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Director: Enrique L. Eguiluz
Cast: Paul Naschy, Dyanik Zurakowska, Manuel Manzaneque, Aurora de Alba, Julián Ugarte
Length: 94 min
Disks: 2 (1 BD, 1 DVD)
Release Date: Feb 11, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: Spanish, German: DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0
Subtitles: English, German
- Image gallery
- Original trailers and TV spots
- Original German and American title sequences
- Printed booklet (in German)
There’s an old saying: everyone has to start somewhere. For the King of Spanish horror, Paul Naschy, it was here. That is to say, the legacy for which he is most known for, that of the cursed lycanthrope Waldemar Daninsky, took its tentative first steps here in La Marca del Hombre Lobo a.k.a. The Mark of the Wolfman a.k.a. Die Vampire des Dr. Dracula a.k.a. Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror in its American release—a curious title given a lack of Frankenstein. A strong opening act for the writer and star, the film establishes many of the tropes and flourishes that were to later become associated with Naschy’s cycle of Wolf Man films—a cycle that stretched over decades, and made the actor the enduring icon is he today. Naschy has been criminally under-represented not only on Blu-ray, but DVD too, especially in English speaking territories. Associated rights problems and less than preferable source materials have meant that the legacy of the star has been left in tatters to some extent. This film in particular was previously only available on a shabby looking DVD release, and has been crying out to be restored to its true glory. Now, the original Spanish version of La Marca has arrived from German company Subkultur-Entertainment. and it’s only right that it should arrive in such a beautifully restored, limited edition BD release.
La Marca del Hombre Lobo (1968) is a beautiful film to begin with. Kicking off with a decadent period-costumed masked ball, the scene is set for some bold and visually exquisite set pieces. The story, of course, doesn’t take place in a bygone era, but the opening act introduces the unique vibe that was to become associated with many of Naschy’s Wolf Man ventures, the harmonious blending of classic and contemporary horror. In this way, Naschy, the writer—under his real name Jacinto Molina—pays homage to the genre pieces that so inspired him to pursue his love for horror film; that inspiration eventually lead him to not only write his own stories, but also to act in them and direct them too. The same goes for his love of mashing up monsters in his famous “versus” M.O., something he took from the earlier classic works of Universal, and a theme he continued throughout his career. Why have one monster, when you can have two, or three? Throw them all together in a fabulous trademark Naschy scuffle and you have a recipe for success.Throughout La Marca del Hombre Lobo we see this constant meshing of old and new. The earthy Spanish countryside locations, creaky Châteaux, cobwebs galore, huge dripping candles, and baroque interiors, all sit perfectly alongside late 60s fashion and trendy sports cars.
For the characters we have the modern day Daninsky, a rich aristocrat who is whispered about by old ladies—it is said the young man has frittered away his family fortune on fast living—initially introduced as a mysterious and somewhat ominous character. We also have the Countess, the young Janice (Dyanik Zurakowska) who catches Daninsky’s eye even though her father wishes her to be betrothed to Rudolph (Manuel Manzaneque) a nice, but quite dull, boy-next-door type. These characters provide a link with the present day of the film’s production, in line with the trend at the time to move away from solely period based horrors. The duo of slinky, seductive vampires, Dr. Janos Mikelov (Julian Ugarte) and his bride Wandessa (Aurora de Alba), set to trap a werewolf to use as a slave. The two set a firm link with the sexy vampires of period based Hammer horror and its ilk, given their innate primal qualities and associated dress. We also have the somewhat tongue-in-cheek play on the Karnstein legacy—although Le Fanu’s Carmilla wouldn’t be fully exploited by the aforementioned British studio for a couple more years yet—with Naschy’s clan aptly named The Wolfsteins. There are even a pair of errant gypsies who pop up—the female of the pair provides a suitable heaving bosom moment—and in grand old horror tradition, awaken the evil werewolf from his tomb.Of course this is all as cheesy as it sounds, but for some reason, when it comes to Paul Naschy, it just feels right. There is a heart and spirit to everything he touched that cries out to the true fan in all of us. He was one of us, and that is the sentiment that shines through above everything else.
Naschy imbibes his central character, the cursed lycanthrope—bitten in the woods when trying to save the life of another—with a true sense of pathos; this makes him the perfect anti-hero. Even though he is first introduced as slightly sinister, we know this isn’t the case. There is a depth and sensitivity in the performance that makes the character highly likable. Naschy was not afraid to get down in the dirt for the physically demanding wrestling involved in his role. With these acts, Naschy demonstrates that he wasn’t afraid to put his whole being into his performance. Sadly, less can be said for the two young co-leads Dyanik Zurakowska and Manuel Manzaneque, who, while adequate, and looking the part, are left mainly to stand in the shadow of the star. Team vamp on the other hand—played by Julian Ugarte and Aurora de Alba—both chew up the scenery and bring with them some much needed sauce and seduction. Given the year in which the film was made, these elements are still quite innocent, and sex and violence are implied rather than explicit.
It seems wrong to focus solely on Paul Naschy and leave director Enrique Lopez Aguiluz as an afterthought. Such is the magnetism of the star, even when he wasn’t behind the camera, the work Naschy did—even for others—was very much his own. Aguiluz does do a mighty fine job here, establishing mood, especially in the lighting, the pace, and the tension of the film. The acting feels natural. The sets, especially the dungeon scenes, are suitably extravagant. Aguiluz wasn’t a director known for horror—he mainly directed documentary shorts, and a Santo film and a couple of Crime thrillers—which is a shame, given he does show some flair for it. Taking all this into consideration this has to be one of the highlights of Nascy’s lengthy Wolf Man cycle.
As expected, Subkultur-Entertainment presents us with a very fine restoration of the original Spanish version of La Marca del Hombre Lobo. The film now boasts much more detail and image depth than in previous DVD releases. Film grain is beautifully resolved and is very fine. There are also no signs of degraining, or artificial edge sharpening. The print itself seems to be in very good condition too, and the only sign of age pertains to the colour scheme veering slightly towards brown/yellow, which makes the actors look as if they all have great suntans. Colour saturation itself is quite satisfying, though.
For this release, we are given two original mono audio tracks: in Spanish and German. Both tracks have fine body, and the dialog is crisp and easy to follow. There are no complaints here on technical grounds. Optional English and German subtitles are provided, to make this an English-friendly release, although the English translation is a bit awkward and contains grammatical mistakes. A note about the soundtrack: The Spanish version of La Marca, presented here, has a completely different soundtrack than Sam Sherman’s American version, or the British version called Hell’s Creatures, upon which the American is based. This is not just a question of dubbing, but of the entire music track being completely different. So much so, that the film makes a very different impression depending on which version you are watching.
There are not many extra features on this release, especially compared to Subkultur’s other recent Paul Naschy release. The most interesting extra here is the image gallery, which consists of very rare colour images from the set of the film, including some shots of the crew. In addition, we are also given three trailers, as well as the original German and American title sequences, which are presented in SD.
A worthy debut film for star Paul Naschy as the Wolf Man, which now makes its own debut into the world of high-def blu-ray from Subkultur-Entertainment, in this English-friendly edition. Restored to its full beautiful glory this release is for all fans of Gothic and classic horror as well as lovers of Euro-cult horror. Note: this is a limited edition blu-ray, so interested buyers are advised not to hesitate.