TV/Film Review, Uncategorized, werewolves

Werewolf Films: 1970-1979 Part I

The ’70s was a decade of B-movie joy, so there were a LOT of werewolf films. One or two were even critically acclaimed. From Argentina to Bollywood, with links to several full features on Dailymotion and YouTube, there’s a film here for your every mood (as long as you speak Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and/or Hindi, but there’s English language flicks in here too).

In terms of recurring tropes and what the werewolf is used to represent (in those cases where it’s not just a monster used for kicks), the duality of civilisation vs primal instinct is played with, the comedy element starts being overshadowed by the potential for violence, and Grindhouse gets a look in. There are some classics again in this decade, and again has a brilliant list I’ll be mainly working off for these posts, with some additions (yeah, there’s more).

I should say that on the list is The Colonel and the Werewolf (1979), the English title of a Brazilian film. It shouldn’t really be on the list. This is the feature-length treatment of José Cândido de Carvalho’s bestselling 1964 novel, O Coronel e o Lobisomem, a novel which has nothing to do with werewolves. The title is a reference to the imaginative mind of the titular ‘Colonel’, Ponciano de Azeredo Furtado, “coronel por trabalho de valentia e senhor de pasto por direito de herança, destemido caçador de onça-pintada, lobisomem e, sobretudo, de rabo-de-saia.” (which Google Translate tells me means, “colonel for work of valor and lord of pasture for inheritance, fearless jaguar hunter, werewolf and, above all, tail-skirt.”) The novel and its small-screen and big-screen adaptations are about a retired, Quixotic? colonel and the loss of space and power of the rural landowners in the face of progress. While it may be a classic of Brazilian literature, it’s not going to be covered in this post as a werewolf legend!

Werewolf B-movies came out against a context of more horror, more sex, more violence and more gritty realistic drama being shown on screen. Cinematic innovation was on an upward swing at the start of the decade, and filmmakers and cinema-goers wanted to push boundaries and weren’t satisfied with mediocre and conventional productions. Stories became more personal and grittier, and the background of social change and civil rights had its part to play in the types of stories being told and consumed.

I was planning on doing this chronologically, but there are still SO MANY films to cover in the space of five short years that I’m going to do it by theme as well. The 70s were all about exploitation cinema, including exploitation of trends and popular tropes, so it’s no wonder that there was an explosion of monster movies during this time.

CW: Some of the films covered in Parts II and III contain graphic sexual assault, and make use of the werewolf as a ‘child of rape’ superstition.

Monster Mash/Fantasy-Horror

First off, let’s just get Spanish cinema’s Count Waldemar series out of the way before we start:

There were others made in the 1980s, one in the 90s and a film in 2004. We’ll get there. The films meander around the by-now-usual werewolf tropes, but also introduce a number of new origin monster mashup stories, from being bitten by a yeti to being bitten by two vampire women.

Count Waldemar is killed numerous times and brought back again more times than Christopher Lee’s Dracula, and tangles with the other heavyweights in the monster world.

This series had a number of alternative titles depending on the country of their release, of course, so you might know a few of them by other names. I think for me the complete lack of internal consistency in the films is part of their charm (?) and the yeti origin story is certainly inventive. It harks back to Werewolf of London (1935) where the titular character was bitten by a werewolf while in Tibet, the location of the yeti attack. The films also include other monster staples like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, whose own transformations and dual nature correspond with the werewolf-within-the-man concept, as well as vampires, Frankenstein’s monster, and various misadventures.

Dracula contra Frankenstein (1972) not part of the Count Waldemar series but also a Spanish film, takes more direct influence from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dr Seward (as in Stoker’s character) is its hero, a vampire hunter who kills Dracula successfully only for Dr Frankenstein and his assistant Morpho to show up and resurrect the Count. There’s nothing for it but to summon a werewolf to stop the Count’s reign of terror. This is more in the fantasy-horror vein, and has some elements recognisable to fans of Van Helsing (2004).

One film that doesn’t fit any of these genres I’ve roughly/arbitrarily lumped these into is the critically-acclaimed Swiss/French film, Providence (1977), where a werewolf appears as part of a fantasy sequence dreamed up by ailing, alcoholic novelist Clive Langham (played by John Gielgud). Lying in bed, the aging writer mentally composes and re-composes scenes for his latest novel, based on his relationships with his family members. The werewolf, in his imagination, is his son Kevin, who is being hunted through a dark, tangled forest. The film won the 1978 César Award for Best Film.


Werewolf Films 1970-1979 Part II: Crime/Thriller Horror and Exploitation films.

Be warned, some of these are pretty grim. I’m following them up with Part III: Horror Comedies & Folklore and Religion to cheer us up.

Next time: CW// sexual assault, suicide.

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