Skip to content

Plot: Waldemar Daninsky calls upon Dr. Henry Jekyll to cure his lycantropy

The fifth installment in the continuing saga of cursed Polish nobleman Waldemar Daninsky benefitted from an experienced cast and director. Being nestled in between the masterful gothic horror - and erotic vampirism tour de force The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971) and the more epic inclined Carlos Aured directed The Return of Walpurgis (1973) certainly didn’t help any. Filmed from a screenplay from the hand of the Spanish Lon Chaney himself, Paul Naschy (as Jacinto Molina) and with a befittingly creaky score by the prolific Antón García Abril and an uncredited Adolfo Waitzman, Doctor Jekyll and the Wolfman was directed by versatile Argentinian filmmaker León Klimovsky. With Klimovsky behind the camera and Naschy writing and starring, the fifth iteration of the El Hombre Lobo saga barges forward with a kinetic energy and commits itself fully to its sillier diversions. Silly though it might be Doctor Jekyll and the Wolfman is at its strongest when it dials up the decrepit atmosphere and when it allows Klimovsky to indulge in his artful quirks. Despite, or in spite of, all that it never quite reaches the atmospheric pomp of The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971).

Behind the camera would be frequent Paul Naschy collaborator León Klimovsky – the brother of the renowned Gregorio Klimovsky, Argentine’s greatest eminence in mathematical logic, philosophy and epistemology, who would receive 8 Honoris Causa doctorates and a declared citizen of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires - was a trained dentist who took to screenwriting and later directing. Legend would come to call him the “fastest director” in Spanish cinema. Klimovsky was famous in Argentine for his many literary adaptations, religious and arthouse films – even though he always worked on the fringes of domestic cinema. The Argentinean of Russian descent had a long association with Buenos Aires-based Argentina Sono Film, a company believed to have had strong ties with the Perón government. Raúl Alejandro Apold, film critic at El Mundi, became head of publicity at Sono Film and would be promoted to propaganda chief for the Perón regime.

Under mounting pressure, and to maintain a source of income, Klimovsky left the Argentine film industry in 1955 when the military dictatorship of president Juan Domingo Perón collapsed after his second term. Settling in Spain Klimovsky rapidly made a name for himself by shooting a number of exploitation movies, spaghetti westerns among them, in Mexico, Italy, Spain and Egypt. Uncommon for the time Doctor Jekyll and the Wolfman was shot directly in English and did not have to be overdubbed for the international market. Upholding the traditions of producing a feature under Franco’s repressive National-Catholic regime two versions were shot: a clothed version for the domestic market and a more nudity-laced version for the various international markets. Domestically Doctor Jekyll and the Wolfman was received to mostly mixed and generally negative reactions. It wasn’t the greatest El Hombre Lobo feature but it certainly wasn’t the worst by a long shot either.

Doctor Jekyll and the Wolfman coincided with the Jekyll & Hyde craze of the early 1970s and capitalized on the emerging the Marquis de Sade cycle that swept over French and Iberian genre cinema from the late sixties onward. For that reason the female lead character is named Justine. José Frade originally had expressed interest to produce the feature and Naschy and him worked on the screenplay. The production agreement fell through when Frade was stricken with ill health and Arturo González took over. Partly set in England Doctor Jekyll and the Wolfman gets most of its production value out of the exterior scenes shot in London and Westminster featuring famous tourist attractions as Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, the Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Soho where Mr. Hyde embarks on a brief reign of terror. For that occassion British actress Shirley Corrigan was cast among the leads. Corrigan had appeared in the Dario Argento giallo Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971) and the Belgo-Italian horror sub-classic The Devil’s Nightmare (1971).

