endless snows. Exhausted and injured from his ordeal Waldemar seeks refuge in a nearby cave and finds that it’s inhabited by two attractive women (Carmen Cervera and Pepa Ferrer). The semi-feral women nurse him back to health – and just when he is strong enough to journey back he discovers both of them are cannibal vampires. In the throes of passion he’s bitten and cursed with lycanthropy but manages to escape.

Around the same time the remainder of the expedition is taken hostage by Temugin (José Luis Chinchilla) who takes them to the stronghold of Sekkhar Khan (Luis Induni). Khan is a vicious warlord who has plans to expand his dominion and his armed troops have thrown the region into chaos and destroyed any and all existing opposition. Khan has annexed it for his own and enslaved local ruler princess Ulka (Ana María Mauri). Before rejoining the expedition Waldemar is entrusted with a cure for his full moon sickness by monk Lama (Fernando Ulloa). While Sekkhar Khan obviously poses enough of a threat by his lonesome, the black force behind him, the immortal witch Wandesa (Silvia Solar) - whom Daninsky faced twice before in lives once lived - does not take kind of Waldemar’s interference, wolfen or otherwise, and has Sekkhar Khan dole out severe punishment for his transgressions. With the professor, Sylvia, and Melody imprisoned by Khan’s bandit forces and princess Ulka rendered powerless Waldemar has but one option: to risk life and limb to rescue his friends from the claws of the warlord and his diabolical mistress. To make matters worse Daninsky also has to keep them out of the hungry maw of that pesky Yeti that is still at large…

After the gothic horror and mad science of the prior six episodes The Werewolf and the Yeti ramps up the action-adventure aspect. At times it sort of feels like a budget-deprived antecedent to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) - except that that was a tribute to 1930s adventure serials, and Naschy’s feels like a 1950s adventure with a copious amount of blood, sex, and just about every monster that was popular in 70s horror. Actually, Naschy was never given the due credit for the inclusion of cannibalism here. Sure, it was more of the hokey The Night of the Sorcerers (1974) variety – but even by that standard he was early to the races. Man from Deep River (1972) is probably the earliest Italian example of the genre, and Argentina got there even earlier with the Libertad Leblanc jungle adventure Captive Of the Jungle (1969). Vampires and witches had been sweeping over Mediterranean Europe for a good five years by 1975, and they always had a been a staple of the Naschy oeuvre. In keeping with the times The Werewolf and the Yeti is easily the bloodiest and sleaziest of the classic El Hombre Lobo canon. With Mercedes Molina, Verónica Miriel, and Silvia Solar there’s plenty to look at and neither shy from taking their tops off when and where it matters. Naschy, of course, never hid why he casted all these Eurobabes in the first place either. Solar might not have the same prestige as Helga Liné, Adriana Ambesi, Diana Lorys, Mirta Miller, or Perla Cristal – but for an elder stateswoman she’s hardly the worst choice. If it wasn't for this Solar would never have done the possibly even more insane Eurociné gothic horror The Wicked Caresses of Satan (1976).

In a series that always prided itself in having some the most beloved and delectable Eurobabes, The Werewolf and the Yeti probably features the least known. Where it previously had former Bond girls (Karin Dor), local superstars (Aurora de Alba, Yelena Samarina, Perla Cristal, and Mirta Miller), hot-to-trot starlets (Dyanik Zurakowska, Rosanna Yanni, Fabiola Falcón, and Maritza Olivares), imported talent (Gaby Fuchs, Barbara Capell, Patty Shepard, and Shirley Corrigan), and reliable domestic second-stringers (Betsabé Ruiz, María Silva, María Luisa Tovar, Victoria Hernández, and Marisol Delgado) the only real star of note here is Silvia Solar. Compared to any and all of their illustrious predecessors Mercedes Molina, Verónica Miriel, and Ana María Mauri are nobodies, relative or otherwise. Why did we never see any French belles (Dominique Delpierre, Edwige Fenech, Françoise Pascal, Jeanne Goupil, or Muriel Catalá), Swedish sex goddesses (Leena Skoog, Solveig Andersson, Christina Lindberg, Marie Forså), Italo babes (Claudia Gravy, Erika Blanc, Gloria Guida, Rita Calderoni, Barbara Magnolfi, Paola Tedesco, Laura Antonelli or Femi Benussi) or exotic delights (Laura Gemser, Zeudi Araya, and Me Me Lai) alongside Naschy?

