Monday, November 3, 2008
Curse of the Devil 
Several of you have asked me when I'd finally get around to reviewing a movie with Paul Naschy playing his signature role of tragic werewolf Waldemar Daninsky. I feel like I've kept you waiting long enough, and now I'll reward your patience with my thoughts on the 1973 entry into the Daninsky Cycle, "Curse of the Devil." "Curse" finds Paul Naschy working with Carlos Aured, who also directed the Naschinator in his giallo-inspired outing "Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll" and strong contender for Tenebrous Empire Fave, "Horror Rises from the Tomb." Aured captures a darker, grislier Naschy than frequent collaborator and director Leon Klimovsky, whose films play like ultra-groovy, frantic fantasies ("Vengeance of the Zombies" and "Werewolf Shadow"). "Curse of the Devil" finds Naschy brooding with the best of 'em in a story that favors fatalistic tragedy over zany set pieces.
Oh--did I mention the axe murderer who's on the loose? Well, there's an axe murderer on the loose! This just would not be a Naschy film without some delightful kitchen-sink aspects, and this story tosses in an escaped looney with an ax to season the already heady brew of Satanism and werewolfery. Evil Ilona (if ever a bitch deserved to be in chains, it's her) isn't out of the Daninsky manor for five minutes before she stops to rest and is summarily dispatched by the mad killer. The axe murderer turns out to be a handy-dandy plot device that allows Waldemar to go on his KILLCRAZY RAMPAGES during the full moon without arousing suspicion, since the townspeople blame the escaped lunatic.
One of the things that seems consistent throughout Naschy's movies is the weird sense of time. Most of these films feature a plot that revolves around the cycles of the moon, and yet these cycles are oddly unpredictable. Does this movie take place over the course of three days, two weeks, several months? This oddly obscure sense of time proves disorienting and adds to the fantastic nature of the story, rather than detracting from it.
It's a real shame that the US release of this film had strange marketing tie-ins. Why compare such an old-fashioned film to "The Exorcist" and "Psycho?" Those aggressively modern titles share little with this film, and it's both inaccurate and unfair to set up such a comparison.
Check out the Flickr gallery of stills from "Curse of the Devil" right here.