Night of the Howling Beast (1975)

Hi all, Nate here. You like werewolves? Yeah, you do? Not the Twilight ultramegaawesome CGI wolf thingies, but the old school “guy wearing a furry Halloween mask and growling a lot”, still with me? Good. Now, do you also like Yetis? Or, if you prefer and you’re a pretentious dick, Abominable Snowmen? You sure, because I’m talking about just a slight variation on the rubber mask and gloves style of the werewolves, maybe with a different tenor of grunting but not much else. Losing you a bit, aren’t I? Well, trust me, you’ll want to watch this movie because you’re going to overload on crappy monster make-up and hammy dialogue and you’re probably never going to be the same.

This is what‘s in store for you...

Our movie is about an intrepid adventurer named Waldemar Daninsky, a scholarly sort of Indiana Jones wannabe with floppy 1970’s hair and a penchant for turtleneck sweaters. He’s called to London where a tweed coat Professor type tasks him with traveling to faraway Tibet to check up on a missing explorer who was hunting the elusive Yeti. Yeah, I know, it’s one of those movies, were there actually exists guys who do nothing but dash about the planet doing amazing adventures in the employ of stuffy museums. I would assume that Google and Wikipedia have completely made such jobs obsolete, though I’d like to think that I could still wear a fedora and carry a whip as I breathlessly Google Street View the catacombs beneath Teotihuacan from my kitchen table. Waldemar is played by the “legendary” Paul Naschy, a European guy who seems to have specialized in classic horror films, almost universally of the sleazy exploitation variety. His “Waldemar Daninsky” character has shown up in a dozen films, long enough to become a cult figure in this genre, though his arc changes and shifts with each movie (our film is no exception). I’ve only ever seen Naschy in one other movie myself, but that’s mostly because I spend too much time sleeping.

Your “hero“ shouldn‘t be the shortest in the room.

Off now to the snowy Himalayan Mountains with Waldemar and his hand-picked band of smartyhead white guy scientists and the requisite pretty girls to provide love interests and damsels in distress. The men have names and tissue-thin backstories and perhaps even characterizations, but because each only gets a few minutes of screen time and only a couple of lines, it’s really hard to tell them apart or really care what happens to them. Note to all directors ever: Stop over-casting your movies. The ladyfolk are, of course, given more screentime and lines, but really only one of them (Sylvia) is anything more than a background extra. We’ll get to know Sylvia more later.

Wow, that‘s a lot of 1975.

Waldemar is the impatient sort and even though the drunken locals all warn him that the region he wants to travel to is infested with evil spirits and cutthroat bandits, and even though there’s a bigass snowstorm on the way, he’s determined to get other people killed because he can’t wait a couple weeks for the conditions to improve. Seriously, is he on a schedule here? He never mentions having pressing concerns back home (wherever that is), why is he taking the insane risk to locate that one trail over the mountains that will surely end in his ruin? Thankfully, Waldemar decides at the last moment to go alone, leaving the other Europeans back at the base camp sipping brandy and polishing their pocket watches. How does that work out for him?

The peaks are behind you, what are you pointing at?

Not so well. It’s not long before his guide runs off screaming about demons or something and he has to hoof it on foot across the pass. He gets lost, he gets disoriented, he gets a bit of hypothermia, and it’s just pure random dumb luck that he stumbles upon a well-concealed cave with the lights on. Inside he finds two scandalously attired, insanely beautiful young women who set about nursing him back to health. Fantastic for him, amiright? Lonely hot chicks, horny guy, hilariously out of place bareskin rugs, a little Barry White instrumental on the soundtrack, the only thing that could possibly go wrong for Waldemar in this scenario is if the girls were, oh, I don’t know, maybe undead bloodthirsty vampires? Wait, vampires? And werewolves and yetis, all in the same film? What is this, a SciFi Channel original movie from 2008? Where are the mummies and zombies?!? Could they not shoehorn some Kaiju? But, yes, hot vampire chicks, because 1975.

Love that mood lighting.

