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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: 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).