Craig J. Clark — Sep. 28th 2012
Before I tackle the rest of Paul Naschy’s “Hombre Lobo” series, I’d like to highlight one entry in particular that may be a little hard to come by since it’s never been released on DVD, but it’s definitely worth the effort to track down. That film is 1975’s Night of the Howling Beast, which was originally called La Maldicion de la Bestia (literally “The Curse of the Beast”) and also went out as Hall of the Mountain King (a somewhat nonsensical title) and The Werewolf and the Yeti (which is rather more germane since there is a scene at the end where Naschy’s Waldemar Daninsky fights a yeti). Directed by Miguel Iglesias (who’s credited under the not-fooling-anyone pseudonym of M.I. Bonns), the film opens with an incredibly brief and chaotic yeti attack, after which we’re whisked off to London. There Waldemar — a noted anthropologist and psychologist who just happens to be fluent in Nepalese — is recruited by an old professor (Castillo Escalona) for an expedition to the Himalayas to continue the work of the first expedition (shades of Monty Python’s “Sir George Head” sketch). Of course, the main attraction for Waldemar may be the presence of the professor’s beautiful daughter/assistant, Sylvia (Grace Mills). (And no, the fact that he knew her as a child isn’t creepy at all.)
As one might expect, things don’t really get rolling until the expedition reaches Nepal and Waldemar decides to scout ahead with a skittish local guide. When they reach the Pass of the Demons of the Red Moon his guide freaks out and disappears, leaving Waldemar to wander on his own until he finds sanctuary in a cave inhabited by two hot priestesses who nurse him back to health. After some disturbing dreams he discovers that they’re cannibals who worship a skeleton with fangs, kills one with a silver dagger and is bitten by the other before he can dispatch her. Thus having contracted the curse of the beast, he stumbles out of the cave in just a shirt, which would be a problem if he didn’t sprout fur and fangs that night during the full moon.
Meanwhile, there is unrest back at camp since one of the expedition’s Sherpas (Gaspar ‘Indio’ González) keeps warning them about the bandits that could attack them at any time. Waldemar kills three of them the first time he transforms and even chows down on Nathan (Juan Velilla), the group’s main naysayer, after he gets drunk and tries to paw Sylvia. Naturally, when the professor and the others discover Nathan’s body the next morning they think it could be the work of a yeti, but they are soon set upon by more bandits and there is a big shootout, during which Sylvia escapes and the professor and Melody (Verónica Miriel), the other female in the group, are captured. Alas, the bandits are less interested in poor Larry Talbot (Gil Vidal) — yes, Naschy went ahead and used the name of the most famous werewolf in history for a minor character in the film — but we don’t find out his fate until the next day, after Waldemar has reunited with Sylvia after slaughtering some more bandits in his bestial form.
When Waldemar and Sylvia find Larry he’s been impaled on a spike and begs to be put out of his misery (much like Lon Chaney, Jr. frequently did), but before he expires he tells them the bandits have taken the professor and Melody to the palace of the ailing Sekkar Khan (Luis Induni), who is attended by the sadistic Wandesa (Silvia Solar), a foreigner who delights in having people tortured and is stringing the Khan along. On their way to the palace Waldemar and Sylvia stop at an abandoned monastery where an old man tells them of the only cure for Waldemar’s condition (which involves the red petals of a magic flowering plant and the blood of a young girl), but before they can seek it out they are captured and taken to the palace, where Wandesa announces her intention to dominate Waldemar and make him her slave by having Melody skinned alive before his eyes. Before the full moon comes, though, Sylvia and the other female prisoners effect an escape and Waldemar is freed in time to have two protracted fights — one in human form with the Khan and the other in his more feral state with a yeti that tries to abduct Sylvia. Sadly, the creature’s shaggy costume looks decidedly off-the-rack, but that doesn’t make much of a difference since it’s hard to make out much detail against the blinding white snow. I’d say a DVD restoration is in order, but that seems about as likely as Waldemar Daninsky rolling over and playing dead.