Lycanthropy April - The Unliving
It merits saying that many artistic icons, usually way back in the day of say Edgar Allen Poe but some instances pop up nowadays too, die poor and destitute. Okay, that might be a little hyperbolic, but you get the idea. Sadly, something similar
can be said of Paul Naschy.
I certainly wasn’t looking to have a depressing chapter of Lycanthropy April…heck, perhaps the whole quarantine thing is finally getting to me…but it feels like a discussion we need to have in light of our next film: Tomb of the Werewolf or, as my DVD copy says, The Unliving. Both of these titles are apt and we’ll discuss why in a bit…but first, let’s get back to Mr. Naschy.
While popular throughout the 70s, so much so that he formed his own production company, things took a turn in the 80s…when said company ended up bankrupt. This was quickly followed by the death of his father via heart attack which would trigger a lengthy bout of depression. According to the wiki, he would only make one film during this period, starring his own son, in 1987. Unfortunately, this would be followed by his own near-fatal heart attack in 1991. In 96, he attempted a comeback with the film Licanthropo, but it bombed…and thus he found himself relegated to low-budget work.
And that’s where we find him here, in 2004’s Tomb of the Werewolf (or The Unliving), directed by Fred Olen Ray. Actually, I’ve gotta straighten that out, you see, he directed Tomb of the Werewolf under the pseudonym of Sherman Scott while for the release of The Unliving, which is the ‘uncut’ version, he allowed his own name to be placed under the director’s credit. Well, in terms of writing this review, at least that solves the title dilemma for me! Anyway, this sheds a little light on Fred’s career here. Sure, there are tons of films under his belt…and while this doesn’t always hold true, there is a bit of a pattern to suggest that if he used a pseudonym…well, it’s gonna be a skin-emax film…if you know what I mean, and I think you do.
And Tomb of the Werewolf started off life as a Sherman Scott film. Sooooo….
Yeah. We’re dealing with essentially soft-core porn with some werewolf interstitials thrown in.
Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. I mean, hey, we tick off each one of Joe Bob Briggs’ 3 B’s right…Blood, Breasts and Beasts. And each one of those B’s is satisfying…they don’t skimp on the blood and gore effects (but they seriously needed some extra funds for Naschy’s wig though…because that thing was RIDICULOUS!), there’s plenty of breasts, including Michelle Bauer’s classics that are holding up well since their 80’s heyday, and when you’ve got Paul Naschy reprising his Waldemar Daninsky role one least time, well, it’s Lycanthropy April, OF COURSE the Beast box gets a big ol’ check-plus.
But the movie fails in that it truly is a Skin-emax film. Anytime two people are along together, you know what’s gonna happen. And you know it’s a sad thing when in the ‘making of’ video that’s a special feature on the disc, the director even says something to the effect of ‘Yeah, the plot’s a little thin…so we’re gonna fill the movie up with tits to offset that.’ The final nail in the coffin is that aside from a few scattered scenes throughout the movie, the werewolf himself almost feels like he’s in a totally different film and just cut into this one! That’s the main reason I watched the ‘making of’ video right after was to see if Mr. Naschy had just filmed his scenes in Spain…but, as it turns out, he was indeed on set in California for 3 days to shoot his parts. But that’s just it…at this point he was 70…and it kind of shows. This film would be only 5 years before his death at the hands of cancer…and, well, it just made me sad. That’s not to be critical of Naschy’s performance, he does his best here, he really does…and that’s kind of the sad part here, because this old man’s effort eclipses the effort of nearly EVERYONE on this film. The only one trying to match him is Michelle Bauer in her Elizabeth Bathory role…but let’s be honest, she knows what kind of film she’s in and plays it as such. I don’t think Naschy knew what this film would end up being…or maybe he was just grateful for the work…who can say…but like other great actors that went out on stinkers, Raul Julia in Street Fighter and Orson Welles in Transformers: The Movie [HEY! You and I both know you ADORE that movie! – Ed.] well, he just didn’t deserve to go out like this.
Ultimately, though, while I can’t say why Fred Olen Ray changed the title of Tomb of the Werewolf to The Unliving, well, the remainder of the cast certainly justifies it. Look, these kids look great and look great nekkid (as JBB would say)…but the limits of their acting is reading lines like they’re reading numbers in the phone book. I’ve seen inanimate objects give better performances. That being said, I’m sure they’re all off having wonderful careers in the Skin-emax world or in full-blown porn...because their performances with clothes on are wince-worthy…and mind you, this site basks in watching films that are wince-worthy!!!
Oh, one last thing. I do have to give Fred credit though…I mean, sure, this is what it is, there’s no arguing that…but he did take the time to make sure the story did indeed invoke the rule when it comes to Naschy’s werewolf films: it’s not enough to kill him with silver. In fact, the very macguffin in this film is a sliver cross that has only kept Daninsky in stasis…and upon its removal…well, there goes the neighborhood. The only way Daninsky finds peace is if the fatal silver blow is inflicted by someone that loves him…and that’s where the weak-sauce comes into play.
Long and short of it, if you view it just as a late night skin flick, it’s certainly worth a wank if that’s what you’re into. If you’re looking for the last chapter of the Waldemar Daninsky tragedy…well, this ends up being just that, a tragedy on so many levels. It’s the last film of a horror icon that deserved a much better curtain call. Sadly, this is a case where you can have the 3 B’s…but those alone can’t save a picture.