LA MALDICION DE LA BESTIA/THE CURSE OF THE BEAST
|Cast: Paul Naschy (Waldemar Daninsky), Grace
Mills (Sylvia Lacombe), Gil Vidal, Luis Induni (Sekkar Khan), Silvia Solar
(Wandesa), Veronica Miriel (Melody), Jose Luis Chinchilla, Castillo
Escalona, Ventura Olleraul
Director: Miguel Iglesias Bonns
Screenplay: Jacinto Molina
Photography: Tomas Pladevall
Editor: Carmen Fabregas
Music: CAM Espana, S.A.
Production Company: Profilmes (Spain)
Running time: 85 min.
U.S. theatrical release: as NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST
Video: U.S. release on Super Video, as NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST, and from Majestic as HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN KING. Dutch PAL release on Sunrise, as THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI (English langauge print/Dutch subtitles).
Review: How to Make a Werewolf Movie: Take one studly cigar-smokin’, sideburn sportin’, werewolf-cursed super hero, add a pert bell-bottom wearin’, one-time pre-teen crush cutie, throw in assorted family members, sundry friends and one drunken bastard for body(s) and stir. Let sit for plot to develop. Next add a slinky, cat-eyed sorceress, some time-warp holdovers from the Mongol Hordes, liberally spice with two naked cannibal werewolf/vampire babes who live in a cave in the snow-bound mountains, then add to taste (Naschy’s taste that is)--a little skinning alive, impalement, chains and bondage, staking, stabbing, a knockdown drag out fight between Waldemar and the main villain, and last but not least, scrounge up a ratty looking Yeti that was the result of a bad three-way in the gene pool between Bigfoot, Schlock and the Chupacabra. Finally, throw in some more nudity, sex and romance for good measure and top off with a happy ending. The tasty result…LA MALDICION DE LA BESTIA (NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST or, for those of you on a low sex/low smut diet, HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN KING).
Produced by Profilmes SA and released in the United States by Independent International Pictures Corp., this fun Saturday matinee romp through the eighth incarnation of Waldemar Daninsky is almost like one of those old 50’s EC comics before the censors found out what the writers and artists were pandering to the youth of America.
Thanks to Tomas Pladevall’s cinematography, the picture has a terrific look to it; the outdoor location shooting, though often gray and bleak, brings a realistic feel lost in studio-bound productions. That’s real snow, and it looks real cold and that’s definitely real steam coming off the actors’ breathes. Pladevall also knows how to create a romantic or suspenseful mood by utilizing all that candlelight Naschy is so fond of. There’s also great period costuming and set design that frequently makes the viewer forget this story is set in modern day.
The English dubbing is well done for the most part, only hitting a couple of bumpy areas in translation. The original mood and characterizations of the Spanish language version appear to be reasonably maintained. The one major disappointment is the music. Taken from the CAM stock library, it doesn’t appear that much thought was put into matching mood with melody.
The cast, on the other hand, is one of the best ever assembled.
Grace Mills plays Sylvia. Her love for Waldemar as well as her determination to seek out the magic flower that can cure him of his curse, carries her along on his roller coaster adventure and right into the hands of the bad guys--Sekkar Khan and Wandesa.
Silvia Solar as Wandesa is the epitome of a Naschy villainess--beautiful, alluring and thoroughly evil. Her seduction scene with a chained up Waldemar is classic kinky Naschy erotica.
Luis Induni, who appeared in several Naschy films, portrays Sekkar Khan. He chews the scenery with the best of them, playing Khan bigger than life. His battle royale with Waldemar at film’s end is an athletic dance of death fought with fists, furniture and ferocity and is one of the best action scenes ever in a Naschy film.
Naschy, himself, appears fit and robust, performing the majority (but not all) of his own stunts and engaging in feats of derring-do throughout the proceedings.
The basic plot involves an expedition to Tibet lead by Professor Lacombe. The goal--to find the fabled Yeti. Waldemar and a guide scout ahead and become lost in the snow-covered terrain. The guide panics and runs off. Waldemar follows his tracks until they abruptly end in the middle of a clearing! He continues to wander, hungry and dazed by cold, until he comes upon a cave. There he meets two sari-clad women who minister to him body and soul. Unfortunately, they turn out to be cannibals as well as werewolf/vampire hybrids. Waldemar dispatches them for their bad eating habits, but not before one of them bites him, infecting him with ‘the curse of the beast’. Meanwhile, the Professor and company have been taken prisoner by the bandit, Sekkar Khan. Only Sylvia has escaped, but several of the Khan’s men are hot on her trail and corner her with the intention of raping her before taking her back as their prisoner.
Mayhem ensues as Waldemar, in wolf form, attacks them. Sylvia faints and when she awakes it’s daybreak and she comes face to face with a disheveled Waldemar. They find safe harbor in an abandoned monastery only to be captured later on and taken to the mountain fortress of Sekkar Khan.
Waldemar is chained in a cell and made to watch as Sylvia’s friend, Melody, is flayed alive by Wandesa; the skin from her back used to treat an unusual skin condition Khan suffers from. Sylvia escapes from her cell along with several other females kept for treating Khan’s malady. Sylvia frees Waldemar who then defeats Khan in a thrill-packed battle. Immediately thereafter he tries to abandon Sylvia when he realizes it will soon be the full moon. She follows him, however, and is captured by the yeti. In the meantime, Waldemar has transformed into the wolfman and he engages in a fight to the death with the yeti. As the wolfman lies exhausted and wounded in the snow, Sylvia spies the magic flower that will save him. Cutting her palm with a sharp knife and crushing the scarlet blossom in her fist, she applies the remedy to his lips. Miraculously, Waldemar transforms back into human form. He and Sylvia saunter off arm and arm into the sunrise.
