Thursday, 14 January 2016

Tomb of the Werewolf (4 Stars)

"Tomb of the Werewolf" is the film's original title. For years it was only available in a heavily censored version. Recently an uncensored version was released, renamed "The Unliving". I prefer the original title. Look at the DVD cover above, which accurately portrays the main character, then tell me which name you prefer.

It's the final film in a series of 12 films starring the Spanish actor Paul Naschy (birth name Jacinto Molina Alvarezas) as Count Waldemar Daninsky, a werewolf. The films were spaced out over the length of his career. The first film, "Hell's Creatures", was released in 1968. This film was released in 2004, five years before his death. In his career he played all of the classic monsters, including Frankenstein's monster and Count Dracula, winning him acclaim as Spain's king of horror.

Many directors were responsible for the Waldemar Daninsky films from 1968 to 2004. This is the only one made by Fred Olen Ray. As is to be expected, Fred made the film in his own style. The film stars several of the actors that he used in the early Medina films, including Jay Richardson, Michelle Bauer, Evan Stone and Beverly Lynne. Watching it you might think of it as a Medina film. In a way it is. It's a Medina-Daninsky crossover.

Michelle Bauer stars as Elisabeth Bathory. In the opening scenes she's cursed by Lucifer to live eternally, but only if she bathes in blood. That approximately matches the existing legends of Elisabeth Bathory. Then she's required to serve the Daninsky family for as long as they exist. In another scene we see the Count being killed by having a large silver cross driven through his heart.

Michelle Bauer as Elisabeth Bathory

Fast forward to the 21st Century. Jay Richardson stars as Richard Daninsky, an elderly bachelor living in Boston. He receives a letter that the owner of the Daninsky Castle has died, and since he is the last of the Daninskys he has inherited the castle. He's told that there is a large treasure hidden in the castle, but nobody knows where it is. So what does he do? He hires a psychic to search for the treasure. He also invites a television team to film his first weeks in the castle as a reality show. Richard arrives with the full team at the castle in Europe. The country isn't named, but it has to be Transylvania, doesn't it? On the other hand, I hate the way Americans say "I'm going to Europe" as if all of Europe were the same.

Jay Richardson as Richard Daninsky

The castle's only inhabitant waiting to greet them is Elisabeth, the maid. Yes, you guessed it, it's Elisabeth Bathory, who has been living a lowly existence as a servant for centuries. She's very happy at the arrival of the television team, because she can kill the camera girls for their blood. In this version of the Countess Bathory legend the blood can come from any women, not just virgins. That's just as well, because I doubt Beverly Lynne is a virgin.

Obviously, Elisabeth also wants to kill Richard to free herself from servitude, but there's one more surprise. Elisabeth shows Richard the tomb where his ancestor Waldemar is buried. His bones are lying in the coffin, still impaled by the silver cross. Elisabeth tells Richard to pull out the cross. This brings the werewolf back to life. Waldemar kills Richard as his first victim. That must have been in the small print of the curse: "You must serve the Daninsky family as long as it exists, except for Waldemar himself, who has to stay alive".

The film continues with a killing spree. Waldemar runs around outside killing people. Elisabeth stalks the castle's guests, killing them with her new weapon of choice, the silver cross pulled from Waldemar's chest.

This is a curious film. Cross-over films are always curious. I can't compare it with the other Daninsky films, because I've never seen them. I can compare it with the Medina films. It matches them well in atmosphere and style, apart from being a lot more violent.

Here's a tip for any women reading my blog. If you ever want to kill a man, whether you're killing him personally or just leading him into a trap, kiss him first. Flirt with him, touch him, give him the impression that you desire him. When the blood flows out of his brain he can't think straight and he'll be unable to defend himself against you. Watch how Michelle does it. A passionate kiss in the library. Five minutes later Jay is lying dead on the floor of the tomb.

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