Not understanding its reputation prior to watching Fury of the Wolfman (1972), I would have rated it an “average” film (5 Waldemar Daninskys, in this case.) I enjoyed it just fine, as wildly uneven and nonsensical as it is. However, when doing research, I learned it’s universally believed to be the worst of Paul Naschy’s werewolf movies. (I knew there was one of them, but I didn’t remember that it was this one.) I’m going to remove one Waldemar Daninsky, then.
There were two things I noticed about it that are confirmed by Troy Howarth and others. First, the werewolf casually walks around in many scenes after daintily gnawing on his victims’ necks. Where is the physical, primal performance of Paul Naschy? It turns out another actor was used for these scenes. Second, the film uses recycled footage from Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror, notably when the werewolf bursts into a couple’s home and tosses the man into the fireplace.
Apparently, we can’t blame Naschy’s screenplay for these faults. He was at the mercy of Jose Maria Zabalza, the director who inexplicably replaced Enrique Lopez Eguiluz after only three days. He was supposedly drunk most of the production and was later caught urinating outside a distributor screening. No, in fact, there’s a solid story at the heart of Fury of the Wolfman, not within any continuity, but sharing some plot points from previous movies.
This time, Professor Waldemar Daninsky has returned from Tibet with a pentagon-shaped scar on his chest. He doesn’t quite remember what happened, but he probably had an encounter with a Yeti, leaving him with the curse of lycanthropy. Again, there’s no disbelief or mystery; this is just a matter of fact. Dr. Ilona Ellman (Perla Cristal) believes she can cure him through some type of mind control experiments she’s been performing.
Framing the story is a soap opera-ish structure in which Waldemar’s wife, Erika (Pilar Zorrilla) is cheating on him with one of his students. They conspire to get him out of the way by tampering with his brakes. Sure enough, he crashes, but survives to later be electrocuted in his werewolf form by a downed power line during a storm. Since the Tibetan scroll says he can die only under “certain circumstances,” Ilona exhumes his body and revives him.
So far, so… good. At some point, though, things happen that I simply didn’t understand. Ilona keeps a group of “abnormals” locked in the dungeon; I assume they are the victims of her failed experiments. There’s also someone dressed in a suit of armor, a man wearing a rubber mask, and a man standing in the middle of plants that at one point come to life to grab Karin (Veronica Lujan), Ilona’s assistant. I guess they all give Naschy’s werewolf someone to fight.
There’s an extended cut of the movie known as Wolfman Never Sleeps that contains scenes deleted from the version with which we are familiar. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like these scenes give Fury of the Wolfman any needed coherence. What they do give it is sex… werewolf on woman sex, apparently. This might help explain the odd scene in Fury in which the werewolf climbs carefully in bed with a woman and does not kill her.
There’s a little more gore in this one, particularly after the werewolf kills a student in his dorm room. A lingering shot shows his ravaged neck, but there’s no blood splatter. Also, I gather that the werewolf and transformations may be different in each Daninsky film. Here, the beast’s face is more human and we see him change into the monster in front of our eyes in a series of dissolves, just like Lon Chaney Jr.
The positive parts of the script reemerge for a climax that includes the return of Erika, but I was left wondering if I missed a plot point related to the Naschy trope that a werewolf can be killed only by someone that truly loves him. I will spoil the ending, though, by telling you that Karin and her beau, Bill (Mark Stevens), so bland I haven’t mentioned him, agree to forget about it all and walk out into a splendid day. Maybe that’s good advice for us all.
Written by Paul Naschy
Directed by Jose Maria Zabalza
Starring Paul Naschy, Perla Cristal, Veronica Lujan, Miguel de la Riva, Jose Marco
RT 86 min.
Released Feb. 7, 1972 (Spain), Nov. 22, 1974 (USA-TV)
Home Video Scorpion Rel. (Blu-ray)
Rating 4 Waldemar Daninskys (out of 10)