Director: Rino Di Silvestro
Cast: Annik Borel, Tino Carraro, Howard Ross, Dagmar Lassander
Length: 97 min
Label: Raro Video
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: Italian, English: PCM linear dual mono
Subtitles: English (optional)
- Video interview with the director Rino Di Silvestro (19 min, 22 sec)
- Original Italian theatrical trailer
- Original English theatrical trailer
- A fully illustrated booklet on the genesis and production of the film by Chris Alexander (Fangoria Magazine)
- New and improved English subtitle translation
Out this week, cult label Raro upgrade their release of Italian cult obscurity La lupa mannara aka Werewolf Woman (1976) to blu-ray. The film is a strange hybrid of horror and exploitation that enters some interesting territory when it comes to examining the tortured existence of a female lycanthrope, leaving little to the imagination when it comes to sex and violence.
To listen to the late director Rino Di Silvestro talking about his film Werewolf Woman, (on the interview included with this blu-ray edition), you would expect to find yourself wading into some pretty deep and serious territory. Di Silvestro is quite sincere about the film he made 38 years ago, a film he describes: ‘as a horror film it’s an important reference point, because we are all afraid of this devastating illness.’ But just what illness is he referring to? It would be easy to assume he is referencing something like cancer or Alzheimer’s perhaps, but no, he is talking about Clinical Lycanthropy, which actually does exist, it’s just so rare most of us have never heard of it. Clinical Lycanthropy involves a very real schizophrenic, psychotic, and psychosis-type mental illness where an individual will become obsessed with the idea that they are able to change into a wolf according to the cycles of the moon. The reason Di Silvestro is bringing up the subject at all? Because this is the curious basis for his film Werewolf Woman; a film that defies the boundaries of mythological creaturedom to venture into some extremely peculiar territory in the name of ‘realism.’Anyone familiar with Di Silvestro’s directorial body of work, will know that this was a filmmaker who liked to veer on the side of gritty realism and down and dirty brutal exploitation. It seems only natural that to cover the subject of lycanthropy the director would have to link it to his overall vision which was bound in the brutality of the common man. Here the director uses the subject of a traumatised young woman Daniella (Annik Borel) who has suffered horrific sexual abuse, and therefore fears sexual relations as she grows into womanhood. This is the catalyst for his bewildering story of a real-life werewolf woman. Daniella becomes dragged into the delusion she is somehow changing into a shape shifting lycan—just as the legend of her ancestors before her—and this has some devastating consequences for the family. Di Silvestro threads his story with some pretty interesting facets, especially the haziness surrounding Daniella’s condition; with many of the scenes involving the central character steeped in hallucinatory imagery, making for some unsettling viewing for the audience, and one where you are never quite sure if what you are seeing is real or not. The story allows the filmmaker to explore aspects such as primal sexuality and violence in their most explicit form, which makes Werewolf Woman stand out miles apart from your usual lycanthropic film. Those craving some straight up exploitation rather than a lesson in psychological theories of sexual repression, never fear. Although Werewolf Woman is crammed full of psycho-sexual subtext, there is plenty of writhing naked flesh and gore ridden violence to please even the fussiest of trash fans. Lead actress, the Swedish born Annik Borel makes quite the impression from the outset. Werewolf Woman hits the ground running with an opening scene that sees Borel completely naked and cavorting in a feverish tribal dance; with plenty of close-up crotch shots to really set the tone—I am sure supporting actress Dagmar Lassander didn’t expect to see the day when a credit of her name would appear on film emblazoned above another actress’s intimate areas. The mood of the scene moves quickly from debauched sexuality into primal violence when Borel’s character transforms via some of the most shameful werewolf make-up ever committed to celluloid—complete with large conical black nipples, and sporadic fur placement. This pretty much sets things up for the story to unravel, with lashings of what the director terms ‘bestial’ behavior, in graphic sex and violence, plus some random psychological theory, a whiff of lesbian lust, voyeurism, a rape revenge plot line, and even a little bit of a love story too—Di Silvestro just crams it all in there. It has to be said, Borel’s performance is outstanding. The actress really gives it her all, grunting, foaming at the mouth, pushing her body into weird contortions, and lacking in any modesty when it comes to baring all on screen—the actress is every bit the vicious deranged animalistic creature that Di Silvestro’s script was obviously aiming for. So memorable is her performance that all the other actors appear slightly bland and mechanical in comparison. Dagmar Lassander is criminally underused as the sister Elena—having only a handful of scenes, including one graphic soft-core sex scene with her on-screen husband. The other actors serve their purpose, but for me it was Borel’s crazed antics that held my attention all the way through. One minor lament, on a personal note, was that although the ‘clinical lycanthropy’ angle was an interesting one—being something that both exists in reality, and something that hasn’t really been covered in film—I would have liked to have seen more of the female werewolf creature on-screen (whether hallucinatory or not). The werewolf in horror film is a character that’s usually in the male domain—that was until John Fawcett’s cult teen-horror Ginger Snaps (2000) broke the mold for mainstream horror, with a female werewolf in the central story arch. While Di Silvestro’s film can be seen as a bit of a forerunner, it is a shame that he did not utilize the physical traits of the wolf more on screen—even if the make-up was completely diabolical, it had an endearing trashy quality that was hard not to love.
Raro (Italy) have previously released this title on DVD and this blu-ray upgrade—presented in 1080p—builds on what was already a good quality release. The print on the DVD was pretty decent anyway, but this release looks even more fantastic. Colours are naturalistic and well saturated; the blood looks especially good for a retro-low budget number. Detail looks really meaty (excuse the pun!) but there is plenty of intimate flesh and gory effects to access and they all hold up to scrutiny with no evidence of DNR processing, or organic damage to the print. Grain remains intact, giving the film that good sleazy grindhouse feel, with nothing looking too clean or digitized. This is certainly one of the better presentations from Raro.
As with the video, careful handling has been taken of the audio track which appears free from major age-related damage, such as crackles or hiss. The audio appears free from distortion- and with all the grunting and screaming to behold it is good to hear the higher and lower vocal ranges displaying fine fidelity.
Included here is a twenty minute interview with the director Rino De Silvestro, as he discusses his film Werewolf Woman, and also covers some other aspects of his career in exploitation. The late director appears very animated and passionate about his work, and makes for an entertaining orator during his talk about the intentions he had for the film, and indeed his overall cinematic vision. Also included here are original English and Italian trailers for the main feature, and a collector’s booklet from Fangoria Editor, filmmaker, writer and critic Chris Alexander, who provides new writing on this obscure piece of Italian horror.
An odd little piece of Italian horror/exploitation, Werewolf Woman is the perfect example of the kind of free spirited, no holds barred type of independent filmmaking that was coming out of Italy during the mid seventies. Although the film has an emphasis on sexual and violent behaviors, not to mention some gloriously cheesy and somewhat bizarre make-up effects, it also delivers a surprisingly intricate and innovative storyline for this type of film. This Raro release is a fantastic upgrade and really worth checking out for fans of trashy Euro cinema.