After a hazy night of hallucinary lovemaking, one of the ladies bites poor Waldemar and infects him with werewolf juice, because why not. Cue a poorly-done time-lapse transformation scene that results in a guy wearing a mask they bought at K-mart, a pair of fake plastic fangs, and some gloves with imitation fur hot-glued to them. Rar! Off Were-demar goes to maul some hapless locals while the moon is full and his rage is unsatisfied. Thankfully (?) the director knew the monster effect was utter crap so he keeps the action fluid enough and the day-for-night lighting dim enough that we never really notice that Were-demar is only furry in certain places and is still wearing boots. Once the sun comes out, he’s back to himself, dazed and confused, but somehow aware of his new “sickness”. And yes, vampires apparently cause lycanthropy, who knew? A thorough (ok, ten second) Google search turned up no prior examples in either established werewolf/vampire canon, suggesting that our movie’s scriptwriter was just fresh out of ideas to give either monster an interesting plot hook that hadn’t already been done a million times. I guess bonus points for that.

We go from this...

To this, in four seconds flat.

Meanwhile, back at the Tibetan base camp, his associates have received word that Waldemar is lost in the wilds of the Himalayas and is most likely in grave danger. Pam, what will these people do, will they just continue to sit around and run up the museum’s expense account, or will they venture out into the snows into the forbidden zone of demons and brigands to rescue their comrade?

Ah, some “local flavor“.

Nate, I’m pleased to report they’re answering the call of duty and going after their lost comrade. Of course, he’s not in quite the same condition as he was when they last saw him, but they don’t know that. However, Were-demar isn’t all bad – his first victims were several very nasty bandits who were planning to kidnap the girls in the expedition and sell them into white slavery. Perhaps the new Waldemar isn’t as bad as he seems and will be using his newfound powers for good. We’ll see. But another thing we see first is that the rescue group isn’t all it might be. The stress, or something, has driven one of the men to drink, and he tries to assault poor Sylvia. Luckily for her, she manages to fight her way loose and run away, but in any case it turns out that help was close at hand. No sooner has she left the scene when we hear a low growl, catch a glimpse of a hairy face, and the would-be rapist is no more. You know, I’m beginning to like the new Waldemar.

He deserved it.

Morning dawns, as it generally does, and with it comes a bunch of perplexed rescuers gathered around the body of their fallen comrade. Clearly they haven’t watched enough horror movies, because they completely miss the tell-tale signs of a werewolf attack. But as they return to camp to get a shovel and bury the man, they find more bad news. Their native guide has also been brutally attacked and in fact lives long enough only to gasp out that the Sherpas have panicked and run away, although it seemed they paused long enough to gather up most of the supplies and take them with them. This is very bad news for the rescuers. They aren’t sure how to get to where they want to go, and they don’t think they have enough food to get them there, anyway. They decide to return to their base camp and replenish their supplies. The unfortunate Waldemar will just have to wait a little longer. By the way, he seems content to just kill his prey. The bodies have some claw marks, but there’s no sign he tried to eat them. (In fact, there’s very little gore at all, suggesting that Waldemar kills his prey with surgical skill.) Most animals kill only when they’re hungry, why are werewolves different? And why kill the ones he killed? Do werewolves just automatically kill all humans they see? Do they kill other animals, too? Why is so little known about the habits of werewolves? Can I get some funding to study them?

You need some GTAs.

However, the road back isn’t without its dangers. It seems Waldemar didn’t kill off all the bandits in the area, and the party is ambushed. (Where are all these bandits coming from? The only means of travel through the country appears to be a narrow, almost-invisible rocky path. Surely there can’t be many travelers, and we’ve seen almost no natives. How do the bandits survive?) Two of the men volunteer hold off the rifle-toting bandits with pistols while another man escapes with Sylvia and another girl, whose name I’m not sure of. The two men with pistols prove to be amazing shots, picking off bandits at a considerable distance, but neither one is Roy Rogers and they both eventually run out of bullets. They offer to surrender, and this goes (a little) better than you might expect, at least for the Professor. Somehow the bandits know the Professor is a wise man, and their leader wants to meet him. Sadly, they also know the other man isn’t a wise man, and they are going to use him to “amuse” themselves. Maybe the Sherpas passed on information to the bandits before they ran away, otherwise I don’t see how the bandits know so much about the rescue party. Incidentally, their leader is a Khan who owns a palace, suggesting that these men are something more than a raggedy band of thieves and cutthroats. The man who tried to escape with the two women was shot before he could get away, and one of the women was wounded and didn’t escape, either. The second woman got away, and the bandits are going after her. Is this Sylvia or the other girl?

