Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rino Di Silvestro's Werewolf Woman (1976)

Pulsating rhythmic beats, a ring of fire, and within, a nude Annik Borel gyrates and dances under the full moon. After giving the camera (and the viewer) an eyeful of her birthday suit, her character becomes a blonde werewolf. She moves into the countryside, where a group of folks are carrying pitchforks and torches (the universal symbol for lynch mob). Borel's wolf catches and kills one of the mob, but the mob subdues her and ties her to a stake for a death by fire. Cut to modern times, where Daniella (Borel again) wakes from a nightmare. Her father, Count Nesari (Tino Carraro) consults her physician (Elio Zamuto) and tells the good doctor this: Daniella, now a grown woman, was raped by a maniac when she was fifteen. This trauma has had a severe and understandable psychological effect upon Daniella. Recently, the Count told Daniella of her ancestor to whom she bears a striking resemblance. This ancestor was believed to be a lycanthrope and was killed because of that belief. Zamuto's doctor makes the connection: Daniella's inability to interact socially because of her adolescent trauma combined with the effect of the legendary ancestral tale will produce unique behavior during a full moon. Oh really? Like what? Well....Elena (Dagmar Lassander), Daniella's sister arrives home from America with her handsome new husband on an evening with a full moon. Daniella after spying the brightly-lit moon retires for the evening. Daniella awakens to peep in on her sister and her husband making love. Daniella flows down the stairs in her see-through nightgown and exits the villa. Elena's husband hears a noise on the grounds and investigates. He discovers Daniella outside and she attempts to seduce him. A little reluctant at first, he gives into Daniella's charms until she rips his throat out. His corpse gets tossed into a ravine by Daniella, while she earns a month-long trip to the local asylum....
With a title like Rino di Silvestro's Werewolf Woman (1976) the viewer might expect a sexy lady lycanthrope popping out of bushes and around corners on unsuspecting victims. Not quite. Save the werewolf suits for Naschy's Waldemar and forget the slightly misleading title. Werewolf Woman is more akin to a possession tale, a la William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973) than a story about shape-shifting. Italian genre film makers were masters of ripping...err...paying homage to successful commercial films. Two of my favorite sub-genres are all films made in the bloody wake of Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975) and those coming in the vomitous wave of The Exorcist. Some of the best Italian possession flicks are Franco Lo Cascio & Angelo Pannaccio's Cries and Shadows (1975), Andrea Bianchi's Malabimba (1979), and Mario Bianchi's Satan's Baby Doll (1982). The Italians cut down on the spiritual and psychological elements of Friedkin's original and upped the exploitative elements within: a litany of bedside profanity, copious amounts of nudity, seriously bloody violence, and an overall sense of perversity. Di Silvestro delivers on all counts.Borel's Daniella attempts to hide her affliction by moving around the country, and Werewolf Woman becomes a series of sexual escapades cum violence. The occasional scene with Daniella's father, Elena, the good doctor, or a police officer pops up, but they're just transitional links between the sex and violence. Daniella is often a voyeur and a predator: when she spies two lovers, the viewer knows she's going to get her prey. Di Silvestro even takes the time have his deus-ex-machina appear to help Daniella in a tight fix in the form of a nymphomaniac, who gropes Daniella sickeningly, while Di Silvestro lovingly captures the scene with his camera. A lot of the scenes of Werewolf Woman are perverted and offensive, but Di Silvestro doesn't shy away or hold back: Werewolf Woman is a series of escalating indulgent scenes that the viewer cannot stop watching. There is so much vigor within Werewolf Woman, I was never able to tell who was more excited for the next scene: me, to see how Di Silvestro could top the previous one, or Di Silvestro, who seemingly goes out of his way to compose sequences simultaneously ridiculous, offensive, and over-the-top. God Bless him for it.Rino Di Silvestro, alongside Cesare Canevari and Luigi Batzella, is one of the true madmen of Italian genre cinema. I learned via Twitter at Fangoria Magazine of Di Silvestro's recent death. He will be truly missed. Di Silvestro made few films but each has such a trashy charm: Women in Cell Block 7 (1973); Red Light Girls (1973); Werewolf Woman (1976); Hanna D (1982; coming soon on dvd from Severin films); and The Erotic Dreams of Cleopatra (1985; watch this space here). His cinema never feels cold and commercial but always empassioned: it's as if Di Silvestro was born to make his cinema. So much enthusiasm is present throughout. Often the sex and violence is too much and too offensive, but rarely will anyone see a film maker who tumbles so headlong into to it. Often humorous because of its ridiculousness and its over-the-top scenes, Werewolf Woman is a curious gem from one of Italy's wildest artists. See it.

3 comments:

Aaron said...

Sounds awesome! Coincidentally I watched a werewolf movie with a misleading title yesterday, too.

Hans A. said...

Thnx Aaron, I really appreciate your reading and commmenting. This is an insane picture, well worth seeking out. I read your recent review and what a coincidence!

Mr.LargePackage said...

Great review, Hans. Last full moon a very beautiful blond woman tried to seduce me. I remembered my brother's advice: "If a beautiful woman ever tries to seduce you, and you are not a millionaire or the warden of a women's prison, she is probably a vampire or werewolf and wants to kill you." Sure enough, three men were ripped apart that night. But not me. And that is large and in charge.