The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman (1971)
Today we have a European mash-up of two of the more b-movie-worthy genres, the werewolf and the vampire. It's about as good (or bad) as you'd expect, but it wasn't nearly as bad (or good) as I was anticipating. The American version's crappy and brainless title might have something to do with this, but I'm sure it looked awesome splashed across a drive-in movie marquee in the early 1970s.
Clear and clean prints of this movie do exist, even some released on DVD under a variety of other titles, but all I have access to is this miserable pan-and-scan digital transfer from Saint Clair Vision. Most every scene is underlit (often to the point of being near-black) and there is little sharpness or clarity to the picture. This is one of those films with lots of meaningful dialogue, but the sound is so murky and muddled that I was forced to make up half of this review based on what I imagined they were saying (never a good way to write...).
On to the show...
First let's meet French college student Elvira, a tall redhead who never leaves the house without first communing with gallons of styling gel and a 150megawat curling iron. She's a smartyhead academic type to hear her talk, but she melts into a doe-eyed schoolgirl when around men. Her inability to resist the male gender will put her in grave danger by the end of the movie, and she has no rational explanation why she can't seem to use her head around boys.
Elvira's best friend is a fellow co-ed named Genevieve, a...ahem, well-proportioned young lady who is a lot more grounded and sensible than Elvira. She's also stunningly cute, with long, flowing brunette hair and an easy smile. When we first meet these two girls they are in Paris, at a bar, chitchatting and drinking wine.
Elvira is researching an old vampire legend in Hungary for her graduation thesis. She's investigating the Countess Wandesa Dárvula de Nadasdy, a reputed vampire/witch from the eleventh century. Clearly, this is referencing the historical Countess Elizabeth Bathory (her husband's surname was Nadasdy), though most details have been changed for dramatic effect. A nifty flashback scene (with Elvira's voice-over to explain) shows us the Countess back in her heyday, drinking the blood of virgins, dabbling in black magic, and dying via her lover's anger. For some reason, she was buried in Alsace, a Kentucky-like region of northern France. Why would the Countess be buried in France when she died in Hungary?
In a flashback scene, the Countess drinks the virgin's blood from a ceremonial horn
(perhaps a bit too Norse for a Slavic ritual).
The two girls will travel to Alsace by car, determined to hunt down the fabled burial spot of the Countess and write a kickass report on it. Before they leave Paris, however, they surely had this conversation about what to take...
Genevieve: "We'll be searching for grave ruins in the rugged Black Forest of Alsace, should we bring sturdy hiking boots and rugged all-weather gear?"
Elvira: "Oh, no, we should only bring an astounding variety of sexy short miniskirts and frilly party dresses! What if we meet some boys?"
Love the beret and tiny vest look, very 1971.
Off now to the thick forests of provincial backwoods France. Because they are girls (sigh...), it's not long before they are totally lost in the countryside, stuck on some dirt-rut road, and just about to run out of gas for their dinky little rattletrap Frenchie car. They stop at an old farm house for directions, but no one seems to be home. Elvira gets out and wanders around, until she is surprised by the homeowner Waldemar Daninsky.
Let's meet Waldemar, handsome loner poet and a man with a dark, dangerous secret. He seems slippery and manipulative but the girls swoon over him as he invites them to stay a few days. He's played by Spaniard Paul Naschy, one of the great horror movie actors of his generation (I know, I've never heard of him either).
Waldemar, he's so dreamy (apparently).
He says he's writing a book on the history of gothic churches and monuments, and to have the solitude needed for his writing, he's living alone here without electricity or a car or a phone or anything (a suspicious way to set yourself up in isolation, especially if you have something to hide, eh?). At dinner that evening, Elvira wonders if the properly set dinner table means a woman is also living here, but Genevieve notes that he served them cold cuts, which is "a man's thing to do". There is some tension as Waldemar is clearly not being honest with them and is a bit sleazy actually.
