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LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS (1970) **
Aka SHADOW OF THE WEREWOLF
D: Leon Klimovsky
After the golden age of UNIVERSAL monsters (vide BATHOS 28-31) and the silver age of LEWTON (BATHOS 39) came a decent age of bronze, before the rot set in during the seventies. Its inception was largely due to the emergence of Hammer, but a secondary effect may be seen in the creation of a special European brand of horror.
The legacy of BAVA, FREDA and MARGHERITI immediately springs to mind, easily overshadowing the Spanish school. These movies were often both darker and less flashy than the Italian, not depending so much on the tradition of GIALLO.
Spain being the stronghold of Catholicism since the days of the Inquisition, the repressed sexuality, on which the genre has always relied heavily, was more violent, and often seasoned with a rebellion against matriarchy, creating much more convincing female monsters than for instance the lesbian vampires of the KARNSTEIN cycle. It is an interesting fact that Victorian societies generally allow for a more powerful form of pornography than those who are at least on the surface more permissive.
Sex as typified by the prostitute – whether femme fatale or mere sex-slave – is by its very insulation from society rarefied and demonized into something so much larger than life that it borders on the mythological or even religious. Before descending into the mass-production of amateurish SLASHERS in the vein of ARGENTO, Jesus Franco made a few films unlike any others (although the incredibly rich, but relatively unknown tradition of Mexican horror and SF in the fifties undoubtedly served as inspiration).
The erotic metaphor of the surgical procedure, only hinted at a few years earlier by FRANJU, and which was later to become a staple icon of UFOLOGY, is virtually perfected by him in his early films, whereas the intrepid “happy hooker” is probably German in origin. It is also hard to envisage the heroine of NECRONOMICON in an American version.
Nor does the mixture of sexual perversion and corporal punishment of LA RESIDENCIA seem likely to appeal to a foreign audience. At the time of the release of LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS, this tremendous force was largely spent.
It was the fourth in a series about a reluctant werewolf played by the chubby matinee idol Jacinto Molina. Ironically, it was the first that really travelled.
After this only the “blind dead” series initiated the following year by LA NOCHE DEL TERROR CIEGO, with resurrected TEMPLARS punishing unchaste women, holds any real interest. Still, THE WEREWOLF VERSUS THE VAMPIRE WOMEN, as it was aptly renamed, is not entirely without its points of interest.
The youthful Countess Dracula wannabe may be patently ridiculous, but at least the black masses and decapitations are fairly enthusiastic, and the concept of a modern young girl lured by the erotic appeal of vampirism into a world of shadows and slow-motion always held a special attraction to me, which is perhaps understandable, being myself one of the children of the night. For the most part, of course, it merely goes through the motions, the werewolf being revived through the extraction of the silver bullets he sustained in the earlier film from his body during an ill-advised autopsy, and the vampire similarly through the removal of a crucifix and by inadvertently dripping blood into her mouth (much better done in LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO) allowing for the expected, albeit not especially impressive showdown between the two.
Read the other 400+ film reviews in BATHOS 1-50! Since the 43rd issue the following movies have been duly analyzed and evaluated.
1934 CHLOE 47