Following my review of Pranks the other day, this morning I've revisited another rather elusive former "Video Nasty" in the shape of the wild and woolly Paul Naschy vehicle The Werewolf And The Yeti.
Made in 1975 by Spanish exploitation specialist Miguel Iglesias (under the pseudonym M.I. Bonns) The Werewolf And The Yeti is the eighth instalment in the famed Hombre Lobo series, a largely unrelated group of twelve (although the existence of one is disputed) Spanish horror pictures made between 1968 and 2004 which all star former Olympic weightlifter and Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy as the accursed werewolf Waldemar Daninsky. Made at a time when Spanish horror pictures were starting to drift out of favour following their early seventies golden age, The Werewolf And The Yeti would be the last Daninsky picture for six years, the series lying dormant for the rest of the seventies until Naschy resurrected it with his 1981 effort Night Of The Werewolf (aka - El Retorno del Hombre-Lobo).
Meanwhile here in the UK The Werewolf And The Yeti would gain a measure of notoriety amongst horror fans when its UK pre-cert VHS release from Canon Video was briefly and rather harshly classed as a Video Nasty. Although The Werewolf And The Yeti would be one of several films quickly dropped from the Video Nasty list it has remained unavailable in the UK ever since and has never been released officially on DVD either.
The rather garbled plot of The Werewolf And The Yeti begins with intrepid explorer Waldemar Daninsky joining an expedition party who travel to Tibet in order to search for the mysterious Yeti on the treacherous slopes of the Himalayas. Waldemar ill-advisedly separates from the rest of the party and soon becomes hopelessly lost in the mountains. After much wandering Waldemar seems to find salvation when he stumbles across a warm, fire lit cave occupied by two beautiful young women whom soon set about making the stricken explorer at home. However, Waldemar soon realises to his horror that his hosts are actually a werewolf and a vampire. While Waldemar manages to kill both the werewolf woman bites him in the process and after leaving the cave the rising of the full moon sees the now cursed Waldemar transform into a ferocious werewolf himself, killing and mutilating those he comes across in the mountains.
Meanwhile the rest of the expedition party are set upon by a murderous group of thugs and are either killed or taken prisoner and dragged off to the palace of the evil, diseased prince Sekkar Khan who rules over the area in conjunction with the beautiful yet diabolical witch Wandesa who takes great delight in torturing and killing Khan's prisoners. Only Waldemar's sweetheart Sylvia manages to evade capture and when she and Waldemar are reunited their romance is resumed. However, with Waldemar transforming into a bloodthirsty werewolf on every night of the full moon and the evil Wandesa determined to capture them the course of true love doesn't exactly run smooth...
While the majority of the previous Naschy werewolf pictures had all largely set out to emulate the vibrant gothic horror popularised by Hammer, albeit with more nudity and bloodshed, The Werewolf And The Yeti largely abandons this approach and is instead pitched more as an exceedingly far-fetched Boys Own style Himalayan adventure picture with horror overtones.
Despite the films UK video title the hunt for the Yeti is cast to the wayside after about twenty minutes and the narrative goes off on a mad tangent from which it never returns chucking all sorts of madness at the unwitting viewer including werewolves (obviously), a romantic subplot, a tyrannical prince, a sadistic witch, hidden monasteries, subterranean torture dungeons, some gobbledygook concerning magical flowers and lots of hilariously cheesy English dubbed dialogue . The result is a loveably insane and criminally entertaining slice of Euroshock which pound for pound is perhaps the most purely enjoyable of the Naschy werewolf movies. Iglesias keeps the action moving at a spirited pace and the film boasts several memorable highlights, the most notable being Waldemar's fateful encounter with two beautiful cave dwelling women who happen to be a werewolf and a vampire. Then of course there are the brief yet grisly scenes of the evil witch Wandesa flaying a naked young lovely in the catacombs beneath Sekkar Khan's palace.
Needless to say Paul Naschy contributes his usual extremely hammy yet oddly compelling star performance and is terrific fun in his role as the ill-fated Waldemar. As usual the incorrigible Spanish horror icon surrounds himself with a number of European horror lovelies. The rather gorgeous Grace Mills who would later appear in Naschy's risible possession shocker Exorcism appears as Waldemar's love interest Sylvia and shares a topless scene with our hero. Meanwhile earlier in the film Naschy also appears to have great fun cavorting around in a naked three-way romp with the two nubile undead cave women. But can you really blame him? In addition Silvia Solar who later appeared as a rape victim in Alain Deruelle's hilariously awful Cannibal Terror also goes briefly topless in her role as the sexy yet evil witch Wandesa. All in all The Werewolf And The Yeti more than proves my suspicion that the king of Spanish horror has a thing for brunette's.
On a more serious note The Werewolf And The Yeti, as with most Naschy pictures, also benefits greatly from surprisingly excellent production values which are readily evident even when viewing the film in a VHS print. Cinematographer Tomàs Pladevall does a superb job of using snowy, desolate landscapes to evoke a rich atmosphere and a genuine sense of the protagonists being stranded high up in the Himalayas. This is despite the fact that The Werewolf And The Yeti was predominantly shot in Barcelona.
The only area into which the high production values don't really extend is that of Naschy's werewolf makeup which actually somehow manages to look less convincing than that sported by Lon Chaney Jr in The Wolf Man over three decades earlier. The same goes for the dated time lapse photography technique used in the transformation scenes. However, the plentiful footage of Naschy tearing around in the snow clad in his full werewolf garb are actually terrific, cheesy fun to watch and pretty much central to the films charm. The climactic monster rumble between Naschy's werewolf and the equally unconvincing yeti is also a real rib tickler even if it is tacked onto the end of the film almost as an afterthought prior to a rather soppy happy ending.
It should be noted however that despite its brief tour of duty on the Video Nasties list, The Werewolf And The Yeti, despite boasting a fair amount of bare female flesh, is actually quite restrained in terms of onscreen gore. Naschy's numerous werewolf attacks are never anything more than slightly bloody and the only real moments of nastiness are the aforementioned flaying sequence and the sight of one unfortunate expedition member who has been gorily impaled on a wooden stake and left to slowly die by Sekkar Khan's band of thugs. However, even these are pretty brief and all in all it's not really surprising that The Werewolf And The Yeti was dropped from the Nasties list quite quickly.
Finally I could not possibly end my review of The Werewolf And The Yeti without mentioning the opening montage of London landmarks which for some unbeknown reason is set to the strains of Scottish Bagpipe music! For some reason I found his particular cock up really funny, although I'm not sure why.
All in all The Werewolf And The Yeti gets a hearty two thumbs up from me. While it doesn't ever exactly live up to its one time "Video Nasty" status, this is nevertheless a lavishly produced and extremely enjoyable piece of European trash cinema which fails to deliver a single dull moment. If you've never sampled the delights of a Paul Naschy film before this is certainly not a bad place to start and for fans of the hairy Spanish horror icon this is obviously a must see.
At present The Werewolf And The Yeti is, as far as I'm aware, yet to receive any sort of official DVD release. While I am of the opinion that any Paul Naschy title on DVD is a good thing it is still a shame that while lesser Naschy pictures such as Panic Beats and Exorcism have received the red carpet treatment on DVD this one still sits on the shelf. The old UK pre cert from Canon Films (still a much sought after rarity) actually features a reasonable quality if slightly dark looking print (I've seen much worse) which clocks in at just over 83 minutes. I'd be curious to know if there are any longer versions in existence.