As night falls and the dark woods get spooky, the girls go to the guest room. They fret about the lack of a lock on the door and discuss just how odd Waldemar is. To soothe their nerves, the girls slip into their ubersexy baby-doll see-through negligees and take "sleeping pills" before going to bed.
Good lord, everything the internet says about co-eds is true!
That night, Elvira is assaulted by a woman (CrazyChick) who just walks in and starts playing with her hair and fondling her boobs! Elvira, perhaps due to the pills, is helpless to defend herself (or maybe she was enjoying it). In the morning, Waldemar tells Elvira that her attacker was his sister, who he forgot to mention before. CrazyChick is "mentally disturbed", he says, and harmless, even though she just tried to rape/kill Elvira not two hours ago. Elvira should be suspicious of Waldemar's constant story-changes but she's not, she's clearly enthralled by his handsomeness and his charming voice. She's sure that Waldemar is a good man, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
Groped by CrazyChick.
Later, Genevieve is out snooping around and finds a shed behind the house. Hanging from the ceiling are a number of shackles and bright red blood is splattered across the wall (this is the point where I would be running like hell). While she's distracted by this CSI crime scene, Genevieve is attacked by CrazyChick! She takes a moment to rip Genevieve's shirt open (exposing some impressive huffalumps) before choking her near-unconscious. CrazyChick then, for some reason, breaks off the attack, leaving the poor co-ed gasping for air and bleeding from scratches and abrasions.
Genevieve finds something icky.
And they STILL decide to stay here! When questioned about the bloody shackles, Waldemar says he was slaughtering a game pig there. Right. Elvira for some inexplicable reason refuses to believe that he might be a duplicitous bastard. "He's so terribly unhappy", she moans, her overactive female sympathy for bad boys clouding her judgment. Later, we see Waldemar and CrazyChick talking alone. He says these girls are his "last hope" and she needs to stop scaring them (and trying to kill them). Something spooky is going on here. It's never, ever explained why his sister keeps attacking the girls (jealousy, rage, or maybe just true insanity?).
Waldemar puts the smack down on his sister.
Elvira has an old map that supposedly shows where the Countess was buried back in the eleventh century. The location is an old church ruins, apparently just a short walk from Waldemar's house (how convenient!). So, grabbing some shovels, they go to dig it up for "scientific research". Watch as they pry off that heavy stone (spray-painted Styrofoam) casket lid and poke around inside without any concern for the priceless historical artifacts they are ruining. Proper archaeological methods be damned! Genevieve is flippant here, she's too cosmopolitan to believe in ghost stories and vampire legends, she's just thinks this is all grand amusement.
Tomb with lid.
Suddenly, Elvira stops them, claiming that she doesn't want to be here when the casket is opened. "Let's not profane it", she says, but when the others insist on opening it, Elvira goes off to the nearby church ruins. Uh, isn't she the reason they are here? Genevieve is just along for the ride, this is Elvira's research project, right? This is one of those weird moments (in a very weird film) where someone does something totally out-of-character and it's never explained why.
The proper outfit for grave robbing, a black-and-white
striped dress with a slit up the front all the way to her vajayjay.
Back now to the gravesite where Waldemar is tossing out a dead dog carcass from the tomb...whaaa? Huh? Let me rewind. Why is there a (relatively intact) carcass inside this 900-year old tomb? Never explained. They open the casket to discover a desiccated female skeleton in there, with still some mummified skin, which should have disintegrated when first exposed to the air. For that matter, that tomb/casket was most likely not water-proof and 100% certainly not air-proof, so it defies logic that after almost a millennium of oxidation, bacteria, and extreme temperature swings in the temperate forests of Western Europe, there would be anything left at all. There's a silver cross imbedded in the skeleton's chest (this is how the legend says the vampire Countess was killed).
The long-dead Countess, though the obvious pronounced
alveolar prognathism suggests this is a simian skull, maybe a baboon.
In a move that would make even Indiana Jones cry out in protest, Genevieve just reaches down and takes the cross out of the skeleton's ribcage. As she pulls it out, she cuts her arm badly (on what?) and the blood drips down into the skeleton's open mouth. Because we need to be spoon-fed plot points, Genevieve then tells of the age-old legend that the dead Countess can only be revived if the silver cross is taken out and she tastes the blood of a virgin. Dum dum dum!