Moving forward Shirley travelled to Germany to appear in Ernst Hofbauer’s Schoolgirl Report 6: What Parents Would Gladly Hush Up (1973) and Housewife Report International (1973) as well as appearing in Around the World with Fanny Hill (1974) and the Hubert Frank Tiroler sex comedy Unterm Röckchen Stößt das Böckchen (1974) (which translates to Under the skirt, the Little Boot hits). The remainder of the cast consisted of Spanish regulars including bit parts for María Luisa Tovar, the darkhaired sister of Loreta Tovar, Marisol Delgado and Lucy Tiller. The most interesting of the supporting cast is Heinrich Starhemberg, who in actuality was Austrian Prince Heinrich Rüdiger Karl Georg Francis von Starhemberg and son of actress Nora Gregor. A year down the line Starhemberg would play a bigger character in Klimovsky’s The Dracula Saga (1973) where he would use his Henry Gregor stage alias for the first time.

Upon learning of the death of his parents wealthy middle-aged entrepreneur and proud Hungarian Imre Kosta (José Marco, as Jose Marco) decides to take his young trophy wife Justine (Shirley Corrigan) on honeymoon to the old country. The couple end up having vehicular malfunctions in the environs of the medieval looking Baliavasta, near Transylvania, a village that time forgot somewhere around 1490 and which the script insists is in Hungary (and not Romania where Transylvania actually is). As Imre inspects the engine Justine goes wandering about and is scared half to death when a disfigured leper emerges from the bowels of one of the nearby derelict buildings. The two take up lodging in the village inn where innkeeper Gyogyo (Barta Barri, as Barta Barry) spouts ominous warnings to avoid the old cemetery claiming that it’s cursed and that it is too close to what the villagers collectively refer to as The Black Castle (whether the members of Dimmu Borgir are/were Paul Naschy fans has, sadly, never been disclosed). In the inn a trio of bandits led by Otvos (Luis Induni) and Thurko (Luis Gaspar) lay eyes upon the wealthy couple and before long are hatching a plan to rob the tourist duo. If the tales in the village are to be believed The Black Castle hides a horror even greater than those haunting the old cemetery. Shrugging off the innkeeper’s tales as plain old provincial superstition Imre and Justine set route for the old graveyard.

While inspecting the ancestral grave Kosta’s Rolls-Royce is broken into by the trio of undesirables that had been lustily eying Justine ever since they entered. Imre attempts to stop the robbery and is violently stabbed to death for his trouble. The three brothers then set their eyes on Justine, but they are stopped by the sudden appearance of a blackclad Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy) who, in short order, kills Thurko and his unsavory partner; one with a reversed bear hug and crushing the other beneath a boulder. Justine, who has fainted from such manly intervention as convention would dictate, is taken into The Black Castle by Daninsky and when she comes to Justine finds herself in an opulent bedroom. Picking up a candlelabra she aimlessly strolls the barely lid corridors for a bit only to find Waldemar brooding over Imre’s lifeless body. Understandably startled Justine tries to flee, but she’s scared into a cowering husk by the same disfigured leper that nearly attacked her in the old cemetery a few hours earlier. Waldemar and Uswika Bathory (Elsa Zabala) escort Justine back to her chambers. While Bathory explains Daninsky’s affliction to Justine, him and the leper bury Imre in ancestral ground. Taken aback by so much kindness and compassion Justine takes a shine to the diminutive Daninsky. Sworn to avenge the slaying of his brothers Otvos stirs the village into a torches, pitchforks and silver bullets wielding mob, killing Bathory by beheading in the chaos, necessitating Daninsky and freshly widowed Justine to flee to England.

In London, Justine contacts her dear old friend Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jack Taylor), a grandson of the character from the famous 1886 Robert Louis Stevenson novel, a prominent scientist at the prestigious Biological Research Clinic. Jekyll is of the opinion that with a revised version of his father’s serum he will be able to rid Daninsky of his his wolven form by letting his latent Mr. Hyde personality, borne from the same inborn evil as his lycantropy, manifest itself. He will then be injected with an agent that purges Mr. Hyde from his being, taking the lycantropy with it. Jekyll instructs Waldemar to come to the clinic on the day of the next full moon whereupon Jekyll and his trusted protégée Sandra (Mirta Miller, as Mirtha Miller) will conduct their experimental treatment. On his way to the clinic Waldemar boards an elevator with an attractive young nurse (Marisol Delgado) which breaks down until the full moon rises.

