“A true story so brutal and horrifying it was kept from the public for over a century!”
1976 – NR – 79 Minutes – Raro Video
Starring Annik Borel, Howard Ross, Dagmar Lassander – Directed by Rino Di Silvestro
You know what I think of when I think ‘werewolf’? Freakishly long nipples. That’s right, the kind you can hang coat hangers from. Yeah, Werewolf Woman isn’t your typical werewolf movie in the slightest. For starters, there isn’t really a werewolf in it or anything that would really qualify being of lycanthrope, definitely nothing you would consider especially by today’s standards. No hunky, shirtless teen dudes that travel with a pack of other shirtless hunky dudes battling for the love of an emotionless plank of wood (my apologies to planks of wood everywhere). Instead, what is presented here is a woman out of her gord, biting the neck of just about everyone she encounters for the first half of the movie. The movie has plenty of throat rips that put Patrick Swayze to shame. Then it becomes an odd amalgamation of other genres and goes back to kind of being a werewolf movie.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you all about it!
Daniela can’t stop having feverish dreams of an ancestor she believes to be a werewolf. She believes this, because in her dreams she sees her (or herself) dancing, fully nekkid, in a way that can only be described as losing your balance while trying to avoid a bee. She then transforms into a werewolf! Or at least what $20 worth of cheap Halloween store makeup and dog shavings will get you. Seriously, the werewolf effect here is passible for the world’s best Chewbacca costume on the smallest budget. As the narrator goes on about how a werewolf hunts during the full moon, as she pounces on a torch carrying villager and bites his throat. The rest of the villagers capture her and torch her at the stake. Was that the answer to every problem back then? Just burn it on a stake?
Daniela’s father, Count Neseri, is keeping a close eye on her since she was traumatically raped and she happened upon an ancestor’s journal, detailing the previously told events and believing herself to curse. Daniela, in her shocked state, believed every word of it. You see, back then, reading something in a journal was like believing everything you read on the internet.
As if believing you are a werewolf wasn’t a big enough problem, her sister Elena (played by Dagmar Lassander, the grouchy real estate lady from The House by the Cemetery) and husband Fabian visit from school where she studies nuclear physics. Seriously, that’s what she says. At first I thought she was going to turn her sister in to some sort of radioactive werewolf monster, but I’m going to crush that dream for all of us right now and tell you that doesn’t happen. That evening, Daniela flashbacks to the villagers burning (and iguanas… because it all ties together?) her at the stake and one of them looks just like Fabian. Daniela peeks in on the Elena and Fabian knocking boots and becomes aroused by it and takes care of ‘business’.
So at this point, you’re watching a woman masturbate while she watches her sister have sex. Feeling dirty, yet?
Fabian catches her and darts off to find her, which I have to wonder what kind of questions he has for her or do you think… no, that would be gross! He finds her outside where she successfully seduces him, taps into her werewolf ancestry and bites his throat out!
Daniela’s constant hallucinations land her strapped to a bed in the looney bin, where a nymphotic patient wanders about trying to mount everything that walks by. Well, even if it doesn’t walk. I guess it just needs a pulse (which is a good thing, because I just reviewed NEKRomantik) as she begins groping and kissing Daniela, who manages to convince the patient to unstrap her from the bed and repays her by biting her throat out.
The film wanders into slasher territory for a moment when she spies on a young couple then kills the girl by (would anyone like to guess?) biting her throat. Later, police begin to see a connection between this murder and Fabian’s, along with Daniela’s escape and the murdered patient, making these police look more competent than Chief Wiggum. Knowing that someone would notice a woman covered in blood a mile away, Daniela steals some clothes only to get spotted a moment later and murdering a few other sleaze bags that try to pick her up. Well, so much for that plan!
But not all guys are sleazy, as friendly Luca offers her a home cooked meal and a bed to sleep in without sex, which is odd considering he is played by Howard Ross who played the sleaziest character of all time, Mickey Scellenda, in The New York Ripper. As it turns out, this is just what Daniela needs to overcome her trauma, as she and Luca fall in love and do romantic things like laugh, eat dinner and reenact getting shot on a bell tower and falling on a crash mat… oh, I forgot to mention that he’s a stuntman, so it makes sense.
She realizes she can never leave Luca or their quaint little home, so she calls her father and apologizes for the murders and is never coming home. Since she apologized, I guess that means it’s okay to move on with her life, but history has a tragic way of repeating itself. A group of greasy, disgusting mean have been following her around, breaking into her home at night while Luca is away, raping her and killing Luca upon his return while trying to fight them off.
Being that it’s the 70’s and the rape/revenge genre is popular, Daniela doesn’t take this sitting down. She tracks her tormentors down, not unlike a feral creature would do and gives them their comeuppance. Maybe that’s the werewolf tie-in to this section? At first I was rooting for her to get her revenge, but then I remembered this was the woman who murdered innocent people by biting them to death. I’m not saying what she did here isn’t justified nor was what happened deserved, but it’s hard to see her as an anti-hero instead of a murderer. The police put all of this together and finally track Daniela down and things end rather, eh, anti-climatically, leaving you without a bang, but not exactly a whimper. It just doesn’t feel like it was all paid off.
So, you may have some questions. The main and most obvious one being, why was this called Werewolf Woman when it didn’t predominantly feature said werewolf? To possibly offer an answer, because it’s an Italian exploitation film that wanted to exploit several genres so it could be marketed to several different audiences. It feels like the same story is being told through several different genres that doesn’t blend well together. It starts off as a werewolf movie, moving on to slasher, then adds a rape/revenge element. Heck, there are even possession type elements thrown in (after all, The Exorcist was popular at the time). It doesn’t become a mess or incoherent to the point where it’s unwatchable or not understandable, which is odd since it does seem to be able to tell the same story without making it confusing, although at times you will have the thought, “wasn’t this a werewolf movie?” from time to time. The plot about her ancestor being a werewolf is enough of a story to base an entire film on, but this movie tends to overcompensate that, leading into several other side plots that, honestly, it could do without. It’s like the filmmakers wanted to exploit several of the exploitation genres at once, instead of making several different movies. The Howling or An American Werewolf in London this ain’t. Although instead of Sybil Danning dancing around a fire nude, you get Annik Borel, which is a fair trade.
Raro Video offers this new Blu-ray transfer, which does look pretty dang good, but not the best a transfer could be. Some parts still are quite noticeably grainy and scenes look dull at times, but luckily the cinematography is really nice to distract you from that. The audio, however, is nicely cleaned in 2.0 Mono in both Italian and English. Believe it or not, this can offer you two different viewing experiences, since the dubbing in English is laughably atrocious, it’s best to watch in Italian with the English dubs. There isn’t much in the way of bonus features, just about a twenty minute interview with director Rino Di Silvestro in Italian, but dubbed in English and a theatrical trailer.
This is a film with just enough sleaze to make only make you feel uncomfortable when you stop and think about it. It’s a very well told story, even if it can’t decide which genre it wants to be. Maybe that was the way to go about it though. It leaves several different impressions in my head, all of them pretty good. I should also point out that the foxy Annik Borel spends a good amount of time in the movie completely nekkid. It’s the right kind of Euro-trash that’s got enough nudity, blood and a bizarre storyline that never reaches a ludicrous point, but just enough to make it satisfactory. However, this makes it unappealing to your average movie goer, since they now all expect werewolves to be shirtless, hunky dudes tied up in a love triangle (well, this story offers some of those).