Monday, February 22, 2016
FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR (1968)
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *psychological*
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
As most horror-fans know, the title of this film's first American release was a put-up job, as the original Spanish film contained no references to anything remotely like FRANKENSTEIN. The only resemblance-- purely coincidental in nature-- is that star Paul Naschy once expressed a strong affection for Universal's FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, which he saw as a child. TERROR, the first film to portray Naschy's lupine character Waldemar Daninsky, is similar to the Universal flick in being not a "one-gimme" concept but a "two-gimme." Of the Naschy-wolfman films I've seen, several mix together the wolfman idea with other monsters-- usually vampires, as with TERROR.
Though TERROR isn't psychologically deep, it does show some interesting patterns that Naschy would continue to evoke in his "Daninsky-verse." We first meet two aristocratic youths, Janice and Rudolf, who have known one another since childhood and whose respective fathers anticipate a healthy marital union. But at a costume party Janice encounters a more disreputable member of the aristocracy: Count Daninsky, known to have gambled away much of his inheritance.
Rudolf feels threatened by Janice's burgeoning interest in the Count, but in a roundabout way the younger man is responsible for the chain of events that lead to Daninsky's curse. While driving Janice in his car, he runs a gypsy wagon, inhabited by a man and his wife, off the road. Daninsky happens along, helps the gypsies out of their difficulty, and even tells them of a place where they can stay for the night. However, the gypsies' camp happens to be in the vicinity of Daninsky's family crypt. The gypsies break in, looking for loot. They find a corpse with a silver weapon impaling the chest-- which earlier dialogue has related to legends about werewolves-- and in trying to pilfer the silver, they revive a long-dead werewolf. who promptly kills his saviors.
As the werewolf continues attacking locals, a hunting-party is formed to pursue what is presumed to be a vicious animal. Both Rudolf and Daninsky join the hunt. Rudolf is almost killed by the wolfman, but Daninsky manages to slay the creature, though he himself suffers a bloody bite-wound. Once Rudolf is aware that the lycanthropic curse has been passed on, he's ironically obliged to protect his romantic rival. He locks Daninksy in a cell and suffers insults from Janice, who's convinced that he's trying to keep her away from her new beloved. However, eventually Janice finds out the truth.
Some research into the Count's family history causes Janice and Rudolf to make contact with a hazily known figure, Dr. Janos Mikhelov, in the hope of gaining a cure for the werewolf curse. However, when Mikhelov and his wife Nascha show up at Daninsky's dwelling, they turn out to be a curse in themselves, for both of them are vampires. The vampires' agenda is left fairly vague, but they might be seen as reflections of Janice and Rudolf's former passion, given that Nascha seduces Rudolf and Mikhelov seduces Janice.
The climax is easily the weakest element of this monstrous psychodrama. For some reason the vampires revive Daninsky's twice-dead ancestor and sic him on Daninsky in his wolf-form. When the younger werewolf triumphs, Nascha retreats to her coffin and is staked by Daninsky. Then "El Hombre Lobo" chases down the vampire and defeats him in a desultory combat. Then the wolfman's curse is ended when Janice shoots him with silver bullets.
The story of the first Spanish wolfman is thoroughly derivative, but Naschy-- who scripted the film as well as starring in it-- sells the shaky narrative through his presence, and through his obvious affection for the tropes (no matter how well worn) of the classic American horror film.