Long ago in a distant land I had a website called The Monster Movie Graveyard. I've decided to resurrect it in blog form and so forth I present to you, lovers of monster movies and cheesy films, the new and improved site.
Anyway, I'll post the text of the reviews here. For the full experience please click on the links to the reviews I'll post as they will feature trailers, custom screen shots and links that won't be posted here.
AKA - La Marca Del Hombre-Lobo (The Mark of the Wolf Man)
County of Origin – Spain
Sub-genre – Euro-horror
Featured Monsters – Werewolves and Vampires
Film status – Classic/Cult
So here’s the scene – I’m six or seven years old and I love me some monster movies, especially the classic Universal films from the 30’s – 40’s. Every Saturday afternoon a local TV station would do a program called “Screen Scares” (if I’m remembering this correctly) where they would play those old films in glorious black and white. This was my early horror education and while my friend’s heroes were Football players mine were Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr.
Now, occasionally they would include a trailer or two for another Universal monster movie before or after that week’s movie. One week however, something strange happened and the regularly scheduled, wholesome black and white movie trailer was instead replaced by THIS – ((Trailer on website))
My seven year old mind was shocked. What the hell had I just seen? The gothic trappings and the monsters were familiar, but here it was in color and everything looked . . . well, sleazy. It was like something that I'd get in trouble for watching if my Mom caught me. I never forgot about it and many years later I finally got myself a copy of Frankenstein's Bloody Terror. (Which has nothing to do with Frankenstein, but more on that later.)
Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror is a Spanish film that was financed by German backers. It was penned by an aspiring screenwriter by the name of Jacinto Molina, who was also a champion weight lifter. The production was due to begin shooting soon but they still hadn’t found a suitable actor for the main part, and of the financiers suggested that Molina would be a perfect fit. Back then it was customary for actors without English sounding names to change them for the international film market, so Jacinto Molina became Paul Naschy and the undisputed king of Spanish horror cinema was born.
The movie begins at an extravagant costume ball where two potential lovers, Janice (a countess) and Rudolph, who has just returned from school in Switzerland, are dancing the night away. However, soon Count Waldemar Daninsky makes his appearance dressed as “his Satanic Majesty” and starts putting the moves on the countess. Daninsky is bad news in the town, and he’s rumored to have lost his inheritance by gambling and in other illicit pursuits. Indeed, a later scene in the film takes place during Waldemar’s estate sale.
The countess keeps running into Daninsky all over the village and at one point while she and Rudolph are exploring the ruins of Castle Wolfstein he surprises them. Apparently Daninsky is a descendant of the Wolfstein’s and he relates the tale of his cursed ancestry to the charmed countess, much to the chagrin of Rudolph. On the way home Rudolph jealously scolds her and they run a gypsy couples wagon off the road. Waldemar, on the road heading back to the village, stops to help pull their cart out of the mud and with a storm approaching, suggests to them that they take shelter in Castle Wolfstein for the evening.
Well, it’s a monster movie so the gypsy’s get drunk on old wine and start looting the ancestral crypt, inadvertently awakening the seemingly dead Count Wolfstein by removing the silver crucifix which had pierced his heart. The werewolf kills them both and by the next morning two more villagers are dead. Waldemar hears of the tragedy and fears the worst after learning that the villagers bodies had been found near the castle. Waldemar checks the crypt and sure enough, Count Wolfstein's sarcophagus is empty.
That evening the villagers form up a hunting party to kill the “wolves” that they believe have come down from the mountains. Waldemar ends up paired with his rival Rudolph and they all head off into the woods. Rudolph is attacked by the werewolf but Waldemar came prepared and he manages to stab Count Wolfstein in the heart with the silver cross, but not before he is bitten by the creature.
Grateful for saving his life, Rudolph vows to take care of Waldemar and to help him find a cure. On the night of the full moon he helps chain Daninsky up but he wolfs-out, leaps through the window and slaughters a couple more village people. The next morning they decide to stay at the castle as it's the only place where they'll be able to keep Waldemar locked up, and Janice ends up tracking them down and learns of Waldemar's curse.
In the castle library they discover and old letter addressed to Count Wolfstein from a man named Dr. Janos Mikhelov, in which Mikhelov implies that he may be able to cure the Count. Despite the fact that the doctor is probably dead they figure that it wouldn’t hurt to try so they write the doctor and surprisingly receive a response, saying that Dr. Mikhelov is on his way. Janice and Rudolph meet the Dr. and his wife at the train station at night, and they are surprised to find that he's a young man. (The old Dr. Mikhelov was his father and now he's taken over the family practice.)
