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Fury of the Wolfman (1972)



Fury of the Wolfman never knows quite what it wants to be. It starts out with the aftermath of a Tibetan mountain adventure, turns into a werewolf movie for a few minutes, changes course to become Dangerous Liaisons without the charm, adds a bit of a detective and investigative journalism theme for spice, then devolves into a cross between a mad-scientist film and an S & M dungeon, PG-exploitation film.

Such mishmash wouldn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. Well, I suppose I wouldn't call it mishmash if it was a good thing, but combining various elements can often work well. It doesn't here.

Part of the problem is technical, and could possibly be the video transfer I watched. The first 10 -15 minutes, for instance, when the main character is discovered to be the only survivor of an avalanche in the Tibetan mountains (and this is where he receives his werewolf curse, if he indeed has one - it's never made clear), is accompanied by grainy film images and some of the worst sound I've heard outside of no-budget independent (read "shot on the 'director's' dad's video camera) films.

The film quality and sound improve once our hero returns to the western university where he teaches, but the story doesn't. Although some of this comes together as Fury of the Wolfman progresses, we are faced with trying to piece together an experimental neurology plot, various explicit and implied love triangles, and figure out just what the deal is with our hero after all. And all this immediately after trying to deduce what the heck happened during the apparently unrelated opening.

All of these elements, and most to come, could have been interesting on their own, if the director and screenwriters would have taken time to develop them. Unfortunately, as they stand-as realized in The Fury of the Wolfman -- they amount to little more than a confusing mess for the bulk of the film. One of the screenwriters, by the way, and I'm guessing the star, is Paul Naschy, who has a bit of a cult following. This is my first Naschy film, and if it is representative, the cult following is seriously undeserved.

Confuse is one thing this film does without any problem. I never was quite certain what was occurring plot-wise. All of the subplots are left with most of their threads swinging wildly in the breeze. It was unclear who a lot of characters were unclear. They did unclear things. Fury of the Wolfman plays like the story might have been a 1000 page novel at one point, and the screenwriters turned it into a 50 page "inside reference."

There are some good aspects to the film. It occasionally approaches a pleasing, early 70's stylishness, and there are a few promising scenes. The Werewolf's attack on his wife and her lover is well-done and some of the scenes near the climax in the dungeon are mildly pleasing (but, of course, in comparison with something like Roger Corman's Pit and the Pendulum, they pale).

I also liked the score, even though it sometimes bordered on "wonderfully goofy" and it stole from Mussorgsky, Holst and maybe even a little Stravinsky.

Of tongue-in-cheek historical interest, Fury of the Wolfman marks the first film appearance of Michael Myers (maybe that comment in itself, which I'll leave further unexplained, might cause you to seek this film out and leave me cursed for subjecting you to it. On the other hand, if you're that much of a Halloween fan, you should see this flick for that reason alone.)

Ultimately, Fury of the Wolfman is a big failure in the end. The unrealized subplots and themes just tend to aggravate you--there's even an attack from a man in a suit of armor at one point. And for horror fans, there's not much blood, there are no scares, and the death scenes that occur ended up primarily on the editor's floor.

And speaking of the editor, it seems like part of the blame, at least, has to rest on the editor's shoulders. Many of the cuts are extremely rough, abrupt and awkward. It's difficult to guess about something like this, but perhaps Fury of the Wolfman was much more coherent before two or three hours were cut out--at least, that's the extra amount of footage that would have been required to give this film a fair chance to succeed. On the downside, two or three more hours of this stuff might just drive you over the edge.