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Plot: Waldemar Daninsky becomes the subject of a mad scientist

The Mark Of the Wolfman (1968) made Paul Naschy the new promise of Spanish horror. Lucrative as the first El Hombre Lobo feature was follow-ups were bound to follow. The first of these was the Universal Monster/science fiction hybrid Assignment Terror (1969) with a cadaverous Michael Rennie and German import/erstwhile Bond girl Karin Dor. The alleged French co-production Nights Of the Werewolf (1968) (with a cast including Peter Beaumont, Monique Brainville, Helene Vatelle, and Beba Novak) is widely believed to be a fabrication on Naschy’s part to bolster his then-nascent career. According to statements by Naschy at the time he spent one week of a five-week production schedule in France shooting his scenes and director René Govar tragically died in car accident shortly after. There were no surviving prints, and historical information is practically non-existent and what little is known is nebulous at best. The history surrounding The Fury Of the Wolfman (1970) is extensively documented and reinstated the Waldemar Daninsky franchise to its gothic horror roots. The Fury Of the Wolfman is indeed infuriating mostly because it should have been a lot better than it ended up being.

The third chapter in the continuing saga of cursed Polish nobleman Waldemar Daninsky proved especially difficult. Once again based upon a screenplay by Paul Naschy (as Jacinto Molina Álvarez) and produced by Maximiliano Pérez-Flores and César Gallego, The Fury Of the Wolfman was fraught with trouble from the beginning. For undisclosed reasons Enrique López Eguiluz, director of the rustic The Mark Of the Wolfman (1968), was fired with only a minimum of footage in the can. Basque director José María Zabalza - whose reputation as a bon vivant bohemian and rank pulp specialist preceded him at that point - was hired. Zabalza spent the production in a state of constant inebriation leaving Naschy to direct the feature. Reportedly the on-set chaos that Zabalza left in his alcoholic state had Nashy bursting in fits of tears seeing how awful the production was turning out. Adding further insult to injury Zabalza’s 14-year old nephew was allowed to rewrite the script. Zabalza’s non-involvement in directing can be traced back to 1969 when he had commenced pre-production on Bullets over Dallas (1970), Twenty Thousand Dollars for a Corpse (1971), and The Arizona Rebels (1972), three spaghetti westerns that pooled the same cast and crew that the Irunés was slated to write/direct. The Fury Of the Wolfman is widely considered to be the worst in the Waldemar Daninsky El Hombre Lobo canon.

"When the heliotrope starts growing among rough rocks and the full moon shines at night,” the narrator booms, “in a certain area in the earth, a man turns into a wolf.” Not that any heliotropes will be seen or mentioned, or that they will have any major or minor significance in the plot, anywhere in the next 90 minutes. At least it’s a cool start. In The Fury Of the Wolfman Waldemar Daninsky (Jacinto Molina Álvarez, as Paul Naschy) is a professor at the university of Kingsburg, California. On an expedition in Himalayas his group is attacked by a Yeti who savages everybody of his party and leaves Daninsky with a gash on his chest. Always the scientist Daninsky discounts the possibility on a whim, despite the visible evidence. "It was a Yeti. But that's impossible. I'm a scientist and these things don't exist. It was a hallucination. That's all." Injured Waldemar wanders the frozen wasteland until he happens upon a Tibetan monastery. A monk takes him in and treats his injuries. “Pentagram, pentagram!” screams the sufficiently frightened monk while Daninsky’s wound is actually pentagonal shaped. Once recovered Daninsky returns to his home in the US. At home he greets his wife Erika Wilson (Pilar Zorrilla, as Diana) and retreats to the bedroom, his sleep haunted by the horrible Tibetan incident. At university he runs into an old colleague, and former lover, of his by the name of Dr. Ilona Ellman (Perla Cristal). Ellman has developed a revolutionary new brainwave theory and is set to test it in her laboratory. As a former associate and lover she inquires after Daninsky’s emotional state, all while harbouring an unspoken and unrequited love for the pint-sized professor.

As he’s leaving the faculty Waldemar is handed a letter that he goes to read in the comfort of his car. From across the street Neville Yates (Fabián Conde, as Fabian Conde) watches on as Daninsky becomes enraged as he reads that his wife was involved in an affair. With the brakes on his vehicle rigged he crashes violently in a nearby tree and struggles, wounded and bleeding, back to his home. Finding nobody there he waggles to Ellman’s opulent castle. He’s patched up by his old flame, and finds that Ilona has a live-in assistant called Karen (Verónica Luján, as Veronica Lujan), whose misplaced loyalty to her tutor almost borders on the fanatic. With his wounds cared for Waldemar returns to his home when a full moon starts to rise. Upon turning into a werewolf Daninsky attacks and graphically kills his duplicitious wife Erika and makes short work of her lover Neville only moments later. Still overcome with rage Waldemar hurries outside into a particularly wild thunderstorm. Somehow he becomes entangled in a severed electric cable and is electrocuted. Police detective Wilhelm Kaufmann (Miguel de la Riva, as Michael Rivers) is the first on the scene and discovers the cut brake line. An investigation is opened and some basic sleuthing leads him to the sudden disappearance and death of esteemed Kingsburg professor Waldemar Daninsky.

