Forty years ago this month, a film called La lupa mannara was released in Italy. When it made it to the English-speaking world, it went out under such titles as Werewolf Woman, The Legend of the Wolf Woman, and Naked Werewolf Woman, but whichever one distributors picked, it was bound to be somewhat misleading. True, the film does open with a naked woman (played by Annik Borel) performing a ritual dance and sprouting fur over every inch of her body (except for her face, which has a bit on the bridge of the nose but that’s it) and then tearing the throat out of a guy who looks kinda like Cameron Mitchell, but the film is not about her exploits. Rather, when the werewolf woman is captured by a mob of torch-wielding villagers and tied up, presumably so she can be burned alive, that’s the cue for her modern-day descendant, Daniela Neseri (also Borel), to wake up out of a nightmare. (This is also the point where booing writer/director Rino Di Silvestro would be entirely appropriate.)
Thanks to the undisguised exposition that follows, we find out all we need to know about the unfortunate Daniela. Seems she was raped at the tender age of 13 and has been repelled by men ever since. Furthermore, she lives in the country with her father, a count (Tino Carraro), and has a sister (Dagmar Lassander) who went to America for some reason or another, got married, and has returned to Italy with her husband, who’s supposed to be the spitting image of the Cameron Mitchell-looking guy from the prologue but now he’s got some Harvey Keitel going on. Under the influence of the full moon, Daniela lures her brother-in-law outside, quickly seduces him and then tears his throat out. Next time we see her, she’s been committed to a mental institution, where she’s given shock treatments and confined to her bed as a matter of course, but she escapes when she’s untied by a nympho (who is stabbed with a pair of scissors for her troubles) and hitches a ride with a doctor (who gets her face bashed into a steering wheel, but she survives). Meanwhile, there’s an ineffectual police inspector (Frederick Stafford) wandering about being ineffective and listening to coroners say things like “The lacerations and deep wounds around her throat are almost of an animalistic origin, but it’s uncertain.” Say, does that mean it might be a lycanthrope, doc?
Anyway, Daniela’s killing spree continues when she spies on a couple making love in a barn and then, after the man has gone, kills the woman who is apparently cheating on her husband. (So now she’s making moral judgments?) Then she hitches a ride with an old lecher who tries to charm his way into her pants and when that doesn’t work announces that he’s going to rape her. Frankly, I was not sad when she tore his throat out and then bashed his head in. Then she’s picked up by movie stuntman Luca Mondini (Howard Ross, whose “special participation” credit is an eyebrow-raiser), who announces that he doesn’t plan on forcing his way into her pants and they have a whirlwind romance complete with a montage. She even calls her father the count and announces she’s completely cured, but then three rapists show up at her door and, after they’ve had their way with her and killed Luca, she goes all I Spit on Your Grave on them. When the police finally catch up with her (the inspector has been nothing if not dogged in his pursuit), she’s been living in the woods fending for herself for about a month — but she’s still no werewolf woman. I tell you, I haven’t been so dismayed by a false werewolf movie since She-Wolf of London.