The appearance of Shirley Corrigan never led to an influx of UK babes (Barbara Steele, Candace Glendenning, Valerie Leon, Yutte Stensgaard, Kirsten Lindholm, Pippa Steele, or Judy Matheson). Why did no German sex comedy starlets (Christina von Blanc, Ursula Buchfellner, Olivia Pascal, Edwige Pierre, Christine Zierl) or Lederhosenporn regulars (Ingrid Steeger, Ulrike Butz, Judith Fritsch, Alena Penz, Flavia Keyt, or Gisela Schwartz), Cine-S superstars (Eva Lyberten, Andrea Albani, Sara Mora), or famous foreign imports (Lynn Lowry, Danielle Ouimet, Anulka Dziubinska) and Latin American horror royalty (Amalia Fuentes, Tina Romero, Susana Beltrán, Gloria Prat, or Maribel Guardia) ever turn up over the course of the latter El Hombre Lobo episodes? It’s unbelievable enough that famous locals as Maribel Martín, Carmen Yazalde, Silvia Tortosa or Tina Sáinz never were part of the series – or Naschy’s other work for that matter.

The Werewolf and the Yeti marked the end of an era. Four more sequels would materialize sporadically over the next two decades, but the halcyon days of Waldemar Daninsky were now well and truly behind him. During the eighties - a decade that saw a great decline in Italian and Spanish horror and exploitation - only two episodes were produced with Return of the Wolfman (1980) and the Japanese co-production The Beast and the Magic Sword (1983). After that Daninsky would only resurface with Lycantropus: The Moonlight Murders (1997) that was cut to shreds by director Francisco Rodríguez Gordillo. Closing chapter Tomb of the Werewolf (2004) fared possibly even worse being written and directed by American low budget impresario Fred Olen Ray and late cinematographer Gary Graver. Naschy and fellow veteran John Henry Richardson found themselves surrounded by a bevy of American screamqueens (Michelle Bauer, Danielle Petty, Beverly Lynne, Monique Alexander) in a production that bore little semblance to what Jacinto Molina had spent 40 years cultivating. It’s a sorry end for one of Naschy’s greatest and most enduring cinematic creations. Alas, time had not been kind to Naschy and somehow he had become a relic of a bygone age. Although reappraised in his native Spain in his old age and duly recognized and awarded internationally for his cinematic contributions, Paul Naschy would pass away, age 75, in Madrid in 2009. Naschy might be dead, but El Hombre Lobo is forever.

Plot: griefstricken nobleman is forced to confront his family’s dark past.

There’s a reason why Necrophagus (released in North America rather cynically as either Graveyard Of Horror and alternatively The Butcher Of Binbrook to profit from the then-emergent giallo cycle and the gothic horror revival, respectively) is considered nothing but a long forgotten footnote in the annals of Spanish horror. Even by 1962 the Mediterranean and Latin American gothic was more risqué and sexier than this. It’s a feeble and futile attempt to do a period piece horror in the vein of Hammer for an Iberian audience – and Necrophagus obviously failed gloriously. With half the Spanish cast hiding behind pseudonyms, the usual washed up American expatriates collecting a paycheck and a director with more enthusiasm than talent you know exactly what you’re in for. It’s never a complete disaster like The Witches Moutain (1973) two years later and while it didn’t outright kill Madrid’s career it certainly didn’t help either. For all intents and purposes, Necrophagus is a beautiful trainwreck that could, and should, have been so much more than we ended up getting.