Waldemar succumbs to his lycanthropic nature, brutally mauls the nurse and after technicians fix the elevator the wolven Daninsky bursts into the foggy London streets killing a young prostitute (María Luisa Tovar) in the process. Apropos of nothing Waldemar is brought into the clinic again and the experimental treatment is administered. Against all odds the experiment is a success and Daninsky is freed from his monstrous affliction. Sandra, even madder than her elder scientist mentor, is jealous of the attention Justine is giving Jekyll and she plots to set Mr. Hyde (Paul Naschy) loose in retribution. She stabs Jekyll to death and injects Waldemar with another dosage of the Mr. Hyde serum. In the form of Mr. Hyde the Polish nobleman unleashes a brief reign of terror before the stroboscopic lights of a discothesque release his werewolf form once again. Will Justine be strong enough to end the life of the very man she has come to love?

Jack Taylor, Mirta Miller, José Marco, Barta Barri, and Luis Induni were all regulars in Spanish exploitation and all are fine form. Miller especially is excellent as the quite insane Sandra. She's far more of a presence here than in Count Dracula’s Great Love (1973) a year down the line. Taylor is his usual suave self and while not quite as masculine as, say, a Tony Kendall or Pier Luigi Conti his turn as Dr. Henry Jekyll is commendable as he’s genuinely concerned for Naschy’s well-being. Naschy’s second part as Edward Hyde is far more unintentionally comedic than it ought to be. Compared to the preceding chapters the El Hombre Lobo is far more brutal here. In short succession he kills two no-name characters that just happen to be beautiful actresses. María Luisa Tovar was usually called upon whenever a production needed an attractive, semi-exposed victim and Betsabé Ruiz or Cristina Galbó weren’t available. Marisol Delgado would serve similar purposes in Amando de Ossorio’s The Loreley’s Grasp (1973), Attack of the Blind Dead (1973), and Javier Aguirre’s The Killer Is One of Thirteen (1976), although she wasn’t nearly as prolific as Tovar was. Lucy Tiller, of Terence Young’s The Amazons (1973), has another throwaway role in a long line of such. Tiller, it seems, could never quite catch a break.

Doctor Jekyll and the Wolfman bears more than a passing resemblance to the earlier Assignment Terror (1969). Like its forebear it never quite knows on what atmosphere to settle and the basic plot of mad science unleashing classic monsters is refurbished in its entirety. At worst Doctor Jekyll and the Wolfman feels the grip of franchise fatigue clawing on itself. Thankfully the following two episodes would take a far more epic - or downright campy approach. That isn’t to say that Doctor Jekyll and the Wolfman is in any way bad, it’s clearly a lesser episode, but it still manages to be quite effective when it wants to be. Doctor Jekyll and the Wolfman has Naschy and Klimovsky seemingly on auto-pilot. Everything lines up the way you expect it to, and everything works the way it’s supposed to. It never commits itself to same level of insanity as some of the episodes prior or since. While serviceable, it never quite carves out a place of its own in the series. With León Klimovsky behind the camera it never lowers itself to the level of The Fury of the Wolfman (1970) but it also never reaches the peaks of Klimovsky’s superior The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971), or the Carlos Aured directed The Return of Walpurgis (1973). Neither does it have the excesses of Miguel Iglesias’ The Werewolf and the Yeti (1975), the last of the vintage El Hombre Lobo installments.

La_Ga_Lo

Plot: all-girl boarding school in Germany is beset by monstrous assailant

Before Spanish director Amando de Ossorio cemented his cinematic immortality with the lauded Blind Dead franchise, a series of highly atmospheric zombie movies, he was responsible for a number of respectable genre offerings. In 1969 he directed Malenka (released internationally as Fangs Of the Living Dead) and in 1974, just before the directing the final installment of his flagship franchise, he wrote and directed The Loreleys Grasp. Las Garras de Lorelei is an overlooked and little known entry into the director’s modest filmography, and whose other body of work is often ignored in favor of his more known Blind Dead franchise.

