Tuesday 17 May 2011

Howl of the Devil


Howl of the Devil (aka El aullido del diablo aka Howling of the Devil) Spain 1987
Directed by Paul Naschy
The Camden Collection Region 0

Howl of the Devil was directed by Paul Naschy and he also plays several roles in this one too, including a quick cameo from everybody’s favourite Paul Naschy character, Waldemar Daninsky (in his wolfman form).

I bought this, frankly quite bad transfer off of a Spanish TV channel, because it’s a film in which Naschy pays homage to many of the great monster creations from the 30s that he loves... there’s even a spiel about them by way of a written prologue to the film by the looks of it. Unfortunately the transfer was just too bad to make out what any of the words were, with the only word prominent enough to be able to be read being KARLOFF... so I’m assuming Naschy is happy to wear his influences on his sleeve and be upfront about them from the start.

There's also an extra special bonus... and I don’t think I realised this when I bought it... in that this film co-stars the one and only screen presence who is “the first lady of fantasy” Caroline Munro! Woohoo! One of my favourite women of all time in a Paul Naschy movie! Sorted. I’d actually read in an interview with Naschy a few years back that she was in one of his movies but I didn’t really twig that it was this one. Nacshy had been asked who, of all his leading actresses he’d worked with over the years, would be the one he’d most want to work with again. Of course, he named Caroline... which just shows the man’s good sense and taste is my view.

Howl of the Devil is a curious little film and quite unlike anything else I’ve seen Naschy do... mind you, bear in mind that I’ve only ever seen his Werewolf movies and this really doesn’t count as an entry in that series because the Daninsky character is only in the film for... well... probably less than a minute.

The set up is unusual...

Naschy plays a villainous, unsuccessful actor who’s dead brother, also played by Naschy, was a successful film talent. He lives with his brother's son who he hates and a cleaning lady called Carmen who comes in regularly, played by the aforementioned and gorgeous Caroline Munro. He repeatedly tries to lure Carmen into performing sexual favours for him with the promise of wealth and its rewards, but she is having none of it. His other hobby is to get his butler to pick up young lady hitchhikers and to sexually molest them under a famous horror-style role such as Bluebeard, Rasputin or Fu Manchu.

Meanwhile, his poor brother’s son talks with various phantoms projected by his dead acting father which are also Paul Naschy in famous roles and make-ups such as the Frankenstein Monster (in full Jack Pearce style), Quasimodo, Mr. Hyde or The Phantom of the Opera and this, of course, more than gives Naschy enough time to demonstrate his versatility as an actor... much more so than in his other movies. Actually, although most of these films are filled with bad acting, if you keep your eye on Naschy you’ll probably realise that he’s always quite believable in his roles and that, no matter how ridiculous his lines are (and they often are beyond ridiculous), he always takes his parts seriously and sells his roles well... which is obviously more than you can usually expect from a lot of the actors who populate these kinds of pictures.

I have to say that Caroline Munro acquits herself quite well in this one (well no surprise there then... she’s always fantastic) but it’s actually quite strange and disconcerting hearing her dubbed over with a Spanish voice. It almost, but not quite, threatens to pull the actual acting under with it but I’m happy to report that she takes the role very seriously indeed and it’s not hard to understand why Naschy would have liked to have worked with her again some day.

The film itself, if truth be told, is really not a very good one and the synthesised score shines at best but mostly just keeps up and doesn’t quite support the atmosphere at worst. There’s a nice little homage to Universal when the young boy asks the Waldemar Daninsky Wolfman character if he’s been talking to Lawrence Talbot who suffers from similar problems but these kind of enthusiastic references to the rich history of the genre, couple with some great make-ups from Paul Naschy and the beautiful eye-candy of Caroline Munro do not add up to the fact that this is probably one of the least fun of Naschy’s films that I’ve seen. This is by no means a criticism of the movie as a whole... just an observation. It is, however, one of the more curious entries in the cycle of horror movies that Naschy made in his quite considerable career and it even has quite a good little twist ending which I didn’t see coming. Which is kinda unusual for me.

Not a brilliant or as entertaining a film as many of his others but certainly a curio that’s worth some of your viewing time if you’re a fan of Naschy in general. Just don’t expect the excessive blood and thunder of some of his more familiar movies.

For my reviews of a couple of others of Naschy’s many wolfman movies, please click here for The Beast and the Magic Sword and here for Fury of the Wolfman.

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