Paul Naschy becomes more confident with his next genre/Waldemar Daninsky film, which I watched in its American, public domain version, The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman (1971.) However, I wonder how much should be credited to director Leon Klimovsky. The pair would later make several of Naschy’s most popular films, such as Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf, Vengeance of the Zombies, and The People Who Own the Dark.
I’ll certainly credit blame those responsible for the U.S. cut of the film for one of my biggest pet peeves: playing scenes from the movie that haven’t happened yet behind the opening credits! Other than this blasphemy and the typical “clothed” and “unclothed” versions of the film, I don’t know how much The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman really differs from its original version, Werewolf Shadow.
Before the opening credits, though, the film starts as if it’s a sequel to one of the previous werewolf stories. Waldemar Daninsky’s body lies on a slab with the same pentagonal scar we saw in Fury of the Werewolf. A doctor, fully aware of, yet ignoring, the legend that pulling silver bullets from the heart of a werewolf will bring it back to life, pulls the silver bullets from Waldemar’s heart. Needless to say, he regrets it as the full moon inconveniently rises.
Post-opening credits, Waldemar has moved to the country where he’s writing a book about gothic churches for the University of Cologne. When Elvira (Gaby Fuchs) and her travelling companion, Genevieve (Barbara Capell), get lost in the area and bump into Waldemar inside a barn with a creaky door, he invites them to be his guest for a few days. Elvira is writing her thesis and is very interested in the legend of Countess Wandesa Darvula de Nadasdy.
The two women are looking for her grave to prove that she existed. In an earlier flashback that begins with a trippy kaleidoscope effect, we learn that the Countess practiced black magic and worshipped Satan. When the Spanish Inquisition tried to stop her, she beheaded them and drank their blood. Eventually, her lover killed her by stabbing her chest with a silver cross. Yep, chances are good they’re later going to find the grave and remove the silver cross.
In a creepy, effective scene, it’s Genevieve that does the deed. The legend claims that two things will bring the vampire woman back to life. First, remove the silver cross. Check. Second, the breath of life will be red… as in blood. Genevieve cuts her hand and blood drips on the Countess’s skull. Check. She doesn’t instantly rise, though, probably so we can see another creepy, effective scene in which the ground moves and her hand reaches out of it.
Meanwhile, in a subplot that is interesting, yet not particularly vital to the story, Waldemar is hiding his demented sister from his two guests. They suspect something funny is happening, though, because no man could set the dinner table as it is. Elizabeth Daninsky (Yelena Samarina) exists mostly as a character to pull down women’s tops before she strangles them and to provide an early victim for the Countess.
By the time Waldemar explains to Elvira that he’s a werewolf whose soul can be set free only by someone who loves him, she has, of course, fallen in love with him. This time around, though, he must be stabbed in the chest with a silver cross, which is why he didn’t seem to object when Genevieve pulled one from the Countess. The icing on the cake is that it was Waldemar’s ancestors that killed the Countess.
That’s a lot of exposition to prepare us for the anticipated battle between the werewolf and the vampire woman, but not before Inspector Marcel (Andres Resino), Elvira’s policeman boyrfriend, arrives looking for her. He quickly acknowledges that she’s moved on and jumps on the bandwagon to help Waldemar. Then, the Countess abducts him and Elivira, finally putting all the pieces in place for the climax.
The battle is short, but not disappointing, primarily due to the special effects used for both the vampire and werewolf characters. In some ways, the plot is as convoluted as previous Daninsky films. The difference is that here, it’s coherent, constructed on a solid foundation with pieces that fit and are placed in an order that compels rather than confounds. There’s no doubt it’s solid; however, I haven’t decided if it’s as much pure, simple fun.
Written by Paul Naschy and Hans Munkel
Directed by Leon Klimovsky
Starring Paul Naschy, Gaby Fuchs, Barbara Capell, Andres Resino, Yelena Samarina, Patty Shepard
RT 86 min.
Released May 17, 1971 (Spain)
Home Video Monster Movie Mash-Up (DVD, Mill Creek)
Rating 6 Waldemar Daninskys (out of 10)