Wednesday, December 01, 2010

"Monsters to Be Pitied. Monsters to be Despised."

Paul Naschy's third appearance as the werewolf, Waldemar Daninsky, shows up in Los monstruos del terror (1970, directed by Tulio Demicheli et al.), released under a raft of alternate titles. The version I watched for this post was titled Assignment Terror. Because Netflix categorically refuses to send me a friggin werewolf movie for the blogathon, I went looking for them online. I didn't expect a new, pristine DVD-quality version, and, what do you know? I didn't find one. Instead, I found a public domain print that shows significant fading and a lot of damage from cuts for television. Surprisingly, it leaves some of the gore intact (particularly a sequence where Naschy's character is revived by opening him up on an operating table and removing the silver bullet). I don't know if this is the best way to watch this film, but it's not a bad way to do it, either. It reminds me of watching these kinds of movies late at night on fly-by-night independent TV stations when I was a kid. There's a certain nostalgia value in this, but, frankly, the print was crap. After a half-hour, the nostalgia faded and I began wishing for a better print (according to the IMDB, this was filmed in 70mm!!!). And so it goes.

What we have here is a monster rally a la late Universal films like House of Dracula, crossed, improbably, with Plan 9 From Outer Space or Destroy All Monsters (take your pick). Aliens are re-animating the dead--particularly monsters--in a plot to take over the Earth. How, exactly, this is to work is never really clear, but after reading a book called "History of the Monsters," the aliens bring forth versions of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, and, of course, Naschy's Wolfman. One of the alternate titles of this film is Dracula vs. Frankenstein, but don't be fooled. This is the Wolfman's show all the way. Hell, Frankenstein and Dracula never even share the screen. As an aside, the book mentions The Golem, too, but I presume that budget constraints left him at the idea stage. The resurrection of Dracula brought a smile to my face, actually, because it closely follows the resurrection of the Count in House of Frankenstein, where his skeleton is found as a carnival exhibit, stake and all, but then it reinterprets the scene with a bunch of viscera. It's as if H. G. Lewis got a hold of the scene and ran with it.

The aliens in this film are led by Michael Rennie, in his last role. I feel bad for Rennie, actually, given that he lived in the shadow of Klatuu for most of his career in roles in films like The Power and Cyborg 2087 (a film with more than a passing resemblance to The Terminator). Here, he was at the end of his rope and looked it. His second in command is the resurrected Maleva Kernstein (Karin Dor), who has a name that sums up Naschy's approach to filmmaking. It's a mash-up of names that should be familiar to horror fans. Naschy is the screenwriter again, in his nom de plume of Jacinto Molina Alvarez.

I'm not going to go too far into the plot, because, frankly, the plot here makes no sense. This film was interrupted by financial woes during its production and one can definitely see the harm, because whole chunks of it seem like they come from a different movie all together. As an exercise, I'd love to arrange the reels of this film in a random order to see if it makes any difference. I don't know that it would, save that the castle has to blow up at the end. Naschy's screenplay is even more of a hodgepodge than usual. It somehow wanders to a heroic ending for Naschy's Wolfman, but by this point, Naschy has very much been a supporting player. The aliens are undone by the uncontrolled emotions in their monsters and thralls (and in humanity in general), while Naschy arranges once again to die at the hands of a loved one.

Frankly, mixing up the Universal Monsters with aliens was a bad idea. The movie further compounds the fault by totally depriving its monsters of any real characterizations (none of them really gets enough screen time to make an impression, save that Dracula is an incorrigible horn dog). And it gets the hat trick by providing genuinely awful monster make-up for everyone but Naschy. Even Naschy's get-up is a far cry from his best, and is probably the most specifically designed to resemble poor, doomed Larry Talbot in Universal's franchise of any portrayal he attempted. In all it's a pretty bad movie.

This one is mostly for completists only. Caveat emptor.


The Vicar of VHS said...

As a completist, of course, I love this movie. :) But I freely admit that all the shortcomings you mention are there. However, once it gets to Naschy taking on the monsters videogame tournament-mode style, I was ready to forgive just about everything. Drac goes down like a punk, but the Mummy is surprisingly scrappy (and has the best "fatality"), and then when Naschy fights the Frankenstein (Farancksollen?) Monster, I couldn't help but cheer, as he's obviously living his childhood dream of being Larry Talbot in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN.

Also, it's worth noting that this is one of the few films of the Daninsky saga that has continuity with previous entries, as the character of Rudolph from FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR pops up as an old man in this one.

As far as print quality goes, I'm not sure that a better print than the public domain/grey market ones exists, which is a shame. But if it does, it needs to be released!

Vulnavia Morbius said...

I dunno. I kinda like the way each subsequent Daninsky movie provides a new origin. Mind you, given this film's role models, it's ENTIRELY appropriate that they should contrive some convenient resurrection mechanism, like Frankenstein's monster being encased by the sulfur pits.

Darius Whiteplume said...

It is amazing what I can sit through, but I doubt I'll risk cyber-chlamydia to get the torrent ;-)

Zack said...

I believe when they referred to The Golem, they were speaking of the Frankenstein monster.