The Spanish film industry is not particularly noted for its Werewolf flicks (though several Hispanic filmmakers have delivered some of the finest horror flicks of the past few years), but that didn’t stop Paul Naschy (actual name: Jacinto Molina) from writing and starring in a whole BUNCH of ‘em in the early seventies. Apparently intent on becoming Spain’s answer to Lon Chaney Jr., Naschy appeared in easily eight or nine Werewolf flicks, each one as theatrical and dated as the one that came before.One such production is Curse of the Devil (aka Return of the Walpurgis), which comes right after Werewolf Shadow (aka The Night of the Walpurgis) and right beforeThe Werewolf and the Yeti (aka The Night of the Howling Beast). Got all that? There's gonna be a test when we’re done. This extensive series of "werewolf meets varying supernatural figures" sees Naschy as tortured werewolf Waldemar Daninsky, a classy and friendly gentleman who occasionally grows hair all over his body before goring someone in splashy style.
This time around, Daninsky is forced to contend with a serial killer loose on his Northern France estate, plus a pesky coven of ill-prepared witches who (of course) aim to do things considerably more evil than just sprouting body hair and chomping down on people’s necks. The werewolf gets blamed for the murderer’s work, and vice versa. The witches show up as scantily clad red herrings who successfully help to pad out this talky feature with several scenes of overacted exposition.
As in most of these movies, Naschy gives an earnest performance (though the outdated voice-dubs are rather distracting) and Curse of the Devil features four or five "money scenes" - ones that deliver some diverting female nudity or a particularly nasty werewolf attack. Unfortunately, these moments come rather few and far between. Perhaps horror fans of thirty years ago were able to sit through 20-minute stretches of "yap yap yap" before seeing someone get their jugular chomped upon, but I’m a guy raised on the rapid-fire body counts of the 80’s slasher-flick. Less is indeed more in many cases; not so in horror movies.
Trying to judge these flicks is a nonstop battle between objectivity, culture shock, and the cruel hands of time. (What seemed horrific in 1973 comes off today as more than a little ridiculous.) It’s clear that Naschy’s werewolf flicks were well liked cult films, movies made on shoestring budgets yet with an affection for the legendary Werewolf icon.
But watery red paint (for blood) and hilarious stop-motion "transformation" effects are no match for the film's dreary pacing. It’s clear that the filmmakers were striving for a good low-budget horror flick, but boredom knows no cultural boundaries. Save for a few choice sequences (usually near each film’s finale), Naschy’s lycanthrope epics (though clearly beloved by a cult fanbase) are more tedious than terrifying.A campy series of old-school Werewolf flicks can only coast by on kitsch value for so long before one notices that the movies simply aren’t all that interesting.