Sunday, October 28, 2018

HubrisWeen 2018, Day 23: The Werewolf and The Yeti (1975)

As a werewolf fan, it was only natural I would hear about Paul Naschy at some point. The man had a hugely prolific career as a horror actor (and director as well), but he is most well-known for a recurring character he played known as Waldemar Daninsky. Waldemar took many different forms over the years, but the main constant was that at some point in any film Waldemar showed up in, he was going to become a werewolf or already was one.

Now, given that Waldemar first appeared prior to the werewolf renaissance year of 1981, when An American Werewolf in London and The Howling completely shook up the genre, it's not shocking that he owed more to Lon Chaney, Jr. than the creations of Rick Baker and Rob Bottin. Still, I am just as much a fan of an old-fashioned wolfman as any other kind of werewolf. All werewolves are awesome, after all.

Except werewolves that are just colored contacts, claws, and fangs. Those werewolves can go straight to hell.

Still, even though I knew of Paul Naschy as early as high school, I did not see any of his films until rather recently. First, I was given a collection of cheap public domain horror films that included one of his Daninsky offerings. Second, Scream Factory put out their first volume of The Paul Naschy Collection on Blu-ray, which allowed me to see several of his films and I adored them almost immediately.

And then, to my delight, I saw that they were releasing The Paul Naschy Collection II and it contained today's film, The Werewolf and The Yeti. I had heard of the film already, and I knew that of its many titles this was both the most accurate and most potentially disappointing.

However, I had no idea how much I was about to love this film.

Perhaps to avoid claims that it doesn't deliver on its promise, we get Yeti in our first 30 seconds. A group of mountaineers on a snowy hillside have just barely walked in front of the camera before a brown Yeti appears out of the nearby woods and proceeds to murder all of them. I'm particularly fond of the fact that the Yeti strangles the last guy with his ski pole.

Those Jack Link's jerky commercials finally pushed Sasquatch over the edge.
The opening credits then give us a look at what our werewolf will eventually look like, before we jarringly transition to stock footage of London accompanied by bagpipe music. It's meant to establish where we are and all, but it's hilariously wrong.

We are introduced to Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy) here, revealing this version is an adventurous anthropologist and pyschologist who has come to visit his old colleague Prof. Lacombe (Castillo Escalona). Waldemar is at first more interested in reuniting with Lacombe's daughter, Sylvia (Mercedes Molina, but billed as Grace Mills). He is astonished that Sylvia has grown into a beautiful woman since they last saw each other, so naturally they will eventually be romantically involved because at the time that wasn't considered incredibly gross.

Ironically, this werewolf does most of his grooming before he gets hairy.
At any rate, Lacombe has called Waldemar there because a colleague of theirs came into possession of two awkward photos of the Yeti that proves it is a shaggy brown humanoid. Unfortunately, the expedition he then mounted to find this Yeti has vanished, so we can infer that we saw them get Yeti-strangled in the opening scene.

I mean, you gotta admit they were successful from a certain point of view.

Well, Lacombe wants to mount another expedition to follow in their footsteps and Waldemar is a perfect choice for it since he has so much experience and he speaks Nepalese. Never mind that the area they will be going to look nothing at all like Nepal, let's just pretend.

At any rate, once they get to "Nepal" and meet up with the rest of the expedition: Larry Talbot (Gil Vidal), Melody (Veronica Miriel), and a couple of other white dudes I couldn't tell apart. Unfortunately, they all learn that inclement weather has closed off the pass they wanted to take for the foreseeable future and Waldemar decides to find an alternate route. Their local guide, who goes by Tiger (Gaspar "Indio" Gonzalez) and is weirdly stereotyped as Indian, leads Waldemar to a crazy man named Joel (Victor Israel, whom I instantly recognized as the doomed porter from Horror Express) who has attempted a little-known passage that no other locals would dare attempt.

You see, it's a demon-infested passage.