She's going to need some stitches.
Meanwhile, a Zombie Priest (no joke!) attacks Elvira as she's wandering around the ruins of the church. The Zombie Priest was in the flashback scene a long time ago, back when he had skin and eyeballs and all that, and the (unstated) assumption is that the opening of the Countess' tomb somehow (?) revived her chief satanic priest, who for some reason (?) feels the need to attack Elvira. The beast is killed by Waldemar who arrives just in time to stab the zombie with that silver cross (truly a multi-purpose tool for all your undead disposal needs). Once dead (again), the body then disappears like Obi Wan after Vader slashed him on the Death Star. The appearance of a 900-year old reanimated corpse has absolutely zero effect on Elvira or Genevieve, it's like they see that sort of thing all the time in Paris.
Zombie Priest (actually the best view of it, the
quality of my print is abysmal).
And, by the beard of the prophet, they STILL decide to stay with Waldemar, even after taking into account everything horrible that has befallen them since he slithered his way into their lives, the Zombie Priest, the CrazyChick, the attacks, the attempted rapes, everything. God these women are so frickin' stupid. The co-eds chat about God and Satan and how neither seems to be fully in this world. There are lots of religious undertones in this movie, for better or worse.
The girls chat about pop music and
cars and Robert Pattinson and hairspray.
The Countess emerges from her grave now, revived from her eternal damnation by the blood of a virgin. Ah, soooo...Genevieve is a virgin? A hot young co-ed in 1970s Europe still a virgin? Sure. The Countess approaches the house, first encountering Genevieve downstairs at night. The young woman is entranced by the Countess, who has the Spooky Jedi Mind Powers we tend to associate with all vampire queens. Using her ability to fade away and reappear, she then lures Genevieve into the forest and bites her neck, making her a vampire also. She's then apparently issued the standard vampire uniform of black cloak and widow's peak veil (must be mail order). There are some hints of the classic lesbian vampire theme that started back in the Victorian era when people were terrified of sexuality, but most of this might have been cut from the American print.
Genevieve approaches, looking all gothy.
Genevieve then tries to lure Elvira away into the forest, but she's run off by Waldemar with the cross (vampires fear the cross). Elvira is so smitten with Waldemar that this grievous loss of Genevieve, who by all accounts was her bestest bff, doesn't phase her one bit. He tells her of the fast-approaching "Walpurgis Night", where Satan will return and reign supreme and vampires will rule the earth. Elvira can't hear anything he says over the frantic throbbing of her love-sick heart, "I love you, I love you with all my heart", she gushes to him and they get all kissy-kissy.
Talking (she goes through an incredible amount of costume changes).
Uh...ok, was CrazyChick just killed here, is that her impaled on that wrought iron gate just now? Did one of the vampires do that? Yes, I guess CrazyChick was killed here, because we now see Waldemar carrying her off into the woods to bury her. Worried about not following the ancient rituals, he takes "certain precautions" to keep his sister from coming back as an undead vampire (she got the bite). He stakes her and cuts off her head with axe (youch!).
About to cut her head off (sadly, one of the last
scenes in the movie filmed in the daylight).
The full moon comes out and Waldemar transforms into...wait for it...a werewolf! He growls a lot and runs out into the night to find some human flesh to rend and tear. The next morning he comes back and fesses up to Elvira. He says that while hiking in Tibet he caught the werewolf curse (no other explanation). He moved here about six months ago to find some peace. His sister helped him out by chaining him up when the moon was full. He escaped once, however, and killed someone from the local village. Enraged, the superstitious villagers shot him with silver bullets and left him for dead. And he would have stayed that way if the coroner hadn't been so dumb (or skeptical) as to take out the bullets, thus bringing him back to life. All this was seen in a pre-credits sequence that I neglected to mention until now.
The werewolf, rah!
