Night of the Howling Beast (1975)
It’s appropriate that we conclude Naschy November with a Waldemar Daninsky werewolf film, considering we started it with one 30 days ago. If we hadn’t seen so many movies in between, we might have thought Paul Naschy didn’t make much creative progress between Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror in 1968 and this one, Night of the Howling Beast, in 1975.
It’s a gloriously wacky throwback to the “everything but the kitchen sink” approach of his earlier monster rallies, with a ridiculous plot that doesn’t even introduce the main villain until well after the first half of its whirlwind 94-minute running time. Also known as The Werewolf & the Yeti, the titular battle happens at the end as an afterthought to the story’s other plots.
We’ve mentioned this month that there’s little continuity among the Daninsky films, if any. This one truly stands alone. There’s a “new” Waldemar (Naschy) with a different attitude and a fresh set of skills, and there’s a new origin story for the werewolf. Gone, however, is the trope that the monster can be killed only by someone who truly loves its human alter ego.
That’s how Waldemar is able to destroy the two, count ‘em two, werewolves that emerge from the women who have wild sex with him while he lies incapacitated in their cave… all three at the same time. This isn’t before one of them bites him, though, and the familiar mark appears on his chest.
Waldemar isn’t necessarily seeking a cure in this one, either, although there is one. The red flowers that will eventually be mixed with Sylvia Lacombe’s (Mercedes Molina) blood exist more for her to locate than him. However, all the characters, including the yeti, end up in the finale, so it all comes together rather conveniently.
This also gives Waldemar a happy ending for the first time. It’s odd to see him walking into the snowy sunset holding the heroine’s hand, but nice. His expedition with Sylvia’s father, Prof. Lacombe (Josep Castillo Escalona) held unintended consequences for him, but that’s what he gets for being impatient and heading out on his own during bad weather.
The aforementioned “main villain” is Sekkar Khan (Luis Induni), leader of a gang of bandits who’s influenced by the evil machinations of Wandesa (Silvia Solar). They both need to be defeated and their battles with Waldemar and the werewolf are what make the eventual encounter with the yeti so anticlimactic.
As in most other Daninsky films, the werewolf design is slightly different. I really like this one. It seems leaner and I’m a sucker for ears that stick out instead of being plastered against the head. We get to see more of it behind the opening credits during a montage of glamour shots/selfies than we do throughout the movie, at least close-up.
Tributes to Lon Chaney’s wolf man continue to be peppered throughout these films. Here, we have a character named Larry Talbot, played by Gil Vidal. He’s one member of the expedition to find the yeti. With the stories revolving around the leads, he and Ralph (Ventura Oller) exist primarily to become casualties. I mean, someone’s got to die along the way, right?
If I haven’t been clear, it’s an expedition led by Prof. Lacombe that’s the crock pot that holds all the ingredients of the stew that is Night of the Howling Beast. Oddly, of the genres it includes, it has only a pinch of horror. The overall flavor is more pulp adventure in the vein of a Fu Manchu film. It’s tasty, though. You can’t help but be simultaneously full and yet want a second helping.
Written by Paul Naschy
Directed by Miguel Iglesias
Starring Paul Naschy, Mercedes Molina, Silvia Solar, Gil Vidal, Luis Induni, Josep Castillo Escalona
RT 94 min.
Released Jan. 9, 1975 (Spain)
Home Video Blu-ray (Shout Factory, The Paul Naschy Collection II)
Rating Waldemar 6 Daninskys (out of 10)