Saturday, November 19, 2022

Curse of the Devil (1973)

In the Medieval era, a witchhunter successfully rounds up and kills a group of satanists terrorising the land. The survivors curse his family, so that one of his descendants will become a monster of the night. Hundreds of years later, wealthy landowner Waldemar Daninsky is the recipient of that curse, after a midnight affair with a lady on Walpurgis Night leaves him scarred with the bite of the wolf...

Curse of the Beast (El Retorno de Walpurgis) is a Spanish-Mexican co-production, and the 7th in the Hombre Lobo series. Spain's answer to The Wolf Man, helmed by local genre icon Paul Naschy. As per usual, the film presents a reset continuity, showing yet another new spin on tortured soul Waldemar Daninsky's story. No vampires this time, but satanists galore!

Curse of the Devil gets all the necessary things right. It's spooky, violent, and has a great Gothic atmosphere.

My biggest issue with the film is it's a little too basic. The hero becomes a werewolf, and kills a couple of people, then gets killed. That's it. I'm not asking that every werewolf film needs to be unique or groundbreaking, and oftentimes simplicity is best. But this feels like the bare minimum, and we could've gotten more.

Here's where I'll swing back to the positives though. While the actual onscreen werewolf time may be fairly short, it's paced and spread out so well that the movie never feels short of action.

The dialogue is pretty amusing and cheesy.
From Waldemar's ancestor: "Righteousness will win! Bitches I'll see all in chains!"
Local advice: "It's not a comforting thing to have an insane killer in your area."
And from the horny sister: "I came here a virgin. I'm not gonna leave that way!"

Curse of the Devil is the biggest downer of the series. I know that's an odd statement considering Waldemar dies in almost every single movie, but there was usually something to mitigate the tragedy (i.e. evil is destroyed, the girl finds a new boyfriend, etc). Here though there's not really any such luck, and the satanists are never punished either. This Waldermar came so close to a happy ending too! But the satanists doom him completely, with no cure.

You've gotta feel sorry for Waldemar here. Usually the werewolf curse strikes him at random, or he brings it on himself, but here he's genuinely just minding his own business when some assholes who bear a centuries old grudge decide to curse him.

The satanists start out as main villains, and even get a salacious sex scene with a demon, before sending their prettiest charge out to seduce and curse Waldemar. Once the deed is done she runs away...and is immediately caught and decapitated by a roving maniac! There's instant karma for you! After this the other satanists are out of the picture. It's a shame we never see them punished, but at least this means the film's never too overcrowded.

Waldermar's new neighbours are a family from the big city. An older gentlemen, his wife, and two grown daughters. There's main love interest Kinga, and horny younger sister Maria. The former is fairly standard, and falls head over heels for Waldemar, while the latter... Her funniest moment comes when she strips nude and comes onto him. Waldemar looks sad about it, but has sex with her anyway! I'd call him a cheating louse, but frankly, she only has one scene left before she dies, and he's inevitably going to die tragically too, so I'm all in favour of Waldemar getting laid as much as possible! The poor boy needs it.

The detective is a difficult guy, and brings his fate on himself, but I felt kinda bad for him by the end. He has to deal with a maniac, an irate mob, and a werewolf, only to get torn to shreds!

Then there's Waldemar's faithful maid. So loyal in protecting her master, she's willing to kill the mysterious woman who showed up only days ago. Talk about mistrustful!

The film has a surprisingly high body count! Not counting the executions in the opening flashback, we get some stabbings, one decapitated satanist, a couple of mob killings, and over half a dozen werewolf victims!

The effects are a high point, with the werewolf make-up being as good as usual, perhaps the best it's been in these films. Definitely the furriest! The violence ranges from decent to hilarious, with the opening decapitation providing a lot of laughs!

Curse of the Devil is very well directed, and just goes to show how even cheap 'schlock' can look gorgeous in the right hands! The moonlit scenes are particularly good, with an effective mix of light and dark. The opening flashback is mostly in a sepia filter, which is thankfully not too intrusive, and gone before you know it.

Onto the cast. Paul Naschy does well, as usual. Bud Spencer's dub actor gets a serious lead role here. It's amusing hearing how a couple of the actors pronounce werewolf. The ladies all do a good job, and look drop dead sexy. Through them we also get to see how little women in the 70s shaved down there (Oh my!).

The score here is pretty good. It's ooky enough, and has some electronic twangs here and there, which sound neat, and don't clash as much with the classic Gothic atmosphere as you'd think.

Curse of the Beast is a fairly decent piece of Spanish horror. It's got a few issues, but none that make it worth avoiding. At its worst it's still a fun bit of Latin terror with monsters, blood, and ample nudity, so can you really complain?...

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