Tuesday 29 October 2013

The Werewolf and the Yeti

Yeti’s Burg

The Werewolf and the Yeti
aka Night Of The Howling Beast
aka La maldición de la bestia
1975 Spain
Directed by Miguel Iglesias
West Minster Fayre Films Ltd 
DVD Region 0

Warning: Big hairy spoilers at the end... 
but it’s not that kind of film and it’s all to be expected anyway.

Depending on your belief as to whether the “lost” 1968 film, The Nights Of The Wolfman, was ever shot or not, The Werewolf And the Yet is either the 7th or 8th in the series of 13 (or 12 or 14 depending on your viewpoint on other movies including this character) films featuring Paul Naschy as his famous werewolf creation, Waldemar Daninsky (aka The Hombre Lobo series) which he made between 1968 and 2004. It’s also one of the few in that series that I’ve not seen before and one I’ve been trying to get a hold of for a long time (as has my supplier, also a Waldemar Daninsky fan).

What I'd completely forgotten when I was watching it, until I did a touch of research for this review, is that one of the reasons it’s been especially difficult to see, in this country in particular, is that it was a victim of the “video nasties” act back in the 1980s. Looking at it now, of course, when so many things shown on popular television are far stronger meat than anything on the menu here and when films like the banned, uncut Zombie Flesh Eaters are readily available nowadays at your local video store (if you can still find a video store standing), one wonders why it was even on the radar as a video nasty in the first place (see my review of a documentary detailing that particularly dark period in the BBFCs evil history here - Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide). Of course, looking at the majority of films on that list, some of which seemed quite tame even by 70s and 80s standards, one could ask oneself the same question of pretty much most of the films that had the misfortune of ending up on that list.

The Werewolf and The Yeti, however, is not a great hidden gem, as it turns out. It’s certainly one of the more competently shot in the series, with some occasional nice designs and transitions...  and with a certain clean, uncluttered look about it... but it’s also less interesting in terms of the Daninsky series as a whole, which is a shame because the setting and plot, such as it is, are something which could have fuelled a really great “hombre lobo” film.

It starts off quite strongly with three snowbound explorers being attacked by the yeti of the title. Our scene then shifts to London, Westminster. And how do the Spanish film-makers further support the obvious visual and tell the audience that this part of the movie is set in England? Well that’s easy isn’t it? You just play Scottish bagpipes over the shot, so people know it’s London. Um. Wait! What?

Anyway, an elderly professor and his beautiful daughter are planning a trip to Tibet to track down the yeti who destroyed the last expedition, so the professor sends for world famous anthropologist and psychologist Waldemar Daninsky, as played by Paul Naschy.

Wait. Hang on!

"Since when is Waldemar Daninsky a world famous anthropologist and psychologist?" you may ask yourself. Well, since they decided to make this movie, I guess? The professor wants Daninsky, not just for these credentials but because he can apparently speak fluent Tibetan.

Of course, right? Whatever...

We’ve often seen Daninsky burst into snatches of Tibetan before, right? Maybe that’s the growling sound he makes whenever he turns into a werewolf because I’m buggered if I can remember a movie where he was a master of such foreign languages.

Moving swiftly on...

After the expedition has started, Daninsky and his guide, who looks like a giant bear, cross eyed version of Peter Lorre on steroids, scout ahead for the professor and his team and the guide promptly vanishes under the snow when he goes mad about being in the valley of the howling devils, or some such. It all happens so fast. Waldemar is alone against the elements but, a minute or so later, he stumbles into some kind of Tibetan temple cavern in a mountain and promptly faints. He is alone with two good looking ladies, guardians of the temple, who nurse him back to health and decide to keep him prisoner as he will be, and I quote, “a good companion and an ardent lover.” Obviously not happy about being the dedicated sex slave of two gorgeous women (because who would be, eh?) he tries to escape, only to stumble across the two of them eating bits of somebody, possibly Daninsky’s former guide, in their dining area... also known as “the floor”. The women promptly turn into she-wolves and bite Waldemar before he escapes, quickly transforming him into the angst ridden werewolf creature we know and love.

Oh hold on a minute!

This is preposterous. How many bloody times do we have to put up with another origin story for this character! We saw him turn into a werewolf back in 1968 in Mark Of The Wolfman (aka Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror) and since then we’ve seen him rebooted and re-bitten afresh with absolutely no reference to his past in almost every movie. What are these writers playing at? He’s Waldemar Daninsky. He is always played by Paul Naschy but... he has a different origin in practically every movie. C’mon guys! Nobody’s memory is that bad! I just don’t get it.

Anyway, while Daninsky has been having his adventures, the main expedition has been set upon by bandits who are lead by a man who is clinging on for life and who is manipulated by the evil scientist woman who has promised to keep him alive through alchemical means derived from her hobby of torturing people. The professor’s daughter is her prisoner, as is Daninsky who has since learned that a special flower that grows only in Tibet, mixed with the blood of a woman who loves him, will cure him of his werewolvery ways (which I think must be the fanboy who is Paul Naschy referencing the Marifasa Lupina flower from my all time favourite werewolf movie, Werewolf Of London, which was Universal’s first attempt at establishing a werewolf myth back in 1935) . All hell soon breaks loose and the beast lurking inside Waldemar’s tortured heart kills all the villains (and pretty much everyone except his main squeeze) before he is suddenly startled by the roaming yeti (finally) from the pre-credits sequence.

In a startling let down of expectations, werewolf and yeti fight... and when I say fight I mean trade a couple of blows before Daninsky bites the yeti on the neck and kills him, right before the girl accidentally finds the flower and, following the instructions she wasn’t in any way present to hear in the scene in which they were revealed, mixes her blood with it and gives it to Waldmemar to eat. Waldemar is cured and the two go off arm in arm into the sunset.

In the snow.

In the snowy, snowy, snow setting sunset in Tibet where they probably won’t make it back alive before freezing to death but, hey ho, you’re not supposed to imagine what comes next after the credits have rolled in these kinds of movies, are you?

The Werewolf And The Yeti is a nice looking entry into the series, to be sure, but ultimately it’s also one of the weaker ones and I wasnt’t all that entertained by the onscreen antics past the opening promises of snowy settings to the werewolvery action. And, big tip for the marketing people? The print I saw of this movie is called The Werewolf And The Yeti. This raises expectations of their being some sizeable “yeti action” in it. However, the time spent with the actual yeti is abominably small - a few seconds at the start of the film and, maybe not quite two minutes right at the end does not constitute the kind of yeti co-starring status I was expecting from your title. So all in all, I would only recommend this one to people who are already fans of this series of films. This is not a good jumping on point (which might explain why it’s so maddeningly hard to get hold of) and I would point people in the direction of something like the much better Dr. Jekyll And The Wolfman for a good one in this series to watch instead.

My review of the book Muchos Gracias Senor Lobo is here

Some of the other films in this series are reviewed by me here...

Assignment Terror
The Beast And The Magic Sword
Fury Of The Wolfman
Howl Of The Devil 

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