Love the old Tommy Gun.

The movie’s going to keep us in suspense a little longer, because now we switch back to Waldemar, still roaming restlessly through the forest. We also see Sylvia, who turns out to be the woman who escaped, but unfortunately not for long. The bandits catch up to her, and poor Sylvia can’t seem to catch a break, because the bandits immediately attempt to rape her. Guys, what is the Khan going to say about this? They don’t stop to ask themselves this, but luckily for Sylvia, Were-demar, Protector of Distressed Women, is here again. He not only kills the bandits but proves impervious to bullets, although this should come as no surprise. But what does Sylvia think of the new Waldemar? We don’t know, because she faints, not without reason. She revives at dawn, but by then, Waldemar has reverted to his previous non-furry state. The sight of the dead bandits spooks her, as well it might, and as soon as she sees Waldemar, she throws herself into his arms with cries of relief. (By the way, the dubber made a mistake here, as Waldemar clearly calls her “Cynthia.” From now on, the dubbing will go from “Sylvia” to “Cynthia” to “Celia,” apparently at the whim of the voice actor.)

Sylvia “emotes“.

Sylvia and Waldemar agree to return to the site of the battle to see what happened to the Professor and the other man. They’re greeted by the sight of the Professor’s bruised and bloodied sidekick tied to a stake. Sylvia dissolves into hysterics, again not without reason, but manly, or at least masculine, Waldemar stoically walks up to investigate. The poor man isn’t quite dead yet and lives just long enough to gasp out that the bandits took the Professor and the other girl to the Khan’s palace, at which Sylvia and Waldemar set out in pursuit.

Where did he get that coat? He didn’t have it before.

The scene changes to the Khan’s palace, which is quite impressive. Again, I wonder how he and his men can afford to live so well in such a barren place. But it seems that the Khan’s life is not without its troubles, for we see a beautiful woman rubbing something on his back. No, it’s not what you think – he has some sort of disease that causes dark blotches on his back, and the woman is treating it. He doesn’t seem to have complete faith in his physician, because he complains that the treatment is taking too long. The woman dismisses his complaints with the statement that the treatment is naturally a slow process, but he doesn’t buy this, and he’s going to see what the Professor can do for him. The beautiful woman isn’t happy about this and in fact wants the Professor killed, but the Khan overrules her for now. Ah, conflict. Let’s see where this is going to go. Also, let’s see exactly what ails the Khan. A venereal disease seems most likely, or possibly leprosy, but I suspect something else, especially as the woman bears a distinct resemblance to the women in Waldemar’s cave…

The Khan gets his treatments.

Buxom evil, the best kind.

Sylvia and Waldemar are proceeding toward the Khan’s palace, although you might be asking how they know the way, since it appeared before the party was dependent on their native guides. Luckily for them, they happen to come across an old man who helpfully takes them to a nearby monastery. The kindly old monk they meet there cheerfully informs them that nobody ever escapes the Khan’s palace, and the Professor and the girl are as good as dead. He also confides that bad as the Khan is, there’s a mysterious foreign woman living in the palace who’s much worse and seems to be inspiring the Khan’s men to ever more evil deeds. He somehow seems to know that Waldemar is a werewolf, but he also, somehow, seems to know how to cure it. So he gives Waldemar a spoonful from a bottle of medicine he takes down from a shelf, and Waldemar is instantly cured and goes on to live a normal life…Ha! No, of course not. Waldemar will have to go to “the mountains, near the eternal snows,” find a mysterious red flower, and mix its petals with the blood of a young girl. The kindly old monk doesn’t seem to have a problem with this.

That‘s a nice stick.

Despite the fact that the Professor and the girl are in dire peril, and despite the fact that his werewolf powers would probably come in quite handy in assaulting the Khan’s palace, Waldemar decides the Professor can wait while he sets off to find the cure for his condition. Possibly the monk was able to give him the exact location, because when Waldemar tells Sylvia about the delay, he seems to think it will take him only three days. Rather surprisingly, Sylvia doesn’t protest at what must seem to her like a side trip he’s making for no reason. Maybe she’s a bit distracted, though, because their relationship has suddenly become quite a bit closer, as we see they’re naked together in bed. (Naked boobies, guys!)

Thankfully in the dark.

