Tuesday, December 05, 2017

THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI (1975) - Naschy on Blu-Ray

After promising myself on November 30th that in recognition of the anniversary of his death I was going to watch one of the new Paul Naschy Blu-rays that have come out this year, I finally got around to it this week. Certainly better late than never.

The film I chose was one that I haven't watched from beginning to end in a good long while. I saw this movie in the early 1990's as NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST although the title you'll find it under on Blu-ray is THE WEREWOLF & THE YETI. I was really curious to see just how sharp a picture this Blu-ray would have considering that every version I've seen previous to this was (as you might expect) pretty soft and rather visually unexciting. The good news right off the bat is that the film looks absolutely fantastic on the new Scream Factory Blu-ray. I have very few complaints about the visuals of this Blu-ray. Although the film does have a couple of scenes inserted from a lesser quality print (in most cases from a VHS print as far as I can tell) the film is remarkable in it's clarity, sharpness and color. If I were to lodge one complaint against the Blu-ray it would be that several scenes that clearly should have been dimmed down to simulate nighttime have not been filtered so that the day for night shot look correctly dark. This is a little distracting especially when you have the eternal nocturnal beast of a werewolf running around in what is obviously broad daylight.

The most striking thing that is apparent from seeing the film in such a high quality presentation is that all of its better qualities are enhanced but all of its faults are also in stark relief. I've always loved this movie for its entertaining combination of yet another fresh take on the Waldemar Daninsky werewolf tale mixed with action adventure in the Himalayas. The setting and the episodic nature of things makes it somewhat like watching a Paul Naschy werewolf character invade a Republic serial. Indeed, the action sequences in the final 15 or 20 minutes of the film are absolutely a blast to watch and would fit in perfectly with anyone's sense of adventure movie excitement. Just the plain hand to hand combat thrills are amazing to watch even if the enthusiasm of someone coming to this straight from a classic Republic serial might be tempered by the fact that it's spiced up with some pretty graphic violence. I actually expected the special effects and gore to suffer a good bit from such as sharp clean and clear presentation but I have to admit that that did not happen. My appreciation and admiration for the practical special effects in this film has grown considerably with this viewing. There is some really good and quite detailed work here and it holds up very well.

Being a fan of Naschy films and European horror cinema of this period in general means that you're always willing to overlook the particular failings that these films will usually display. Two of these failings are in stark relief in THE WEREWOLF & THE YETI  and can be generally attributed to either budgetary constraints or the director's choices. First is the rather jarring and often sloppy transitions from one sequence of the film to the next. Often I've wished for just a little bit of smoothing to make the narrative flow a little easier - a shot of the darkening sky, the mountainside or really anything to demarcate the point where the story is moving from one group of characters to another. Another problem is that often while watching this movie I feel that certain sequences could have been shot just a little bit differently for much better effect. Usually it's just that I think that everything within the scene is fine but it's framed poorly or it's framed a little indifferently. Of course, as with most of these genre films from this period of time, I always feel that there could have been just a few more inserts shots of characters having reactions to certain things or close-ups of them delivering specific lines just to underline the emotional content within the story. That's true here, especially when you have a group of characters standing around one of their colleagues who's been torn apart in the night by a werewolf and all of the dialogue is done in a single group master shot. Just a few inserts of those actors delivering a couple of those lines could have made the entire sequence much better.

But I sound like I don't like the movie and that is absolutely not true. Just because I see these flaws in this new excellent presentation doesn't mean that I don't really love this movie. I'm very pleased to see that Scream Factory took the time to reinsert the nude sequences in the movie and am especially happy that they inserted the one nude scene that changes the nature of a certain mystery that Troy and I had when we first viewed this film for the NaschyCast. What we were watching and reviewing at the time was the American VHS version without the nude sequences (very frustrating, let me tell you) but that cut of the film is missing a key scene that shows us that Daninsky and his female companion in the movie have a sexual relationship. Since Troy and I had wondered if this character was a virgin, we surmised that might be what allowed a certain neat little trick at the end of this movie to happen. Knowing that she certainly wasn't a virgin answered a big question and kind of made the magical flower at the end a little more interesting and strange. Let's just say that not all fairy tale ideas necessary adhere to classic expectations within a Spanish horror film.


Brian Lindsey said...

And now, with Shout's terrific new Blu-ray release, one can actually SEE the freakin' Yeti (...such as it is) instead of it appearing as a walking black silhouette!

Stephen D. Sullivan said...

I wish there had been more yeti, integrated better into the film -- but overall I like this film, and I'm thrilled that it's finally out in a really watchable edition.