International Horror Review: The Mark of the Wolfman (dir by Enrique López Eguiluz)

The 1968 Spanish film, The Mark of the Wolfman, is a strange one.

Just try to keep this straight:

In Eastern Europe, two gypsies accidentally bring back to life a feared werewolf named Imre Wolfstein.  (Beware any supernatural creature who has an ironic name.)  Wolfstein proceeds to terrorize the countryside, attacking both the good and the bad alike.  He also finds the time to attack a Polish nobleman named Waldemer Danisky (Paul Naschy).  Danisky survives the attack but now he’s a werewolf!  Unlike Wolfstein, Danisky is not happy about being a werewolf, especially when he discovers that he’s been killing innocent people while transformed.  So, Danisky decides to go to a local scientist named Dr. Janos Mikhelov (Julian Ugarte).  Unfortunately, it turns out that Dr. Mikhelov is a vampire and so is his wife!  They’ve got special plans for both of the werewolves!

The Mark of the Wolfman was the first of many films in which Naschy would play Count Danisky.  They were extremely popular in Europe and Paul Naschy became a big star in Spain.  In fact, he was sometimes called the Spanish Lon Chaney and given that Naschy often talked about how The Wolf Man (starring Lon Chaney, Jr.) was one of his favorite films when he was a child, that undoubtedly brought him a lot of pleasure.  And indeed, Naschy’s performance as Danisky did owe a bit to Lon Chaney Jr’s performance as Larry Talbot.  They’re both tortured souls, desperately seeking an escape from their curse and continually being brought back to life against their will.  The main difference between the two was that Danisky never got quite as whiny as Talbot.  Whereas Lon Chaney Jr. played Larry Talbot as being just a big dumb lug, Naschy played Danisky as being a far more aggressive character.  Danisky wasn’t just depressed over being a werewolf.  He was pissed off about it.

The plot of Mark of the Wolfman may sound complicated but, by the standards of Naschy’s other films, it’s actually rather straight-forward and uncomplicated.  Of course, it can be difficult for an American to judge Naschy’s films because many of them were never released here in the United States and those that were can usually only be found in poorly dubbed and crudely edited versions.  For instance, Mark of the Wolfman was released in the United States as Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror, despite the fact that neither Frankenstein nor his monster were anywhere to be found in the original film.  However, the distributors needed a film to go on a double bill with another Frankenstein movie.  To justify the title change, narration was added to the start of the film that established that Wolfstein was a descendant of Frankenstein.  Apparently, the price for playing God was to be cursed with lycanthropy.  It’s actually kind of charming in a drive-in sort of way.

Even if you know nothing about the subsequent career of Paul Naschy or the many sequels that followed this film, The Mark of the Wolfman holds up well as an entertaining horror film.  It’s only 88 minutes long and it manages to pack drunken gypsies, tortured werewolves, devious vampires, and a dungeon into its brief running time.  As a result, it’s never boring. Visually, the film is a treat, with the camera swiftly moving across the wilderness or tracking through gothic castles.  (Mark of the Wolfman was originally filmed in 3D and, watching the film, I found myself thinking that it probably looked pretty damn impressive to audiences in 1968.)  Because the version that I saw was badly dubbed into English, it wasn’t always easy to judge the performances but Naschy played Danisky with a properly haunted look.

The Mark of the Wolfman is an enjoyable work of Spanish horror, one that undoubtedly helped to revitalize Spanish horror just as assuredly at the Blind Dead and Jess Franco.

One response to “International Horror Review: The Mark of the Wolfman (dir by Enrique López Eguiluz)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review — 10/25/21 — 10/31/21 | Through the Shattered Lens

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