Craig J. Clark — Mar. 30th 2018
Over the course of his five-decade screen career, Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy appeared as just about every monster imaginable — at least, those that walked on two feet — but the one he returned to time and again was the werewolf. Most often it was because he was reprising his most famous creation, Waldemar Daninsky, but he occasionally donned the fangs, claws, and fur for films unrelated to that long-running series. The first time was for 1982’s Buenas noches, señor monstruo, a family comedy in which he was El Hombre Lobo alongside other actors playing Count Dracula, Quasimodo, and Frankenstein’s Monster. Considerably less family-friendly is A Werewolf in the Amazon, which Naschy made for Brazilian director Ivan Cardoso in 2005.
In addition to playing the title character, Naschy also shoulders the responsibility of embodying one created by H.G. Wells a century earlier since A Werewolf in the Amazon serves as a belated sequel to The Island of Dr. Moreau, which Naschy’s Moreau directly refers to with his talk of once owning an island and a “legion of mutant creatures” before he was betrayed. As for how he came to be cursed with lycanthropy, this is thanks to an “incident in the Carpathian Mountains,” so his experiments in gene-splicing are as much about finding a cure for his own condition as they are about creating human/animal hybrids like his right-hand beast-man Zoltan (Guará Rodrigues), who yearns to be fully human, yet unmistakably likes it when his master scratches him behind the ears.
If Moreau kept his activities confined to making beast-men, that would be one thing (and if Cardoso could afford to show more than a handful of them, that would be another), but he has also hooked up with a bevy of buxom, bloodthirsty Amazon warriors who protect his secret jungle laboratory. In addition, Moreau has a sexual relationship with their queen, Pentesiléia (Joana Medeiros), which the 70-year-old Naschy can do little to make palatable considering he was twice the age of his co-star at the time of filming. Still, that’s no more gratuitous than, say, the shower scene at the top of the film in which female lead Natasha (Danielle Winits) is spooked by her roommate Samantha (Karina Bacchi), whose dialogue referencing Psycho is redundant since the soundtrack has already aped Bernard Herrmann’s score. Cardoso goes Hitchcock one further, though, by having Samantha disrobe and step into the shower with Natasha because clearly that’s what people want to see when they pop in a movie called A Werewolf in the Amazon. (For the record, close to half the film’s 77-minute running time elapses before the viewer gets a decent look at Naschy’s Moreauwolf, and even then he’s mostly in shadow.)
How Natasha and Samantha fit into the plot is barely worth getting into since they and their friends — who head into the Amazonian jungle in search of hallucinogenic herbs — are there to be little more than werewolf bait. (Well, Natasha is a bit more than that since she’s revealed to be a reincarnated Amazon warrior by a ghostly Incan priest who delivers the news in song, but still.) Also not worth spilling much digital ink over are the American zoologist and no-nonsense policeman assigned to accompany him while he investigates the bizarre murders that have been occurring the area. (And yes, the zoologist does get to say the deathless line, “These wounds were made by some large animal.”) Not only are they almost exclusively used for labored comic relief (including a Re-Animator-style gag where a corpse in the morgue briefly comes to life before being smacked down again), but they’re nowhere near as funny as the moment where Moreau dresses one of them down, saying, “I guess you don’t deserve the privilege of being turned into an animal.”