[Tearing Through Werewolf Cinema] 'The Werewolf Vs. The Vampire Woman' Found a New Direction for the Waldemar Daninsky Series
Welcome to a weekly series in which Doris V. Sutherland takes readers on a trip through the history of werewolf cinema...
...The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971) introduces us to two young women, Elvira (Gaby Fuchs) and Genevieve (Barbara Capell), who are searching for the grave of the Countess Wandesa. According to the legend, the Countess terrorised eleventh-century Hungary, worshipping Satan and drinking the blood of virgins to prolong her youth, until she was slain with a pointed crucifix driven into her heart. Helping them in their search is Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy), who lets the two travellers stay at his house while they look for the Countess’ final resting place.
But not all is as it seems at Daninsky’s place. For one, he fails to mention that he lives with his unhinged sister Elizabeth (Yelena Samarina), who shows a propensity for physically attacking the newcomers. A second, even bigger secret, one that becomes apparent during the full moon, is the fact that Daninsky is a werewolf. However, this second revelation turns out to be for the best: Countess Wandesa (Patty Shepard) is resurrected after Elvira accidentally spills blood on her grave, and sometimes it takes a werewolf to tackle a vampire.
With The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (known in Spain as La Noche de Walpurgis; also known variously as Shadow of the Werewolf, Werewolf Shadow, and Blood Moon) director León Klimovsky and writers Jacinto Molina and Hans Munkel found a new direction for the Waldemar Daninsky series. Where Mark of the Wolf Man and Fury of the Wolfman used Daninsky as the central character, and Assignment Terror cast him as the most prominent member of a monster mash, this outing gives him something different to do.
After he gets resurrected by the removal of the silver bullets that killed him (a plot device that, surprisingly, had not been previously used in werewolf films) Paul Naschy’s lycanthrope is cast as the enigmatic patriarch in an Old Dark House story. We see the world through the eyes of Elvira and Genevieve as they cross the threshold of Daninsky’s home, uncovering secret upon secret, while Daninsky himself often fades into the background.
Daninsky’s Old Dark House gets a little more crowded once the vampires turn up. This species of monster was not new for the series—the original Mark of the Wolf Man had vampires as antagonists—but The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman goes all-out on the capes-and-fangs aesthetic. Countess Wandesa (whose backstory is clearly modelled upon the legend of the real-life Elizabeth Bathory, with an added dash of pop-Satanism) is portrayed as a joyful figure, dancing and frolicking in stark contrast to the dour Daninsky. Small wonder that Genevieve—the Lucy Westenra to Elvira’s Mina Harker—succumbs to temptation and joins the ranks of the merry undead.
The casual oddness that gives the Daninsky cycle so much of its appeal continues into this outing. A skeletal monk is resurrected at the same time as the vampire countess only to be swiftly destroyed; meanwhile, even after this happens, our two heroines take all of the phenomena they’ve witnessed in their stride, acting as though they’ve simply picked a motel with dodgy plumbing. And nobody with a fondness for the cheesier end of Gothic cinema could fail to fall for the shots of languid vampire women cavorting in slow-mo through dry ice-filled hallways.
The problem is, those slow-mo sequences sum up the film’s pacing. The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman squeezes most of its best material into its first half. After that, the story becomes a slog towards the final confrontation between Daninsky and Wandesa—and even then we’ve seen the most striking shots, as they were used over the opening credits. Only someone with an appreciation for colourful trash will have any interest in the Waldemar Daninsky films, of course, but the trouble with this outing is that the trash runs out too quickly.
Still, before the imagination dries up The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman manages some evocative moments. It’s also good to see that, once again, the series is varying its formula: whenever his lycanthropic antics start to get repetitive, el Hombre Lobo can still work just fine as a member of an ensemble cast.
By Doris V. Sutherland