Before you can say “Nosferatu” it's revealed that both the Dr. and his lovely wife are actually ancient vampires and they start preforming black-magic rituals on Waldemar, put Rudolph and Janice under their spell and they generally make a big supernatural nuisance of themselves. The father's of Janice and Rudolph figure out whats up, they storm the castle and free Waldemar from his cell and they set out to destroy the Vampires before their children are lost to them forever. Of course the sun is about to set and it's the night of a full moon so all hell breaks loose. _____________________________________________________
Make no mistake. Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror is a cheesy movie, It is however, at it's core, a finely crafted film that manages to rise above the standard low budget creature feature fare from the late 60's/early 70's time period. For one thing, all of the sets and locations look amazing because they are real places as opposed to just sets on a sound stage. The crumbling ruins, the fantastic European style mansions and the quaint old-world villages are a beautiful site to behold and if this was a production filmed in America there's no way that the movie would look even a fraction as good as it does.
The performances are serviceable, but it's Naschy who really stands out as the tortured Polish nobleman. At first his character seems to be a rather sinister and arrogant, but as the film goes on his good nature is revealed through his actions such as when he helps the gypsies and when he puts himself in harms way to protect the villagers who dislike him.
His great physicality is a tremendous asset when he dons the yak hair and fangs. Naschy's “El Hombre Lobo” is the most violent and animated werewolf I've ever seen in a horror picture, and I've seen a lot of em. He leaps through the air at his victims with reckless abandonment, tearing and clawing like a rabid animal. Based on the strength of this performance he would go on to have a successful film carer and he reprized the role of Waldemar Daninsky in a series of movies which now enjoy cult status.
The camera work and cinematography stands out and for good reason – the film was originally shot in 77mm and in 3D. To maximize the 3D effect each scene was carefully framed and composed. The shots were also often “stacked” to enhance the 3D effect. Objects are arranged in the foreground and background to give everything a sense of depth. It must have looked amazing when projected in its intended format, but even in 35mm and without the 3D the film still looks striking.
The Monsters -
The Werewolves – Naschy's makeup is great. The fact that you see more than just his face and hands covered in hair makes the effect more realistic. Naschy is the most violent and energetic werewolf I've ever seen. He would never be quite this physical in his future werewolf films.
The other werewolf, Count Wolfstein, is for the most part unremarkable. His fight with Waldemar is probably the first werewolf vs. werewolf battle ever in a movie. (I don't count The Werewolf of London ((1935)) since only one of the two werewolves has transformed.)
The Vampires - Dr. Janos Mikhelov and his wife are both excellent, classic style vampires. The actor portraying The Dr. choose to play the role in a sexually ambiguous way which works for the most part, excepting when he starts prancing about and spinning his cape in the air near the films climax.
His wife, or as she's called in the trailer, The Ghoul Woman(!), is sufficiently vampy and the scene where she seduces Rudolph is one of the most memorable in the film. These Vampires are extremely evil and they make for interesting antagonists.
Fun facts -
The Spanish censors wouldn’t allow the werewolf to be a Spaniard so Naschy decided to make him Polish out of his love for that country.
The American distributor, Sam Sherman, needed another Frankenstein picture after the successful “Dracula vs. Frankenstein”. He ended up inserting a short, goofy animated prolog to the opening credits when an announcer explains that the Frankenstein family was cursed by the mark of the werewolf and they changed their name to Wolfstein for some reason or another. Sam though that since the movie was good the audience wouldn’t mind that Frankenstein's Monster actually has nothing to do with the movie, despite the fact that it featured heavily in the films printed advertising. He was wrong.
Naschy grew up watching the classic Universal Horror movies and he sites them as a direct influence on his films, especially Frankenstein meets The Wolf Man.
Random Thoughts -
Every night is a full moon in a werewolf film.
At one point early in the film Naschy and the female lead both put there hands in a bowl of holy water at the same time so that they both come in contact with one another. She hastily makes the sign of the cross and leaves. Naschy however does not make the sign and he watches her leave with obvious desire in his eyes. This short, almost throwaway scene without dialogue tells us more about the characters than any amount of exposition could. It's very well done and not the sort of thing that you might expect to see in a movie like this.
That gypsy chick. Wow. _____________________________________________________________________________
Frankenstein's Bloody Terror represents a watershed moment in Spanish cinema and it marked the beginning of the Spanish horror boom which would last through the decade. It's a joy to watch and the ideal entry point to anyone interested in Naschy's filmography. (Tied with "The Werewolf vs. The Vampire Woman", which I consider to be the spiritual sequel to this film.) I strongly recommend it to lovers of the classic Universal horrors, euro-horror fans, Hammer Horror fanatics and purveyors of fine cheesy movies.
((Eight screen shots of this film can be found on the blog.))
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