As I mentioned, Waldemar wasn’t planning on telling Sylvia about his little problem, no doubt thinking that this would nip their blossoming romance in the bud, but being a werewolf can be hard to conceal when the moon is full. The monk considerately takes Waldemar outside and chains him to a tree, but Sylvia sneaks out behind them and sees Waldemar’s transformation. She takes it better than I would, I can tell you. Back in the monastery, while Waldemar is busy in the forest killing one of the Khan’s messengers, the monk explains the cure to her, and she seems quite willing to be the girl who contributes the blood. I’m assuming the cure takes only a small amount of blood? I hope Sylvia doesn’t find out otherwise at the critical moment. The monk gives her a special silver knife to use to draw the necessary blood, and she and Waldemar, who’s come back looking like himself (and with no blood on the clothes he retains when he transforms), embrace.

Buddha is not smiling.

At the Khan’s palace, things are not going so well for the Professor. The mysterious woman wins a game of chess against the Khan, and she insists that the Professor be killed as a reward for her victory. The Khan wants to keep the Professor around to see if he can cure the his mysterious illness. He and the woman come to no conclusion, but the woman changes the subject and mentions that she’s heard a man and a woman have turned up at the old monastery. The Khan sends some men out to bring them in, and unfortunately right here the video I’m watching has a glitch. When it starts playing again, Sylvia is screaming, the monk is lying on the floor with his head cut off, and then one of the Khan’s men grabs Sylvia and laughs sinisterly. Where’s Waldemar? It seems that he either wasn’t in the monastery at the critical moment, or he escaped, because he’s outside, staggering around in the snow. However, he comes back in, only to see Sylvia with a knife at her throat. He surrenders to the Khan’s men, and they take them both to the palace.

He looks to have more pieces left than her.

Imagine what the Khan‘s electric bill must be like.

Once there, it seems the mysterious woman hasn’t yet been able to convince the Khan to kill the Professor. Not that he’s in great shape, because he’s chained to a wall in a dungeon. At least now he’s got company, though, because Waldemar’s chained up next to him. The Professor tells Waldemar what we already know, namely that this woman is an evil creature who enjoys torturing people. But it seems the Professor’s time has finally run out, since the woman shows up with several of the Khan’s men and orders them to take him away. Once he’s out of the way, the woman informs Waldemar that he’s now completely under her power and has to do everything she says, or Sylvia will suffer for it. We’ll see how well that works out…but first, we’re going to see some serious ickiness.

Must have smuggled in a shaving razor.

The woman enters a cell in which several scantily-clad girls are chained up and selects three, one of which is Sylvia’s friend. The girls are dragged to an area just outside of Waldemar’s cell and chained to a post set up so he can see everything that happens. Oddly, the Khan is there, too, stretched out facedown on a table. The guards strip the girls of what little clothing they’re wearing, the woman approaches Sylvia’s friend with a knife, and proceeds to carve a square of skin out of the girl’s back! The woman then places the square onto the Khan’s back, presumably to “cure” him of whatever ailment he has. I’ll give the movie credit, the camera doesn’t linger too long on either the cutting or the skin, but it’s still a pretty disturbing scene, particularly when the woman meticulously smoothes the skin over the Khan’s back. (He acts as though it hurts, and I certainly hope it does!) To pander a little more to the target audience, whom I’m liking less and less, the guard carries off the girl, giving a good view not only of her flayed back, but a clear shot of full-frontal nudity. I’m glad the print I’m watching is rather blurry, because the sight of her back really is pretty gross.

That‘s not going to end well for her.

By now Sylvia has been shoved into the cell in which the other girls are imprisoned. She’s somehow managed to hold on to the magical silver knife the old monk gave her, which is an amazing feat, since she’s wearing almost-skin-tight top and pants characteristic of the 1970s and there appears to be zero space to hide a good-sized knife in. Sylvia just sits there fondling the knife, but one of the other girls, an arrogant princess the Khan’s men recently kidnapped, has an idea. She pulls that hoary old trick of having one of the girls pretend to be sick, then calling the guard to help. He duly falls for it, enters the cell, and is promptly stabbed in the back by the feisty princess. All the girls escape, but not before Sylvia salvages the knife, one of the key pieces in restoring her adored Waldemar to his old self.

Babes in bondage.

