Wednesday, October 3, 2018

THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI (La Maldicion de la Bestia, 1975)

The turning of the blowing of the leaves again turns my thoughts toward horror and monsters, and so it's time again to visit with Jacinto Molina and his onscreen alter ego, Paul Naschy. "The Curse of the Beast" is his reboot, authored by himself and directed by M. I. Bonns, of the saga of Waldemar Daninsky, who here turns into a wolfman again for the first time. Anthropologist Daninsky travels to the Himalayas with a team of European scientists in response to seeming photographic evidence of the existence of the legendary Abominable Snowman. The yeti, however, proves to be literally the last of Waldemar's worries. Losing track of an injured comrade, our hapless hero ends up in the clutches of a pair of witches who love him up into a werewolf. The territory actually is infested with witches. One, bearing the totemic name (for Naschy) of Wandessa (Silvia Solar) is the power behind the local warlord, Sekkar Khan (Luis Induni). The Khan is plagued with ulcers on his back, but Wandessa eases his agonies with skin grafts flayed from the backs on captive women. Relief never lasts, so the Khan constantly sends his head minion Temujin (Jose Luis Chinchilla) to fetch more captives, including the members of Daninsky's expedition. Whatever his own problems, Waldemar has got to save the day, though there's something of a selfish motive behind his heroism. He's been told by a local mystic, who unsurprisingly gets killed by the bandits, that the leaves of a certain plant, mixed with the blood of a young woman, will cure lycanthropy. Surprise follows surprise as only a small amount of his girlfriend's blood is needed, and the cure works-- but not before the filmmakers square things up with the audience by pitting werewolf Waldemar in perfunctory fashion against a yeti that appears in the worn, much-edited print I saw as little more than a tall blur. To use Naschy's Universal reference points, what we have here is a little bit of Werewolf of London (the Himalayan origin), a little bit of House of Dracula (the happy ending) and a bit of the old studio's Arabian Nights pictures thrown in, with the usual extra bits of sex and sadism thrown in to satisfy Seventies audiences, though not so many for me as in an uncut print. It's far from Naschy's best, but I like the way his imagination ran rampant here in directions I didn't anticipate. And of course this was not the end of Waldemar or his curse, but it's nice to see that in one part of the multiverse things turned out all right for him.

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