In the winter of 1967, during the making of the thriller Agonizando en el crimen, Jacinto Molina had the idea of writing a horror film in the style of the Universal monster movies he loved so much. Despite the opinion of the movie’s director, Enrique Lopez Eguiluz, that the Spanish film industry would never support such a venture, Molina hurriedly wrote a script and began searching for a producer.
Maximiliano Perez-Flores was willing to invest in such a project and La marca del hombre lobo soon went before the camera. Molina wanted the original wolf man, Lon Chaney Jr., to play the part of Waldemar Daninsky; however, the actor was not in physical condition to do so. Instead, when suggested that he play the role himself, Molina created the less-ethnic name, Paul Naschy, and did just that. As author Troy Howarth says, “A horror icon was born.”
Taking place in a vaguely German locale similar to Universal’s classics, La marca del hombre lobo is an origin story for Daninsky’s werewolf, although I don’t believe the subsequent movies maintain continuity. It’s a familiar story with the embellishment that the one who kills a werewolf must be someone who is in love with it. Therefore, a love triangle is woven into the plot and orchestrated to reach this outcome. It’s not a bad story, though.
The film opens at a lavish costume ball in which new arrival Waldemar cuts in on Rudolph Weissmann (Manual Manzaneque) as he dances with Countess Janice von Aarenberg (Dyanik Zurakowka.) On the sidelines, the couple’s fathers chat as if it’s assumed the two will be married. I never got a solid feeling that the two were in love, although Rudolph displays some jealousy in early scenes.
When Waldemar saves him from a werewolf, though, and gets bitten in the process, Rudolph becomes more indebted to Waldemar than he is in love with Janice. Following an early embrace between Waldemar and Janice, it’s as if they been in love their entire lives and Rudolph doesn’t mind. Taking a critical view, the development is rushed and forced in order to achieve the aforementioned conclusion, but it works.
I haven’t even mentioned the shenanigans that cause a werewolf to be roaming the countryside in the first place. When Rudolph is hot-rodding in his convertible and forces a gypsy wagon off the road, Waldemar stops to assist and recommends they seek shelter in the nearby abandoned castle. They then discover a crypt and go treasure hunting, pulling a silver cross from the body of Imre Wolfstein, whose story we heard earlier, preparing us for this moment.
Waldemar’s affliction is not questioned, which makes the search for a cure more expeditious. Janice says, “There’s got to be a solution. There’s just got to!” Hope arrives in the form of Dr. Janos Mikhelov (Julian Ugarte) and his wife, Wandessa (Aurora de Alba), who claim to have a treatment that can help. Soon, their parents notice Rudolph and Janice acting strangely. Sure enough, as the clues indicated, the Mikhelovs are vampires and they’ve taken two new lovers.
That gives us werewolves and vampires, but where’s Frankenstein? The movie is called Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror, after all. When the movie was sold to distributor Independent-International pictures for United States release three years later, producer Sam Sherman was contractually obligated to provide a Frankenstein film. He added an animated opening to explain that the Frankensteins were “infected with lycanthropy” and became the Wolfsteins.
After this quick, silly opening, the supposed plot point is irrelevant and can’t be held against a movie that shows potential for things to come even if it doesn’t quite succeed during Naschy’s first try. There’s mood and atmosphere to spare, as well as a primal performance by Naschy in werewolf form. Transformation scenes are primitive, but when Naschy jerks his body against his manacles and the camera goes out of focus before clearing to show the werewolf, they work just fine.
Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror was a moneymaker in the States and La marca del hombre lobo was a hit in France. Naschy supposedly made a follow-up, Las noches del hombre lobo (The Nights of the Wolfman.) However, with a lack of evidence to prove it ever existed, despite Naschy’s insistence that it did, the film is the stuff of legends. The year after, he started his next horror film, Los monstrous del terror (Assignment Terror.)
To be continued...
Written by Paul Naschy
Directed by Enrique Lopez Eguiluz
Starring Paul Naschy, Dyanik Zyrakowska, Manuel Manzaneque, Aurora de Alba, Julian Ugarte
RT 88 min.
Released July 29, 1968 (Spain), Oct, 8, 1971 (USA)
Home Video YouTube
Rating 6 Waldemar Daninsky's (out of 10)
Troy Howarth, Human Beasts: The Films of Paul Naschy (Color Edition)
2018, United States, WK Books