And yet, Elvira STILL loves him! She's made the decision that she must have Waldemar's love no matter what the consequences or the sky-high creepiness factor of dating a werewolf/killer/Frenchman. Waldemar then explains that the only thing that can release him from his werewolf curse is to be stabbed in the heart by that silver cross (and only that particular silver cross, which suggests that even the shamans in Tibet knew of it). But not just anyone can do it, the blow has to come from the hand of a woman who loves him...what a fucking stupid prophecy, who came up with that? Elvira misses the inconsistencies in his story and can only bat her eyelashes and sputter, "Only love can set you free!"
All important discussions about devil worshipping vampires
and werewolf-killing Christian icons should take place under the covers.
Waldemar's handyman now arrives and takes Elvira to the town in his sputtering Citroen to get some gasoline for her stranded car (not that it's used, ever). She asks about a post office, but there isn't one there (though it looks like a good-sized village, and what does she want to mail?). The handyman tells the legends of werewolves and vampires and about how the locals are superstitious lot. How does Waldemar afford anything, including the services of a handyman? Is he really an author? Why no electricity in house? On the way back, they meet the Countess and Genevieve along the road. The two vampires, who were apparently out looking for fresh meat, are scared off by the cross. Whenever any vampires are on screen, it's in slow-mo, with creepy organ music cues, vaseline layered on the lens, and dry ice fog boiling up around their feet. It's all very spooky, but it gets annoying after a while and it also extends the running time of film by at least a quarter hour. And check those distended fangs! Ha!
Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!
As another full moon night approaches, Waldemar has Elvira chain him up for her own safety. Suddenly, she's attacked by the old handyman, who knocks her out and carries her off, muttering about how she's going to be his loveslave. Wow, that came out of nowhere. The werewolf, perhaps sensing danger to his woman, breaks free of his chains and blocks the handyman's path (sometimes the werewolf's a wild mindless killer, barely in control of his own actions, but other times he has a purpose and almost a guidance). The handyman, for being just an old furry dude in a flannel shirt, puts up quite a fight, more than anyone else we've seen, getting in several good smacks on the werewolf. But in the end, he's bested by the feral beast and killed.
Carried by handyman (did you know you can
find a niche for damn near anything on the internet?).
Time passes. Letting her guard down one night, Elvira is entranced by Genevieve and given the dreaded vampire bite on the neck. This attack was foreshadowed by a hazy dream sequence where Genevieve and the Countess stabbed her in the neck with a knife and drank her blood. Elvira falls into a deep trance-like sleep. Waldemar stalks and kills Genevieve, catching her before she can enter her tomb for the day. He stakes her after a brief tussle, and she fountains blood. He comes back and finds Elvira perfectly fine (!), when Genevieve died the marks left her neck. Once the drone-controller vampire dies, all her drones return to normal, is this historically accurate? Waldemar comforts an only-slightly distraught Elvira by saying that Genevieve is "no longer one of the damned" (vampires can't go to heaven, apparently).
Genevieve dies (again).
A month passes (it must be, because nights without a full moon have passed and now they say another full moon night is near), and the Countess is hiding out, waiting for that Walpurgis Night when Satan comes. They know they have to kill her, but they can't find her, the tombs and tunnels under the area are "endless". Waldemar, never without his leather jacket buttoned up high and tight, has a brief interlude scene here as a local villager attacks him in revenge for the werewolf killing of his wife. The man ends up falling on his own knife, in shock after stabbing Waldemar has no effect (he's immortal save for that silver cross).
Amazing how a bayonet stuck maybe two inches
into a man's stomach can kill him instantly.
Oh, yeah, Elvira had a steady boyfriend before all this started (seriously), a trendy older man named Marcel who is a police investigator (we saw him earlier in a scene I forgot about). Marcel comes to the village looking for Elvira, who has been missing for over a month. As to why he took so long, he says he was in Istanbul, probably on a death run... Marcel talks with a local shopgirl (who really loves mascara) about what's been going on, about additional deaths of villagers and the gossip about spooky ancient curses. She also tells him where he can find Elvira.
