European horror is exciting, because you never know what you’re going to get. Whether it’s stylish Italian giallo, Greek thrillers, or crazy British funnies. The Night of the Werewolf, originating from great cheese capital Spain, holds up on all three of its neighbors’ traits, utilizing a gorgeous gothic atmosphere while keeping the pace alive. And sure, the wolfman is pretty damn funny looking compared to what can be shown today, so have a few laughs. First known to me under its other title The Craving, I had been trying to track it down on video. Come to find out that it was no American tale at all, but a member of those daring Spanish filmmakers, with cult legend Paul Naschy too! Playing his common role of the great Waldemar Daninsky, Naschy makes a triumphant dive into terror with his first 80s horror flick, where dark magic looms and fangs thirst for blood of the innocent.
In the 16th century, Elizabeth Bathory (Julia Saly) and those associated with her, such as the werewolf Waldemar Daninsky, are being sentenced to imprisonment and untimely death for cannibalism and murder. After decapitations, stake burnings and heart piercings, the bodies of the damned are laid to rest. Jumping ahead to what appears to be the seventies (despite a lot of early 1900 mechanics and life functions), two gravediggers disturb the grave of Daninsky, and bring him back to life by mistake. Now following the journey of three others, Erika (Silvia Aguilar), Barbara (Pilar Alcón) and Karen (Azucena Hernández), the young women find themselves the victims of a trio of thieves, who are luckily assassinated by a mysterious man’s arrows. The women move onward only to discover the tomb of Elizabeth Bathory, and the home of the assassinator himself: Daninsky. A friendly host, it is evident that the man is a good person in human form, but a rat lives among the travelling females. Countess Elizabeth’s loyal ancestor Erika wants to bring her vampire goddess back from the dead as well, to cover the world in darkness and control the horrifying wolfman once again!
While the angle of the story starting with the Medieval executions and thieving from the lead women sounds a lot like Naschy’s earlier work of Horror Rises from the Tomb, I assure you that The Craving is every bit as interesting as you would have hoped. Still keeping its toes in classic gothic horror fashion, it updates from the black and white times by adding impressive make-up works, somewhat gory highlights and as you may have expected from the Spanish, a fair share of breasts. Scenes set under the full moon, when the wolf inside Waldemar emerges, are very reminiscent of times before it (except this time, in color) with stop motion transmogrification, terrorized bit part actors, and the lead up to an attack in full view. It’s quite a turn around when you watch the vampires, who benefit from having an always present fog and haunting glide (or hover).
Night of the Werewolf leaves out most of the sex and trades it in for romance, but not mushy theatre romance. Karen makes a fairly wooden love interest for Daninsky, however Naschy’s acting carries her through the rough spots. It’s him and Julia Saly who bring out the loaded dramatics that disregards such faults the picture brings. Most notable is the editing. Where Italian inspired face close-ups and panning end, the choppy experience begins. There’s not enough breathing room in between transitions, and almost too much during important scenes. Take for instance the first werewolf transformation, which I commend Naschy for dedicating his abilities too, however the entertainment is long dead and gone after a minute of crying out from inner pains.
As with most films, I recommend watching The Craving in its original (Spanish) language with subtitles, if you must. Some English can get away with murder, but certainly not all in this flick. Plus you can appreciate the work most of the actors put into portraying a likable good gal or living dead sorceress. Though neither language will stop you from feeling the restraints of the first third, or the quick cuts in music from scene to scene, you’ll be pleased once the action gets going, and the vampires grow in number throughout the wolfman’s castle. You’re never quite sure if the female leads knew about Waldemar (aside from Erika) before adventuring or if they simply accept that werewolves and vampires exist all too smoothly, which gives the impression that The Night of the Werewolf is a film adaptation of an overly long novel that the makers had to cut and fuse in order to make a product that lasts little over 90 minutes.
Keeping the main cast to a minimum of six – Elizabeth; Daninsky; Erika; Karen; Barbara; Mircaya (Beatriz Elorrieta; the werewolf’s melted faced friend and servant) – somehow doesn’t keep you from mixing some of the girls up. Namely Barbara and whoever else. Add in a blonde, please! So much long dark hair. The standout moment that truly makes the film memorable to me, and even spooky, is when two of Bathory’s vampires sneak closer towards the camera, glaring directly at you not moving a muscle, made all the more heart racing by the wallowing souls' score supporting them. It’s an image that sticks out in your mind for the remainder of the film, intensifying the sense of dread as Karen and her wolfboy continue to walk the halls of the castle, not expecting a creepy lady to jump out from behind a curtain, or sneak into their bedrooms while they sleep tight.
Yes, for all of its problems in editing and prolonged wolf sequences, The Craving makes up for it with a superb accomplishment in style, subtle creeps and 70s dance-disco for the intro. And to finish it all off? Well, it doesn’t disappoint. An enjoyable fight scene and dramatic closing seals the deal on this B-movie that goes far beyond my expectations. It appears to have a budget used to its fullest extent and prevents itself from moving into trash territory with photography and dealt out plot pieces. Even if you have to take a moment after to collect your thoughts. And again, we have the 70s disco tunes for the credits! Can’t get any better than that. Thought of as the ninth entry in the Waldemar films, I can see why it has gained a presence with fans of this type of horror. I know I’ve made myself ambitious to track down others made in this ilk. Deimos/BCI’s Special Edition widescreen release of The Night of the Werewolf is clear in audio and absolutely conquered all possible flaws in picture. I am truly impressed. The uncut version of the film is included in Spanish and English, with optional subtitles, deleted scenes, two audio tracks, liner notes, miniature US theatrical artwork for ‘The Craving’, the Spanish credit sequences, still galleries, a US theatrical trailer and even an introduction by Mr. Paul Naschy himself! What the hell are you waiting for? Don't just crave the wolf. Buy it!