Curse of the Devil (El retorno de Walpurgis) stars Paul Naschy so it’s no surprise that the lead character is Waldemar Daninsky and he’s a werewolf. Naschy played this character (or variations on this character) eleven times between 1968 and 2004.
Daninsky is always a reluctant and tragic werewolf. He’s always a Polish nobleman. As Naschy explains in an interview included with the DVD the Spanish censors would let horror film-makers get away with a lot more if the central character was not Spanish and the movie was not set in Spain.
It will also come as no great surprise that poor old Waldemar has been cursed. The whole Daninsky family is the subject of a curse, another recurring theme. A distant ancestor had wiped out a coven of witches and the leader of the coven placed a curse on all Daninsky’s descendants. These events in medieval times are covered in a sort of prelude after which we switch to the 19th century where the latest Waldemar Daninsky is about to meet his predestined fate. He shoots a wolf but when he examines the body it is that of a young man. What he doesn’t know is that this young man is a descendant of the witch who cursed him, as foretold by the witch before she was burned.
Now another coven of witches is about to take its revenge. A young woman is selected to be the agent of this revenge. She seduces Waldemar and turns him to a werewolf in one of the movie’s most arresting scenes - she opens a vein in her wrist, drips blood onto a wolf’s skull and onto Daninsky’s body and then bites him with the skull.
Then comes the arrival of a geologist and his family from Budapest, his family including two beautiful daughters. Daninsky falls in love with the eldest daughter but her sister has designs on him as well. The sister’s attempts to seduce him will have tragic consequences.
Daninsky doesn’t yet know he is a werewolf but he is having disturbing dreams and a series of murders takes place in the countryside surrounding his castle. They are blamed on an escaped madman but eventually the villagers start to suspect Daninsky, and he discovers his own terrible secret. There is only one escape from the curse of the werewolf - a woman who loves him must plunge a silver dagger into his heart!
As usual Naschy wrote the screenplay himself. Eventually he would take over the directing duties himself as well but this time around Carlos Aured is in the director’s chair and does a competent enough job.
Naschy was not the greatest actor who ever lived but this is a role that he made his own. No actor has ever played a werewolf more often than Naschy. Naschy returned to the werewolf theme again and again and was responsible for perhaps the most fully elaborated version of the myth. He had fallen in love with Universal’s The Wolf Man as a youngster and it became an obsession.
In a Spanish horror movie of this era (Curse of the Devil came out in 1973) you expect a mix of gothic horror and sleaze and that’s exactly what you get here. If you like Paul Naschy werewolf movies (as I do) you’ll like this one.
Anchor Bay’s DVD presentation is an excellent uncut widescreen transfer with a 15-minute interview with Nashy included as an extra.