Naschy, ever the one to push the envelop with the censors, took three giant steps with this film. The scene where the skin is stripped from Melody’s back is particularly graphic and not for those who get queasy at the sight of blood. The sex scene with the two girls in the cave is another knockout. Not only does Waldemar get a little two-on-one action, but there’s also some just-out-of-camera-range oral hanky panky going on that’s sure to up the testosterone level of any male viewer. And, for added measure, Naschy also made these femme fatales cannibals. By today's standards these scenes seem relatively tame, but at the time taboos such as these seriously challenged censors in many countries throughout the world. Naschy is to be commended for being a groundbreaker in the arena of freedom of artistic expression.
Naschy scripted seven of the eight films he made for Profilmes SA; LA MALDICION DE LA BESTIA was the last movie for them. Other Profilmes productions he wrote and appeared in include EL ESPANTO SURGE DE LA TUMBA, LOS OJOS AZULES DE LA MUNECA ROTA, and EL MARISCAL DEL INFIERNO--some of the most influential films of his career. Unfortunately, he was not given a chance to direct any of them. It would be another year before INQUISICION marked his directorial debut, adding yet another significant facet to his accomplishments.
Naschy has stated that he was not happy with LA MALDICION DE LA BESTIA for a couple of reasons. The first being Miguel Iglesias Bonns’ direction, though this film is certainly light years ahead of Bonns’ LA DIOSA SALVAJE (Naschy can claim immunity here since he didn’t write this one). Congratulations are due Naschy, his familiarity with Waldemar’s character helped him rise above Bonns’ rather mediocre handling of his script. Though, mostly absent in this film is Waldemar’s brooding intensity and the air of tragedy that surrounded his character in past films. He manages a few soulful-eyed, hang-dogged glances at Sylvia when she discovers what he’s become and that’s about it. However, even if the film did fall short of the grander scope Naschy envisioned, it is consistently thought of by his fans and fellow professionals as one of his best. He even received the best actor award at the 1975 Sitges Film Festival for LA MALDICION DE LA BESTIA.
As for Naschy’s other main bone of contention--his belief that Daninsky should die in every film--well, don’t sweat it Paul, when last seen Waldemar and Sylvia were wandering around in the snow-covered Tibetan wilderness in their shirt-sleeves and bell-bottoms. My money’s on the bodies not being found until after spring thaw.
-- Denetia Arellanes
Video Information: Two English-language tapes are the sources of tapes currently available from dupers, the out-of-print Super Video release of NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST (US/NTSC format) and the Dutch PAL on Sunrise Tapes titled THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI. The former is by far the more superior, despite the claim by reputable video dupers that the Dutch PAL tape contains "UNCUT" scenes of torture, sex, nudity, cannibalism, etc., not found in other versions. We did a careful, scene-by-scene comparison in an attempt to find out the difference between the NTSC tape and the PAL original and were shocked, frankly, that the THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI is basically worthless, unless you happen to need to read Dutch to understand the film. Aside from the language used in the credits (the titles in the NTSC version are in Spanish, while the Dutch tape's credits are in English), there is only one difference found between the two, and this takes place in the pre-credit sequence.
NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST begins with a right to left panning shot of a mountain and follows this with a shot of a group of foot travelers proceeding from right to left. The second sequence is shorter by, at best, two seconds, than the same sequence in THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI. But....the panning shot of the mountain is longer by about two to three seconds in NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST. In both prints, it looks as if this difference is caused by a splice cut unique to each print.
What of the rest? In regards to extra scenes, no difference at all. THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI presents the film with a slight, almost minuscule black border at the top, and captures a bit more of the overall image, but the transfer is too dark and murky to make this a plus. If one factors in the intrusive Dutch subtitling, and the fact that the film appears to have been speeded up slightly (a brief sequence even goes out of sync), the PAL version becomes a genuine money loss for the Naschy fan willing to buy it from a variety of PAL/NTSC transfer dupers in the hope of uncovering some mythical "uncut" version.
This does not mean that Super Video's NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST is without faults. True, the colors are bolder and more evident (we can actually see the color of blood here, unlike in the PAL tape), and there's more clarity in the transfer, but the print has an unpleasant dimness in certain scenes, and the aural sound is not well presented, going in the opposite direction of the trebly PAL and edging toward being muffled.
It seems that both NTSC and PAL versions were mastered somewhere down the line from the same grungy-looking print, making LA MALDICION DE LA BESTIA the perfect candidate for a clean letterboxed presentation.
A note should be made that this film was also released on video in America under the ridiculous title of HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN KING. This version, which supposedly did cut out the good stuff, is quite hard to find, so if you got it, consider yourself quite lucky.
DOWNLOAD THE MAIN CREDITS CUE!
We've identified the music playing over the main credits of LA MADLICION DE LA BESTA and other parts of the film. It a Bruno Nicolai composition, "Il giorno del guidizio," from LOVE BIRDS. Amazon.com has the cue for sale as a MP3 download for 89 cents, and entire album for sale as a MP3 download ($6.99).