Weirdly, Joel is haunted by those demons but is super eager to take Waldemar there anyway. Except that as soon as they are deep into the pass, Joel hears the demons laughing at him and runs away--seemingly plunging to his death, except Waldemar finds that his footprints just end in the middle of a flat patch of snow. Waldemar stumbles throughout a deciduous forest until he happens upon a convenient cave, which proves to be the home to two beautiful women and their idol to a demigod. Once inside he collapses from exhaustion and exposure.

"Dear Penthouse, I am a werewolf mountaineer and I never thought this would happen to me..."
Naturally, these women decide Waldemar is worthy of being saved so that they can nurse him back to health and then have an incredibly awkward threesome with him. It's hard to describe, but it involves one woman humping the other's head over Waldemar's groin. It looks like a confused 12-year-old boy's idea of what happens when lesbians have sex.

Meanwhile, the other expedition has decided to set off on another path since they are afraid that Waldemar may have been lost on his attempt to scout the demon passage. However, they all ignore Tiger's warning that the passage they've chosen takes them into the territory of the dreaded bandit lord, Sekkar Khan. Tiger assures them that if they take that route, Khan will surely kill them all in various horrifying ways.

Meanwhile, Waldemar awakens to find that his hosts are actually cannibals that are really bad at self control, since they are gleefully eating human body parts a short walk from where he was bedded down. Since he assumes they intend him to be their next meal, he tries to escape only to find the cave suddenly has a portcullis blocking his escape. So he follows the cannibal women to where he saw them last and finds them praying over the cobwebbed corpse of someone who apparently had some gnarly fangs before they became a skeleton.

I seriously want to know this guy's story.
The skeleton is adorned in armor and has an arrow in its chestplate, so Waldemar runs up and yanks the arrow out. One of the women attacks him so he impales her in the chest with the arrow. She falls down dead and goes up in smoke like a vampire.

The other woman sprouts a mouthful of fangs and starts to get hairy when she attacks Waldemar. She manages to bite him on the chest, hilariously leaving a scar that is unmistakably a pentagon despite werewolves generally being associated more with pentagrams. He kills her with the arrow, too, and stumbles out of the cave--the portcullis having mysteriously vanished.

It's a full moon, of course, so Waldemar quickly wolfs out. Helpfully, his first target is a camp of bandits who had already clocked the Lacombe expedition as a target. Delightfully, Waldemar first attacks them by leaping at them from atop a huge boulder because this werewolf is nothing if not acrobatic. He slaughters all the bandits, but leaves their horses--who are hilariously calm about the presence of a werewolf.

Sylvia can't sleep, meanwhile, since she keeps worrying about Waldemar either being dead or Tiger's theory that he may have become a demon. So she goes for a walk in the "moonlight." She is accosted by one of the other white dudes, since he is super drunk. However, he does let her go back to her tent so that Waldemar can appear out of the woods and kill him.

DENTISTS HATE HIM! Find out why this werewolf's teeth are so white!
Finding the dead body the next morning puts the expedition in a huge pickle. They assume a Yeti did it, and as soon as the imperialists return to their camp after examining the corpse they find all the sherpas are gone and Tiger has a dagger in his chest. I could never quite figure out if the sherpas stabbed him or if Sekkar Khan's bandits attacked the camp, since Tiger uses his last breath just to basically say, "I told you so, stupid white people," and then he dies.

The expedition continues on, but then they are ambushed by bandits in a valley. Larry and Lacombe get in a few good shots, sending a couple bandits tumbling off of cliffs after being shot in classic fashion. Sylvia successfully runs away, but Melody is shot and injured and the other white dude gets shot dead when he goes back to help her. Larry and Lacome are forced to surrender when they run out of bullets. Unfortunately for Larry, the bandits decide they don't need him alive and he will be "entertainment," which will turn out to be exactly as unpleasant as it sounds.

