Short scenes from the film.
Born Jacinto Molina in 1934 in Spain, Paul Naschy began his "horror star" existence thirty-four years later by writing the script of LA MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO. It was, perhaps, a bit of madness or desperation for this champion weightlifter, former architect student, and occasional film extra and assistant to write a screenplay centered around a werewolf and hope for production in Spain. Spain had almost no native horror cinema history. Beginning in 1962, with GRITOS EN LA NOCHE, Jess Franco made a few inroads, later helped by co-production deals with other countries, but Franco's horrors owed their inspiration more to the realistic frissons of Walter Summer's THE DARK EYES OF LONDON (1938) and Robert Wise's THE BODY SNATCHER (1945) than the weird, frequently simple fantasies of Universal's Classic monster series that were a part of Naschy's soul. It was left to Naschy to reinvent this popular legacy of fantastique for his native country, though the censors disapproved of a Spanish werewolf, impelling Naschy to change his wolfman's nationality to Polish. Waldemar Daninsky, the wandering werewolf of eleven films, was born.
Like many a Franco film, Naschy's project had to seek financial assistance outside of Spain, and this came in the form of a West Germany production company, Hi-Fi Stereo 70, who upped the stakes by making the film a spectacular showcase for their cinematic developments in 3D, 70mm and stereo sound. When the hope of soliciting the legendary Lon Chaney Jr for the title role was dashed by that star's aged and obese appearance, several actors were tested, with no positive results. The German producers suggested Naschy at that point, and after a successful screen-test, Naschy (still Jacinto Molina) became the star of his own script. One last hitch remained, though. The producers wanted a more international sounding name for their star. Molina obliged in a quick half an hour of concentrated thought. For the surname, he used a variation on the name of a Hungarian weightlifter he had been friends with, Imre Nagy. He selected "Paul" upon sighting a nearby newspaper item about the then-current pope, Paul the Sixth, who, had he known of the borrowing, would have surely disapproved of being involved in any way with the international horror career of an actor who has portrayed more villains and devils on the screen than anyone else. The mask of "Paul Naschy" was ready, allowing the man behind the mask, Jacinto Molina, to write scripts under his real name with the freedom of unapologetic expression that any mask brings.
Because its inspiration was the old Universal horrors, LA MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO faced a challenging comparison with those established and respected classics. Viewers, and particularly critics, had to look beyond the recognizable elements, beyond the somewhat childlike "monster fest" use of two werewolves and two vampires, to become aware of peculiarities and inspirations that were solely Naschy's.
In the original Spanish version, our first view of the Waldemar Daninsky character alerts us that something is new. (For its American release, the film's first fifteen minutes, including this scene, were removed and the title changed to the ridiculous, and inappropriate, FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR.) Daninsky is seen speeding down the highway in a red sports car, dressed as Mephistopheles, a brief two seconds that proclaim the unification of the distant world of superstition and satanism with the contemporary world of speed and sleek machinery. Intriguingly, there is a mask over Daninsky's face. Molina is still hiding under an alias, as his character becomes a symbolic portal for entries into these two worlds--the old one and the new. (Not surprisingly, the Daninsky series of eleven films lands the character in various time periods.)
Daninsky's next scene in LA MARCA takes him inside a masked ball, and his first words, addressing a woman and future love interest, are telling: "Soy el espiritu del Mal, el Diablo en persona. (I am the spirit of Evil, the Devil in person.)" Satanic brandishings and the presence of the devil are found in many of Naschy's films, and watching this sequence in hindsight, it becomes almost startling to realize how Naschy's world has revolved around the Prince of Evil even at its very start and has continued through till even now.
There is another sequence in LA MARCA, thrillingly odd, that further underlines the novelty of Naschy, and shows the subversive dimensions that would veer his films away the quaint charms of those old Universal horror films. Towards the end of the film, the main vampire, Janos de Milhoff, leads away Daninsky's hypnotically-subde from the underground cavern in which Daninsky, already transformed into a wolfman, and another werewolf are chained. As the werewolves free themselves from their captivity, de Milhoff stops, safe behind a locked gate, and watches the commencement of a battle between the two. Accruing a sexual stimulus from this entangled and fierce combat of frothing male animals, an impression helped along by Julian Ugarte's effortless bi-sexual interpretation of the role, Janos de Milhoff proceeds to mock Daninsky, his sexual competitor, by embracing and passionately kissing his love. Sexual rivalry and conquest, sexual taunting and tease suffuse the scene with stylized perversity as the werewolves reach a crescendo of savagery and destruction. Toto, we are not in Kansas, or Universal Classic Horror territory, anymore.
LA MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO remains, after all these years, one of the most ornate of werewolf movies. Lavishly produced and finely directed, the film heralded the durable and impressive career of Paul Naschy.
When the film was released in America, it was titled FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR even though no Frankenstein appears in it!