Movies Till Dawn: Wolf Guys

The Paul Naschy Collection: Horror Rises from the Tomb” (1972, Shout! Factory) Loopy Spanish supernatural horror starring Paul Naschy, best known for playing the doom-struck werewolf Waldemar Daninsky in a string of grisly Continental films from the late ’60s to the mid-1980s; here, however, he’s a 15th century warlock decapitated (con mucho gusto) for crimes including cannibalism and Satanism. Flash-forward to the 20th century and the warlock’s descendant (also played by Naschy) leads a group of friends in search of his ancestor’s severed head; its discovery not only reanimates the warlock and his companion (the ferocious Helga Line), but unleashes a horde of zombies, all of whom require an impromptu exorcism. Scripted by Naschy in a day and a half (with the help of amphetamines), “Tomb” is short on logic but delivers the mix of Gothic atmosphere and kitchen-sink gore that largely defined the Spanish horror boom of the early ’70s; much of the credit goes to Carlos Aured, who in his directorial debut, gets maximum mileage from naturalistic locations (specifically, the frigid, rain-soaked grounds around Naschy’s own family home) and modest production values, as well as Naschy’s visible relish at playing an operatically evil role that’s diametrically opposed to his melancholy wolfman. Shout Factory’s Blu-ray – part of its stellar, five-disc “Paul Naschy Collection” – offers the uncut international edit of “Tomb” in its correct aspect ratio (a vast improvement over countless previous DVDs) and with informative commentary by Naschycast hosts Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn, as well as exhaustively detailed liner notes by Naschy scholar Mirek Lipinski.

Wolf Guy” (1975, Arrow Video) Speaking of loopy (and weapons-grade loopy, to be exact), Arrow has what may be the most bizarre title in the vast c.v. of Japanese action star Sonny Chiba (“Kill Bill”). Based on the manga by Kazumasa Hirai, the picture is best summed up by the English translation of its Japanese title – “Enraged Lycanthrope” – with Chiba as a reporter and sort-of werewolf who doesn’t exactly transform into an animal but certainly acts like one, especially while on the trail of a missing singer whose descent into drug addiction is somehow tied to corrupt politicians, gangsters, and the depraved members of a rock band, all of whom co-exist without much incident in a world also populated by animal ghosts and werewolves. Directed with an emphasis on excess and absurdity by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, who also worked with Chiba on some of his more entertaining lesser titles (“Sister Street Fighter,” “Karate Bear Fighter”), “Wolf Guy” is genre-smashing, candy-colored madness, anchored by Chiba’s overwhelmingly physical performance (especially when he Wolfs out) and a score steeped in heavy funk guitar; it’s also frequently tasteless, overwrought and incomprehensibly plotted, so it’s probably best appreciated by veteran Japanese cult audiences. Arrow’s Blu-ray includes interviews with Chiba (the first half of a two-part career retrospective that concludes on Arrow’s Blu-ray for “Doberman Cop”), Yamaguchi (who knew nothing about werewolf movies prior to filming) and Toei Studios producer Toru Yoshida. Jasper Sharp and Patrick Macias both contribute appreciative and informative liner notes.

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and The Fix, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for Amazon.com from 1998 to 2014. He has interviewed countless entertainment figures from both the A and Z lists, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and George Newall, who created both Schoolhouse Rock and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson, and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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