So, the girls are loose, the Professor is probably toast at this point, and Waldemar is still chained up. What’s going to happen next, Nate?

Thanks as always, Pam, I’ll take it to the end for us. Well, things are going to happen fast and furious for the last 15 minute or so, lots of blood will be spilled and a number of second-rate background extras will be receiving their last paychecks. Sylvia and a gaggle of barely-dressed white girls run amuck through the halls of the fortress, murdering guards and breaking open locked gates like seasoned ninjas. As all five of these women combined weigh about 150 pounds total, it’s really inexcusable that they’re able to cause so much death and destruction. Chief amongst their victims is that evil sorceress chick with the huge rack, who they corner in her quarters after she stops trying to fight back and just takes the blade willingly. It’s the one girl who is dressed like Jasmine from Aladdin who delivers the killing stabs, because we‘re supposed to care about her one-line backstory at this point (we don‘t). One wonders where all the other heavily-armed burly guards went, because earlier they were thick as thieves, surely the fortress would be on lock-down once all the fur started flying. Maybe they were all off-shift, does the Khan not want to pay overtime?

I was expecting more.

Meanwhile, Sylvia has broken off from the pack to rescue fair Waldermar from his chains. This she does, but they are intercepted by the Khan himself and a fight breaks out. Neither actor is really that invested in this battle, the guy playing the Khan has way too much jewelry on to effectively swing a sword and Paul Naschy is about 5’2” and has the ankles of a cocker spaniel, and at this late point in the shooting schedule no one is risking a trip to the infirmary for this movie. In the end Waldemar throws a trampoline-assisted Captain Kirk flying leg kick and the Khan falls into a pit of spikes and dies (really).

Waldemar is ill-suited for hand-to-hand combat.

The girl helpfully just watches.

Waldemar and Sylvia just amble out the side door of the fortress now, because god forbid anyone lock up after dark. And dark it is, and a full moon to boot, so it’s no surprise when Waldemar begins to transform into Were-demar again in agonizing slow-mo. Wow, has it really been a month since the last time he turned wolf back at the monk’s house? Because that’s not going to fly here, especially considering how good his hair still looks after being chained to a dungeon wall for 30 days. But it is what it is and Were-demar is on the prowl. But he’s not the only beastie about on this cold moonlit night along the Roof of the World. As this movie’s alternate title The Werewolf and the Yeti suggests, another stuntman in a rubber snowman mask lurks beyond the rocks. And finally (OMG FINALLY!) we get what we’ve all be waiting for, an epic monster-on-monster throw-down to rival cinema’s best Godzilla v. Not-Godzilla brawls in scope and scale. Or maybe just two dudes in bad face paint rolling around in the snow for less than a minute before the Yeti lays down and signs off for the day. Seriously, that fight lasted 42 seconds, I am so disappointed. I waited the entire movie for that? I hate myself. To add insult to injury, the director decides to film the climactic battle at night with a dim filter and sets up his camera twenty feet away from the actors behind some brush because watching two distant blobs flailing around in the dark is sooooo what we paid for.

Thanks for nothing.

Anyway, Waldemar is cured (I don’t care) and he and that girl (I don’t care) walk off arm-in-arm (I don’t care). The end. Pam, any final thoughts on this film? Was that not the single biggest let-down in the history of Werewolf/Yeti movies?

Yes, it was a huge let-down, Nate. I had just about given hope of seeing an actual Yeti. This wouldn't be the first time a B-movie title was deceptive, after all. I don't see why the movie even bothered with such a feeble little fight. But in general the whole ending was quite rushed, suggesting that Paul Naschy was running low on money and had to wrap the movie up fast. We never did find out what connection, if any, the woman at the Khan's palace had to the women in the cave, or what the Khan's mysterious illness was. For that matter, there was no explanation of who the women in the cave were, or why they bothered to make Waldemar into a werewolf. (If they got some benefit out of making werewolves, why live in such a remote area where there weren't many people they could infect?) And there wasn't a word about what happened to the Professor after the Khan's men led him out of the cell, and Sylvia didn't seem to care. And whatever happened to the first missing man, the one Waldemar formed the party to find? This is probably not worth watching, unless you're a real Paul Naschy fan. And as an aside, has anybody noticed how much Paul Naschy looks like John Belushi?

The End.

Written in April 2014 by Nathan Decker and Pam Burda.

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