In the realm of horror, there are three kinds of films: those that are good, those that are bad and those are so bad, they’re good. THE NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF, a vehicle directed by and starring Paul Naschy, falls into the latter category, fully embracing the art of Euro-horror.
Countess Elizabeth Bathory is being burned at the stake for her satanic rituals, along with her accomplices, which includes Waldemar Daninsky (Naschy). While Bathory is being persecuted for vampirism, Daninsky is a suspected werewolf, who acts under the Countess spell. Centuries later, an evil witch, Erika. and her friends plan on resurrecting Bathory. Unfortunately, Daninsky has been brought back to life and will stop at nothing to destroy the Countess.
A lot of aspects of the film are actually very well done. There are many effects that are clearly influenced by Bava, such as mist and lighting. The film generally exudes a Gothic-European style, which becomes the highlight of the film. The make-up and effects are decent for the time it was made. The werewolf transformation was done the old fashioned way, using still photography to show the various stages of make-up and combining them with camera dissolves into a complete segment. Up until 1980, this was the most advanced way of showing the wolf man’s total transformation. Rick Baker’s effects in An American Werewolf in London took the transformation scene to new heights a year later in 1981.
The acting, while not “great”, has a charm to it that really compliments the picture. It is mostly over the top but occasionally some truly great scenes come about. Julia Saly, who played the Countess, was really spot on in particular. She had a Nosferatu-like quality to her performance that overshadows the other players in the film. Her wisping walk and her small beady black eyes make her the creepiest character in this film.
I also think the film generally benefited from Naschy direction. Having been an actor in horror film since the late 60’s, he really seemed knowledgeable in his interpretation of horror on the big screen. While this is not the case in many other films, I feel it really helped out a lot in this production.
The biggest downside to the film is the faulty storyline. I felt that it had some problems that could have easily been fixed beforehand. For example, the introduction to the film seems to be completely forsaken as the plot develops. It clearly points out that Daninsky was an accomplice of Bathory, but after they are both awoken, they are mortal enemies. Even a slight attempt at fitting in some reasoning for this would have been acceptable, but it just seems like Daninsky woke up cranky. Another example would be Daninsky’s wardrobe. He comes back to life wearing medieval garb, including armor and frequently carrying a crossbow, but manages to fit in with the towns people. The character of Erika seems to be a great opponent for Daninsky but her screen presence seems to diminish into almost nothing by the end of the film, most likely to make room for the Countess as the main villain.
While the film does have some problems, the great atmosphere and charm makes the film work. Sure, it’s cheesy and goofy in every sense of the word but its a fun ride, plain and simple. If you’re into the Euro-horror of yesteryear and looking for a great addition to your DVD library, look no further.