A young woman is trying on her bridal gown when she hears a noise at her window pane. It is her fiancé, eager to see her one last time before their wedding, but as soon as he leaves a scaly, reptilian hand reaches towards her window. The unfortunate woman is savaged to death, claws rip her flesh while her pristine white gown is splattered with blood. Cue credits!
When Spanish weightlifter-turned-screenwriter/star Paul Naschy (a.k.a. Jacinto Molina) first mentioned he wanted to make a horror movie, close friend and fellow filmmaker Amando de Ossorio warned him against the genre, claiming he had no chance at commercial success in their native land. Nevertheless when Naschy’s films began making money around the world, de Ossorio set aside the paella westerns he’d been known for till then and jumped on the horror bandwagon. Beginning with Malenka - Niece of the Vampire (1968) he made a string of occasionally shoddy, more often inspired surrealistic horror movies, notably the eerie Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971) and its three sequels though Lorelei’s Grasp - also billed as The Lorely’s Grasp and When the Screaming Stops - is also worthy of mention.
Following a string of reptile related deaths in an eerie lakeside town, prim schoolteacher Elke Ackerman (Silvia Tortosa) asks the mayor to send someone to safeguard her young students - all bikini bombshells craving male attention. Roll up Sirgurd (Tony Kendall), ace hunter and motorcycle stud who leaves the ladies flustered with his brawny chest and tight flared trousers. Sirgurd imposes a nine o’clock curfew while he hunts the beast and notices the beautiful, mysterious Lorelei (Helga Liné) present at the funeral of every victim. The killings continue around town, attracting the attention of crackpot scientist Professor Von Lander (Sergio Mendizábal) who offers Sirgurd a pseudoscientific rational behind the legend of Lorelei, a sea witch supposedly transformed by the full moon into a hideous monster that eats human hearts. Soon afterwards, Sirgurd glimpses Lorelei lounging by the lake in a skimpy bikini and is instantly smitten, little realising he has a part to play in re-enacting the old legend.
De Ossorio draws upon Teutonic mythology, specifically the legend of Siegfried and the Dragon, and though he reduces the epic sweep of the Niebelungen to a sexed-up Hanna-Barbera cartoon, Lorelei’s Grasp emerges an oddly beguiling melange of Scooby-Doo mystery, fairytale romance and extreme splatter. The killings are pretty darn gory, venturing beyond that old BBFC bugaboo blood on breasts to include mammary mutilation, hearts ripped out and faces melted with acid. With typical Seventies sexism, the girls are drawn as daffy bimbos whose flirty nature marks them for death. Icy Elke initially disapproves of Sirgurd lodging so near to her nubile wards, but wouldn’t you know it she’s after him too. Naturally, she lets her hair down and removes her glasses for a “why Miss Jones, you’re beautiful” moment, leading to a passionate clinch that leaves Lorelei understandably irked.
Porcelain pretty with a va-va-voom figure, Helga Liné lends Lorelei an ethereal presence as she vainly defends her actions: “It’s my nature. Would you accuse a volcano or a panther of cruelty.” The actresses was a familiar face in Spanish horror and had an all too brief moment in the international spotlight in the cult classic Horror Express (1972). In keeping with the Blind Dead movies, Amando de Ossorio ensures the mist shrouded lakeside town yields a bewitching atmosphere. Prior to the haunting denouement, he draws the third act into outright myth as Sirgurd - sporting a crimson cape and puffy shirt - descends into Lorelei’s undersea lair where a trio of leopard-skin swimsuit clad amazons fight over him. What kind of cologne does this man wear?