Some of the bandits catch up to Sylvia, but luckily they are interrupted in their attempted rape of her by Waldemar showing up. Oddly, despite it being broad daylight, he is still a werewolf. Luckily, after Sylvia faints at the sight of a werewolf looming at her with what looks like Chef Boyardee sauce dribbling out of its mouth, Waldemar's humanity takes over and he leaves her unharmed before wandering off to return to human form.

Once he and Sylvia reunite they find that Larry was left behind at the scene of the ambush, but the bandits first beat the crap out of him and then, uh...well, it's not explicitly made clear that this is what they did to him, but he has a spike sticking out of his shoulder and it seems clear that he was impaled on that spike butt-first. I mean, damn, that's messed up. Before the poor bastard dies, Larry tells them that the bandits took Melody and Lacombe to Sekkar Khan's lair.

And what a lair it is! From the outside it looks vaguely authentic, but the inside was borrowed from a sword & sorcery film or maybe a Star Trek episode. Sekkar Khan (Luis Induni) is being treated for an odd skin malady on his back, under the supervision of the mysterious Wandesa (Silvia Solar). She's some sort of foreign seductress/sorceress/mad scientist and she has Khan in her thrall, but is also planning to overthrow him--you know the drill.

See, she even has beakers of colored liquid. Science!
She even first orders the bandit who reports their catch to kill Lacombe right away, but Khan overrules her since he thinks Lacombe might know how to cure his condition that she has thus far failed to. Wandesa is not a fan of this, but isn't ready to move against her master yet.

Waldemar and Sylvia accidentally bump into a strange mute and the monk he serves. The monk leads them to his sanctuary in an abandoned monastery and he quickly recognizes that Waldemar has the mark of the werewolf. He tells Waldemar that there is a cure, but it requires finding a rare red flower higher up the mountain and mixing it with the blood of a young girl.

The monk also tells Waldemar he should let Sylvia in on his secret. However, we cut immediately from that to Waldemar and Sylvia naked in bed and he never once tells her, just tells her that he must leave on his own soon. We cut even more abruptly to the monk chaining Waldemar to a tree that night at his behest.

This film does not believe in transitions.

Luckily, Sylvia observes Waldemar's transformation but when he instantly breaks the chains she has already left the area. So the werewolf instead leaps onto the back of a bandit scout's horse and they both tumble into the snow when the horse falls over. (I don't think the horse appreciated this one bit) Waldemar kills the bandit, while Sylvia gets the scoop on the lycanthropy cure from the monk. However, the monk also gives her a dagger in case she needs to just straight-up kill Waldemar.

Alas, when word of the scout eaten by "wolves" reaches Khan, Wandesa intuits that it was actually a werewolf that did it. Khan is more interested in hearing about the two survivors at the monastery and sends his goons to retrieve them. When Sylvia awakens the next day, she finds the monk's beheaded body and the mute's bloodied corpse before the bandits find her--and human Waldemar arrives in time to also get captured.

Waldemar is chained up next to Lacombe in the dungeon. Waldemar doesn't even have a chance to break the news to Lacombe that his daughter was also captured before Wandesa arrives and has the old doctor dragged off for nefarious purposes. She then tries to seduce Waldemar, going so far as to flash her body double's breasts at him, because no woman can resist Paul Naschy.

To be fair, her reason for wanting to bone him is actually pragmatic. She reveals that she knows he is a werewolf and she wants to use his strength to help her overthrow the Khan. Waldemar refuses, so Wandesa goes into the harem cage where Sylvia and Melody are being held and grabs Melody and a few other unlucky women in order to make a demonstration to Waldemar. Since this is one of those movies that feels the need to introduce characters at the 11th hour, the cell also contains the arrogant Princess Ulka (Ana Maria Mauri) who demands Wandesa set her free and swears that she will have her revenge if she is not freed.

So the demonstration for Waldemar involves chaining Melody and the other women to racks, stripping them naked, and then flaying the skin from their backs. Apparently this is part of the treatment for the Khan, as Wandesa then lays the skin from Melody's back onto the Khan's. I'm really unclear on what this treatment involves since it's implied that Wandesa flayed the backs of all three or four women she brought out, despite her only seeming to need one skin graft, and all three women also seemed to die in the process.

