Writer-actor Paul Naschy really kick-started the Spanish horror boom of the early seventies with his fifth adventure as tragic werewolf, Waldemar Daninsky. When clueless coroners remove a silver bullet from Daninsky’s corpse, he leaps off the table as - Madre de dios! - El Hombre Lobo! Romping into the woods, the hairy fiend mauls a miniskirted Red Riding Hood, while the camera lingers on her blood-spattered breasts (just to annoy the B.B.F.C.) and a seriously groovy theme song - heavy on the “ye-ye girls” - swells on the soundtrack.
Meanwhile, after picture postcard views of Paris, we segue to a swanky nightclub where suave Inspector Marcel (Andres Resino) bids farewell to his student girlfriend, Elvira (Gaby Fuchs). He’s off on assignment (“Don’t worry. I’ve seen so many James Bond movies, I know all the tricks”), while she is writing her term paper on Countess Wandessa (Patty Shepard), a notorious 11th century Hungarian occultist. Psychedelic flashbacks show the beautiful vampire queen performed wild satanic rituals and drank the blood of naked virgins, until a silver dagger ended her life.
Elvira and her sexy friend, Genevieve (Barbara Capell) journey to the northern countryside, where friendly Waldemar - who believes the dagger is the only way to end his curse - invites them to stay at his spooky mansion. The trio stumble across Wandessa’s tomb and when Genevieve foolishly removes the silver dagger, droplets of her blood revive the undead countess. While Waldemar struggles with his lycanthropic urges, Countess Wandessa puts the bite on Genevieve, unleashing bloodlust, lesbianism and black magic in her efforts to summon Satan himself for Walpurgis Night!
A genuine gem of Euro-horror, Werewolf Shadow exemplifies the delirious delights of a groovy age when sex, psychedelia and gothic style briefly turned the genre into an adults-only variant on Scooby-Doo. It’s exploitation fun and surprisingly stylish. Argentinean born filmmaker Leon Klimovsky peppers this funky fright-fest with creepy touches like the subliminal shots of lurking Wandessa, rotting toys, mist that magically appears indoors and dreamy slow-motion for the vampire girl sequences which exude a palpable eroticism.
As with Hammer horrors, vampirism becomes a dark form of sexual liberation. Genevieve coos and shivers in ecstasy when she and Wandessa lock lips. “I’m happy”, she tells Elvira. “It’s beautiful. Come with us and you’ll know what pleasure is.” Skipping about the countryside, hand in hand, the girls don’t do anything especially evil beyond giggle, bare their fangs playfully and make out. Genevieve even briefly seduces good-girl Elvira, who from the sounds she makes, is rather enjoying herself until Waldemar heroically intervenes. Spoilsport! To even things out, the plot rather sportingly lets Elvira enjoy a fling with the handsome hero and still walk into the sunset with boyfriend Marcel. It’s free love in the groovy age of horror, folks.
While Patty Shepard (sort of a prettier Barbara Steele) and babelicious Barbara Capell make an alluring pair of vampire girls, Naschy still evokes sympathy for poor, unfortunate Waldemar, who unwittingly brings death wherever he goes. He isn’t the most expressive actor, but brings a brooding intensity to his tragic werewolf that makes him a barrel-chested James Dean in yak-hair makeup. The wolf man makeup and special effects are old-fashioned, but eerily effective with a memorable maggot-ridden melting face, a shadowy cameo from Satan, and plenty of crimson gore.
Unintentional comedy arises from Elvira being repeatedly molested by Waldemar’s loony lesbian sister (Yelena Samarina) and crazy handyman who delivers a ranting monologue (“You don’t think I’m crazy do you? I hate it when people think I’m crazy. Makes me want to hurt them”) while she just rolls her eyes. Nevertheless, Klimovsky makes good use of the haunting Spanish countryside, imagery like the hand crawling out of the grave, and a soundtrack full of atonal noise and raspy monster voices. The big showdown between Wandessa and Waldemar is rather brief and one-sided, but proves fang-baring, fur-flying fun. And, unlike An American Werewolf in London (1981), this makes good on the prophecy of the wolf man slain by someone he loves. Naschy and Klimovsky followed this with the outrageous Dr. Jekyll versus the Werewolf (1972).