In the grand scheme of things Miguel Madrid Ortega is a largely overlooked director with a minuscule body of work that is largely inaccessible, obscure and forgotten. Ortega started out as an actor in the Jesús Franco production The Sadistic Baron von Klaus (1962) and a number of comedies and dramas before turning to directing. Unlike the oeuvres from Paul Naschy, Léon Klimovsky, Amando de Ossorio, Miguel Iglesias, Javier Aguirre, Juan Piquer Simón, and Jesús Franco his prime trio of features are mostly remembered for the wrong reasons. There’s Killing Of the Dolls (1975), a minor giallo that garnered some infamy with the tragical killing of its 29-year-old doll Inma DeSantis in an unfortunate car accident in the Sahara Desert in Morocco and the drama Bacanal en Directo (1979). His delightfully demented debut effort Necrophagus arrived just in time to profit from the gothic horror revival. Madrid was neither a hack like Raúl Artigot nor a talent taken before his time the way Claudio Guerín was.

After a business trip abroad aristocrat Lord Michael Sharrington (Bill Curran) returns to the old family seat in Scotland. There he learns that his wife Elizabeth (Inés Morales, as Senny Green) has expired in childbirth and that his brother and lord of the manor Robert (J.R. Clarke), the Earl of Binbrook and “the greatest scientist in the world”, has mysteriously disappeared. His brother has left Binbrook Castle to his wife Lady Anne (Catherine Ellison, as Catharine Ellison), her niece Margaret (Beatriz Elorrieta, as Beatriz Lacy) and his former assistant Dr. Lexter (Frank Braña, as Frank Brana). Living near are Elizabeth’s mother Barbara (María Paz Madrid, as Yocasta Grey) and Michael’s sisters-in-law Lilith (Titania Clement) and Pamela (María Luisa Extremeño, as Marisa Shiero). When Michael, shellshocked from the loss of both his wife and their unborn child, is met with hostility and obstinate silence whenever inquiring after his late wife. His sisters-in-law vy for his affections, berate one another for trying to sabotage Michael’s marriage and as such are constantly at each other’s throat. With the female members of the household shrouding themselves in secrecy and with no answers forthcoming, Michael decides to do some investigating of his own. The only person in town willing to talk is geriatric physician Dr. Kinberg (Antonio Jiménez Escribano).

As a man of science the only logical thing for Sharrington to do is disinterring his wife. There he comes to the shocking conclusion that not only her coffin, but all of the coffins in the cemetery, are vacant. The graveyard is haunted by cloaked, masked figures that pry open caskets. He finds out that his brother was on the verge of an important scientific breakthrough in his research into “the origin of man”. His latest experiment, one he performed on himself, dealt with “the transmutation of human cells” and left him with a craving for human flesh. Lady Anne and Lexter are aware of Robert’s carnivorous appetites and satiate his cravings by providing him with cadavers exhumed from the burial ground, or fresh bodies from Lexter’s deceased patients. Since that time the town does not speak of its hidden horror, The Butcher Of Binbrook, who they keep from preying on the living by feeding him their dead. To avoid suspicion Lady Anne and Lexter have ensnared caretaker Mr. Fowles (Víctor Israel) and Inspector Harrison (John Clark) in their graverobbing scheme. Lady Anne is broke and in a deviant sexual liaison with Lexter, and the two won’t let anything or anyone – living, dead or undead - get in the way in their quest for self-enrichment.