Las Garras de Lorelei was distributed internationally, somewhat haphazardly, as The Loreleys Grasp while the Claws of the Loreley is closer to the original Spanish title. In The Loreleys Grasp every fullmoon night Lorelei transforms into her scaly, reptile form, tearing out the hearts of victims, female and male alike. The movie is a delicate balancing act between fast-paced bloody kill scenes and slow-burning, tension building atmospheric sections. It was released in the US as the nonsensically titled When the Screaming Stops that insultingly tried to pass it off as, of all things, a slasher movie. Rising above budgetary limitations and stilted dialog is the likeable cast of Tony Kendall, the delectable duo Helga Liné, and Silvia Tortosa, along with exploitation regulars Luis Barboo, Luis Induni, and Betsabé Ruiz.

Leading man Tony Kendall had starred in a number of Eurocrime, spaghetti westerns and horror movies before appearing in The Loreleys Grasp. Prior to starring in The Loreleys Grasp, Helga Liné was an experienced horror veteran at this point, having starred in Nightmare Castle (1965), Horror Express (1972), León Klimovsky’s The Dracula Saga (1973), and Terence Young’s campy peplum The Amazons (1973). Silvia Tortosa had done mostly TV work before her appearance in Horror Express (1972). Helga Liné, who has the same seductive pale complexion here as she had in the delirious The Dracula Saga, spents much of her screentime in the skimpiest of outfits. Betsabé Ruiz, appearing only in a pre-title cameo as a bride, was in The Wolfman vs the Vampire Woman (1971)Return Of the Blind Dead (1973), Horror Rises From the Tomb (1973), and The Dracula Saga (1973). Many of the shocks, if there are any to be had, come from the economic and efficient practical effects. The scaly monster suit - which bears some resemblance to the Gill-Man from the classic Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) - is obviously rubbery, but sufficiently scary when obscured in shadow. The head, despite being cloaked, is unintentionally funny-looking and less than monstrous no matter from which angle it is shot. At its core The Loreleys Grasp is more of a tragically romantic love story than a horror, all overlaid with a Germanic folkloric concept.

The Loreleys Grasp is set in an unspecified German town near the Rhine where everybody inexplicably speaks English. Sigurd (Tony Kendall), a hunter described as a man who has “a great deal of experience!”, is set on the case when a young bride-to-be (Betsabé Ruiz) is bloodily killed. In a nearby tavern the Mayor (Luis Induni) tries to keep the story under wraps, while a blind Hungarian violinist (Francisco Nieto) will tell the legend of Lorelei to anybody willing to listen, including the tavern patrons. As these things tend to go none of the murders instigate a police investigation. Nor does the Mayor want any kind of attention from authorities despite the inexplicable nature of the slayings. Teacher Elke Ackerman (Silvia Tortosa), who boarding school director (Josefina Jartin) insists on calling “elle-key” instead of Elke, instructs the ruggedly handsome Sigurd, much to the delight of the assorted students (each a racial stereotype of themselves), to guard the premises.

Sigurd spents much of his time skulking around the boarding school, visibly having a great time at the faculty as he’s flirting with the student body (all of whom have delectable bodies), making a pass on head mistress Elke Ackerman, and throwing longing looks at the enigmatic Lorelei. He, of course, fails to connect the dots when Lorelei mysteriously turns up near bodies of water, and bodies of recently-slaughtered victims. Lorelei, true to her folkloric origins, is a Siren. When he runs into Lorelei again he follows her to a derelict building. There, lying down in a mildly suggestive manner that emphasizes her curves while wearing minimal of fabric, she practically admits, mostly through deflecting answering his questions directly, that she’s the Loreley of legend. Sigurd is either too distracted by her lovely curves, or not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and fails to connect the dots. In the meantime Sigurd has apprehended Professor Von Lander (Ángel Menéndez) who fills him in on the origins and possible ways to defeat the mythological monstrous adversary. Interestingly, Lorelei doesn’t get a name until after claiming her fourth victim.