Sylvia absentmindedly plays with the monk's dagger in the cell, since I guess no one searched her for weapons, and Princess Ulka sees. She forcefully borrows the dagger and lures a guard into the cell and kills him with it. Amazingly, she just leaves the dagger in his back, so Sylvia is able to reclaim it. Ulka helpfully tells Sylvia how to find Waldemar's cell and then she takes off with the other women. They overwhelm another guard and strangle him with his own whip before they steal his weapons.

Wandesa is ambushed by Ulka and the other women in her laboratory and then they pin her down and stab her to death. And that's...the end of that plot thread, completely.

Sylvia frees Waldemar, though during their escape from the dungeon a torch is knocked over to start the palace ablaze. Thus begins a long sequence of Waldemar delightfully using his training in Kirk Fu to fight his way through nameless goons until he confronts Sekkar Khan in his bedroom. The fight is relatively even until Khan twists a brazier on the wall to reveal a trapdoor to a pit of spikes--whereupon Waldemar immediately flips the Khan into his own spike pit. Like, they barely even scuffle before the Khan goes in. The good news is that Sylvia and and Waldemar then find her father; the bad news is that it's because he was already in the spike pit.

The full moon has risen by the time they've exited the burning palace, so Waldemar tries to send Sylvia off while he runs away to transform. Unfortunately, the film suddenly remembers it was supposed to have a Yeti in it and the hairy brute attacks Sylvia and carries her off.

"Hey, uh, you guys need me for this shot, right? Guys?"
Waldemar takes forever to wolf out, but then the film finally makes good on its implicit promise of a werewolf fighting a Yeti. Sort of. Sure, there is a guy in werewolf makeup fighting a guy in a Yeti costume. However, it's two brown monsters mostly filmed in a wide shot, through tree branches in the foreground, and under a very dark day-for-night filter.

It's also not a terribly long fight, as you would imagine. Waldemar rather quickly gets the upper paw, biting the shit out of the Yeti as they tumble in the snow. However, I guess werewolves are fatally allergic to Yetis because after killing the Yeti, Waldemar grabs the scar on his chest and collapses as if he has had a heart attack.

So, uh, I guess it's a draw?

Luckily for Waldemar, Sylvia has come out of her Yeti-induced faint and discovered that the red flower they need is right there and cuts her hand so she can bleed on it and then uses it to cure Waldemar. The two then happily wander off into the snow, where they will presumably die of exposure now. The End.

My money is on the, uh, hairy brown one?
Let me be clear right now, this is not a good movie, nor a competent one. It is poorly filmed, kinda racist, has zero focus, and rarely makes sense even with its own logic. It feels like the filmmakers kept getting new ideas for what to do with the story and went off on totally unrelated tangents, forgetting what had come before.

And I love it.

I found this film endlessly entertaining. There's a manic energy at work here that makes it impossible not to get sucked in, even as scattered as the story is--and as indecipherable as most of its too-dark night footage is.

True, it may help that I grew up watching re-runs of Star Trek with my parents, so I always appreciate a good awkwardly choreographed fight. Especially when one of the participants tends to fling his entire body at his opponent, feet-first. And that is basically what most of the middle section of the film is.

Also, yes, there is quite a bit of nudity. I'm only human.

Honestly, the introduction of the Khan is part of what makes the film so fun. Instead of just being a horror story, like many werewolf movies, this is also a weird pseudo-swashbuckler adventure film. With a Yeti, no less! Sure, it isn't exactly what we were promised by the title, but in another way it totally is.

This is also definitely a perfect film to watch with a group. Even just watching it with my wife was a hoot, so a larger crowd would have a field day with this one.

It's certainly a more enjoyable werewolf film than Another Wolfcop, but that isn't saying all that much.

This has concluded Day 23 of HubrisWeen 2018! To see what the other Celluloid Zeroes chose for W, click the banner above!

1 comment:

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