Marcel (that's his Mercedes parked out there).
He goes to see her at Waldemar's farm and it's clear that the love is gone as she ducks his kiss. Marcel talks with Waldemar about the killings, but doesn't really mention much about how quickly Elvira dumped him for Waldemar, though she has no explanation for her actions. [Editor Marcel is far better-looking than Waldemar, but maybe the fur is the attraction for Elvira.] Marcel doesn't believe in werewolves or vampires, and he's, "fully prepared to get an investigation underway, even if it's not my jurisdiction". Ha, he sounded like Inspector Clouseau there.
Every man's worse nightmare, the turn-cheek-kiss.
At Waldemar's insistence, Elvira leaves with Marcel for her own safety (though she's miserably unhappy about it). They don't get far, however, as they are ambushed along the road by the Countess! Marcel draws his service pistol but the bullets have no effect on the giggling, be-fanged, undead Hungarian woman from the grave. They are captured by her spell and she leads them away. Off now to the "Knight's Tomb", a ruined old church where the Countess has them chained up to await their (surely bloody) fate.
In the tomb. So the Countess was polite enough to let
Marcel take off his suit coat before chaining him up?
It's Walpurgis Night this very night and Satan arrives in the Knight's Tomb, though he's just a shadow-puppet on the wall. The Countess is about to bleed Elvira to offer this sacrifice up to her master. This suggests that Elvira is a virgin, as the blood of just a regular old woman has been repeatedly said not have any value to the vampires. If this is true, then her relationship with Marcel was chaste, and that she's been shutting down Waldemar for the last month, which is patently unbelievable considering how ga-ga she has been for him all movie. For that matter, why is the Countess keeping Marcel alive anyway? All she needs is the "blood of young virgin girls", not "the blood of middle-aged policemen with bad hair and blue balls". [Editor Pam: I can't understand what virginity has to do with the quality of the blood, anyway. If loss of virginity causes changes in a girl's blood, this might be of interest in those Middle Eastern countries where the men are still so hung up on marrying virgins. Just give a girl a blood test before the ceremony, and you'll know for sure if you're getting damaged goods.]
The Countess, apparently when she came back to life, either
her clothes also regained their eleventh century quality, or she stopped in at
JC Penney's to get some new robes and veils.
Before anything can be done, however, Waldemar arrives, bursting in through the doorway. For some reason, the magical rays of the full moon chose this moment to affect him and he turns into the werewolf. He and the Countess square off, hissing and growling at each other. Finally, with just four minutes left in the movie, we get the werewolf versus vampire fight that the title promised us. Sadly, it lasts all of 30 seconds before the werewolf bites the vampire on the face and kills her. How would this kill her again, wasn't it said a hundred times that the only way to kill her would be with the silver cross through the heart? Does the werewolf have silver teeth? The Countess turns into a gooey skeleton swarming with maggots that appear out of nowhere. The shadowy devil just disappears from the scene, apparently he couldn't do anything without the Countess.
The wax skull melts under an off-screen blowtorch.
With Satan gone, Elvira and Marcel's chains are (symbolically?) broken and they are free. Elvira instantly grabs up the silver cross and plunges it deep into the werewolf's chest! Without so much as a tearful goodbye or anything, so much for that unending love thing. As the werewolf dies, we get a backwards-running time-lapse make-up shot as he transforms back into Waldemar. I suppose she knew that the only way to free him of his werewolf curse was to kill him, but a little build-up would have been nice. The last time they spoke, Elvira was still insanely smitten with Waldemar, so her killing him without so much as a second thought seems badly written.
Dead, slayed by love's bitter sting.
Anyway, she leaves with Marcel and they walk off arm in arm. If I were Marcel, I might say, "Hey, remember when you disappeared for two months and fell in love with a werewolf and got a girl killed? We maybe should talk about this."
Total body count...
10: Killed by Waldemar himself...onscreen, plus mentioned.
3: Killed by the vampire chicks...
1: Killed by Elvira.
Written in August 2009 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.
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