Ellman, Karen, and her bevy of white-clad bosomy, mini-skirted science belles (Victoria Hernández and Diana Montes) waste no time in disinterring Daninsky’s remains. As the doctor and her vixens drag the professor’s cadaver to a cellar dungeon a caped, white masked figure (Francisco Amorós, as Francisco Almoros) stalks the shadowed hallways observing what happens in the castle’s bowels. As it turns out the deepest dungeons are filled with subjects of Ellman’s failed past experiments, male and female alike. Karen’s reporter beau Bill Williams (Mark Stevens) takes note of her sudden absence and he and the police detective smell something is afoot with the recent spate of mutilated bodies that seem to turn up everywhere. Ellman entrusts in Karen that her she can bring Waldemar back from the dead with the help of science. According to her most recent findings she’ll be able to mind control the subjects of her experiments. After a wolven Daninsky has slain several more innocent townspeople Karen reveals to Daninsky that Ellman has power over his lycanthropic form thanks to her mind control. After some more back and forth in the castle’s deeper reaches Karen and Waldemar discover that the masked and disfgured figure is Helmut Wolfstein, a neurologist infamous for his experiments on unwilling subjects, and that Ilona is his daughter Eva.

A cursory read through Ilona’s personal journal does indeed confirm these findings. Putting one and one together Daninsky deduces that Erika was a subject in Ellman’s mind control schemes and that the entire thing was just a ruse to have her reunited with her former flame. Ilona returns to the château and with Waldemar and Karen right where she wants them, the doctor unveils her diabolical plans. While the two of them were putting the pieces together Ellman resurrected Erika, now too a lycanthrope due to Daninsky’s earlier savaging, and Ilona forces both werewolves to fight each other. Daninsky slays his former wife and is instructed by Ilona to kill Karen, who she has now bound in chains. Waldemar, finally able to surpass Ilona’s mind control, attacks the doctor gashing her across the face and throat. Ellman is able to reach for her Luger firing two silver bullets into the wolven Waldemar, then crawls on him and kisses him goodbye. By this point Williams and the detective have made their way into the castle and free Karen from her chains. The body of the vertically-challenged Polish nobleman is carted off to the coroner’s office. Supposedly to be examined and be given a final restingplace.

While the existence of French co-production Nights Of the Werewolf (1968) and the veracity of Naschy’s claims surrounding it remain dubious at best, the main plot was deemed good enough for The Fury Of the Wolfman. Compared to the more rustic The Mark Of the Wolfman (1968), The Fury Of the Wolfman suffers from both appalling direction and cinematography from Leopoldo Villaseñor. Under the circumstances Naschy did well enough, but the colourless second unit direction by Rodolfo Medina – whose only other credit of note would be Juan Piquer Simón’s Jules Verne adaptation Journey to the Center of the Earth (1977) – doesn’t help. The castle interior scenes are frequently underlit and the entire colour scheme lacks the vivacity of The Mark Of the Wolfman (1968). Surprisingly Villaseñor would redeem himself with The Wolfman vs the Vampire Woman (1971).

The score by Ángel Arteaga and Zabalza’s wife Ana Satrova comprises of recycled stings and cues from The Mark Of the Wolfman (1968) and original new music, all of which are more often than not unsuitable for the scenes in which they appear. The production went overbudget and as a cost-cutting measure stock footage from The Mark Of the Wolfman (1968), along with additional scenes with a wolfman stunt double that didn’t match any of the existing footage, were inserted. It wasn’t clear who was going to edit the production and at one point the master print disappeared. The Fury Of the Wolfman had a hard time finding a distributor and at one pre-release screening for a potential distributor Zabalza was found urinating in a gutter in front of the theater. It was finally picked up for release by AVCO Embassy Pictures in 1973 before gigantic losses nearly bankrupted the company and Robert Rehme took over as president.

Even for Naschy standards the cast were relative nobodies and the most recognizable names were reliable second-tiers at best. Perla Cristal was in The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962) and The Secret Of Dr. Orloff (1964) from back in the days when Jess Franco actually showed some mild promise as a filmmaker and when appearing in one of his productions wasn’t a potential career killer. Cristal had figured in the amiable Arabian Nights adventure 1001 Nights (1968) (with Luciana Paluzzi), and was a regular in spaghetti westerns. Victoria Hernández would play another supporting part in Amando de Ossorio’s The Loreley’s Grasp (1974). The only credits of note for Verónica Luján were León Klimovsky’s Commando Attack (1968) and Feast Of Satan (1971). Javier de Rivera was a regular in Spanish cinema, often playing figures of authority or law enforcement. Mark Stevens was the obligatory faded American star making a living in European exploitation. As always a domestic and international version were shot, with the Spanish version eschewing all the gratuitous nudity and gore of the international version. No wonder Paul Naschy all but denounced The Fury Of the Wolfman as it wasn’t exactly the finest hour for Waldemar Daninsky, his El Hombre Lobo. Thankfully the series would find a second lease on life with The Wolfman vs the Vampire Woman (1971).

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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.