The screenplay by Madrid, under his usual alias Michael Skaife, is needlessly convoluted for what otherwise is a fairly straightforward Frankenstein variation. A non-linear narrative – full of sepia-toned flashbacks and dream sequences – isn’t what you’d typically expect of a gothic horror piece, and it needlessly complicates what ought to be a standard genre exercise. What it lacks in finer writing it overcompensates with that thick, decaying Mediterranean atmosphere of mildew, cobwebs and candlelabras. It desperately wants to make viewers believe it is British and a Hammer Horror movie but nothing could be further from the truth. Curiously, it’s also practically bereft of the two things that Mediterranean gothic horror usually thrives upon, namely nudity and blood/gore. Nudity, when and if it appears, is implied rather than shown, and the gore is absolutely minimal. The cinematography isn’t exactly riveting but at least director of photography Alfonso Nieva makes good usage of the San Martín de Valdeiglesias and Pelayos de la Presa monasteries in Madrid and the graven snow-covered landscapes look absolutely chilling. The ominous score from Alfonso Santisteban is fittingly brooding but hardly exemplary. Marisa Shiero, Titania Clement, and Beatriz Elorrieta hold their own well enough, but aren’t exactly on the level as Rosanna Yanni, María Elena Arpón, Betsabé Ruiz, or Rita Calderoni. Neither is María Paz Madrid a leading lady on remotely the same level as Eurocult pillars Lone Fleming, Luciana Paluzzi, Silvia Tortosa, Diana Lorys, Adriana Ambesi, or Perla Cristal. Necrophagus makes the most from its creaky production values, but the dire lack of funds are rather obvious.

Granted, everything here is decidedly second-rate. None of the lead cast were known stars or bankable names, with only supporting actors Frank Braña, Antonio Jiménez Escribano, and Víctor Israel lending any marquee value. In fact Necrophagus was such concentrated effort of awful that it single-handedly ended more careers in front of the camera than it ushered in. It was powerful enough to kill the careers of María Paz Madrid, Marisa Shiero, Titania Clement, Catherine Ellison, John Clark, and leading man Bill Curran. Many of whom did little, if anything, of interest afterwards. Of the supporting cast only Inés Morales, Víctor Israel, and Frank Braña were able to escape its shadow unscathed and had long careers afterwards.

In the 1960s Frank Braña had parts in Sergio Leone’s western epics A Fistful Of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966) before turning up a decade later in cinematic cannonfodder and exploitation pulp as Alfonso Brescia’s budget – and talent deprived Battle Of the Amazons (1973), Miguel Iglesias’ jungle genre-hybrid Kilma, Queen of the Amazons (1976), the feminist barbarian epic Hundra (1983) (with Laurene Landon), and the three Juan Piquer Simón features Supersonic Man (1979), Pieces (1982), and Slugs (1988). Beatriz Elorrieta continued to act until 1986 before becoming a costume designer and working almost exclusively for her husband Javier Elorrieta. Víctor Israel was a macaroni western pillar with a storied career spanning four decades and several exploitation subgenres. As such he can be seen in Horror Express (1972) (with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing), The Witches Mountain (1973), The Wicked Caresses Of Satan (1975) (with Silvia Solar), The Werewolf and the Yeti (1975) (with Paul Naschy, Verónica Miriel, and Silvia Solar) and Hell Of the Living Dead (1980).

Everybody has to start somewhere and Necrophagus was but the second horror feature for special effects craftsman Antonio Molina, who had worked on Paul Naschy's Universal Monster-science fiction extravaganza Assignment Terror (1969) (with Michael Rennie and Karin Dor) and a host of spaghetti westerns and macaroni combat efforts earlier. Molina’s later credits include classic and not-so-classic Spanish horror ventures as The Wolfman vs the Vampire Woman (1971), Horror Rises From the Tomb (1973) and Jess Franco’s Eurociné jungle cheapie Devil Hunter (1980). In the following decade Molina worked himself into the mainstream with Pedro Almodóvar’s Live Flesh (1997) and All About My Mother (1999).

Necrophagus has the look and feel of a Filipino production, or of a lesser Paul Naschy feature, and information on the existence of a more explicit international cut is scarce to non-existent. It’s entirely within the realm of possibility that the production couldn’t afford to shoot additional footage for an international market release. Unbelievably, Miguel Madrid won the prize for best director at the 1971 Festival of the Cine de Terror at Sitges, Catalonia for Necrophagus. That Madrid would only direct Killing Of the Dolls (1975) and Bacanal en Directo (1979) in the aftermath proved that he had more enthusiasm than talent and that him winning the best director award at Sitges was premature at best.