Once Sigurd has become romantically entangled with both Elke Ackerman and daytime Lorelei, he is motivated to do that what he was actually contracted for. A submarine investigation of a nearby lake leads to the discovery of Loreley’s underground lair. Loreley lives in a well-lit and ornately designed grotto, complete with bikini-clad servants, her trusty man-servant/bodyguard Alberic (Luis Barboo) and an opulent throne room. A nearby chamber holds the Rhinegold, vast treasure from Loreley’s father Wotan. When Sigurd emerges at the grotto’s entrance Alberic intones, “my lady awaits you!”. Three bikini-clad servant girls emerge from shadows closely behind, representing the Rhinemaidens protecting the gold. In the throne room Loreley informs Sigurd of her origins, and tries to sway him with her very skimpy bikini, or by hypnotizing him with a luminescent magic crystal. The intruder is brought deeper into the grotto's bowels, and chained to a wall by Alberic. Once bound Loreley’s three bikini-clad servants fight over who likes Sigurd the most. Their quarreling allows Sigurd ample time to figure out an escape.

Of the two leading ladies Elke Ackerman starts out as a bun-haired, suit-wearing uptight headmistress but as the movie progresses she, quite literally, lets her hair down, as she longingly looks from her bedroom window at Sigurd and starts wandering aimlessly around outside in her nightgown. Ackerman, who in the third act addresses Sigurd as “Sirgurd” for some reason, becomes the requisite damsel-in-distress archetype when she’s abducted by Loreley. Not until it is too late does Sigurd realize that the bodacious Lorelei is the Loreley of folkloric legend. Things get murkier for Sigurd when he discovers that the object of his affection is the very same monstrous threat is he hired to kill. Sigurd is torn between his affection for day-time Loreley, and headmistress Elke Ackerman. Always the pragmatist, Sigurd rescues Elke from Loreley with Professor Von Lander’s dagger. This causes Lorelei to lose her nocturnal monster form. As her spirit form imposes, “we shall meet again in Valhalla! Sigurd, I’ll be waiting!” her corpse dissolves to smoldering remains soon after. With Lorelei waiting for him in the eternal halls of Valhalla, and Elke Ackerman as his present paramour, Sigurd reaps the most benefits of the situation.

Central to The Loreleys Grasp is the Germanic folklore tale Godwi oder Das steinerne Bild der Mutter by Clemens Brentano. In 1824 the tale was reworked as the poem Die Lorelei by Heinrich Heine. It also is influenced by the four-part Richard Wagner opera Der Ring des Nibelungen. Filmed on location in El Carcán, Torrelodones, the river Alberche in Madrid, Spain and in Rhine, Germany The Loreleys Grasp offers atmosphere and spectacle in equal measure. For the time The Loreleys Grasp was suggestive and risqué (it never lowers itself to the sort of tactless smut that comprises much of output from Jesús Franco and Joe D'Amato alike) in its depiction of nudity and violence. Much of the nudity is implied rather than flat-out shown. When nudity does occur directly, it is part of a grotesquely violent and overly bloody kill scene. Like the Blind Dead movies before it The Loreleys Grasp is at strongest when its atmosphere is at its thickest.

Among Spain’s horror directors the work of Amando de Ossorio isn’t quite as unhinged and haphazardly written as some offerings from stalwarts Paul Naschy, or León Klimovsky. Infusing a part of his filmography with mythical properties de Ossorio’s work for the most part tends to be high on atmosphere. What The Loreleys Grasp lacks in practical effects prowess is complemented by its lovely cast, and the somewhat tragic love story at its center. Both leading ladies excel at the parts they are given. Silvia Tortosa was magnificently cast as the initially uptight and demure Elke Ackerman. Helga Liné, in her dual role as the titular character, isn’t given a lot to do early on. Her introduction is only in brief glimpses, and completely bereft of dialog. Once the plot is set up Liné occupies herself by cavorting around lakeside marshes in the skimpiest of bikinis. The Loreleys Grasp is a movie that calls for a certain level of class of its leading man. Tony Kendall, a typical rugged and fearless 1970s man, was cut for the part – as he exudes the same kind of aristocratic sophistication as Ángel del Pozo, Miguel de la Riva, or Bill Curran. There truly is no better place to start exploring the world of Amando de Ossorio than The Loreleys Grasp. It has plenty of atmosphere, a monster, and a lovely cast.