December 1, 2009 was a very sad day for me when I heard of the passing of Spanish horror icon Jocium Molina who many a horror fan will know better under his pseudonym Paul Naschy.
While no stranger to the lycanthrope Waldamar Daninsky, a character that Naschy is most closely associated with, I was just getting acquainted with the man and his body of work as I began my research for Depthsploitation. I had begun reading his autobiography, Memoirs of a Wolfman, a few weeks earlier and had pitched La marca del Hombre lobo (1968) --his first wolfman film and shot in 3-D no less-- as a Classic Cut feature to Rue Morgue Magazine. Paul Naschy was definitely on my mind at the time.
My Classic Cut was published in the March issue of Rue Morgue Magazine (#98), which featured an excellent tribute to Paul Naschy and his films. Naschy fans should definitely track down a copy. Since the film is still fresh in my mind I though I’d take some time here on the blog to talk about it. Consider it an addendum to the article.
As a 3-D film La marca del Hombre lobo is difficult to critique. While the original 1968 Spanish posters clearly declare the film to be en relieve (the Spanish equivalent of 3-D), in North America the film screened at most a handful of times, and in a much different edit to the prints we have now.
The original Naschy film had been bought for North American distribution by producer Sam Sherman‘s company Independent-International Pictures, to replace the film Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971), which had already been offered to theatre owners but was in a state of limbo (it’s negative was being held by a lab and didn’t look like it would ever get returned to Sherman and IIP). Sherman needed a Frankenstein film so he re-titled La marca del Hombre lobo to Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror (1971) and added a voice-over prologue that declared the Frankenstein family had been inflicted with the werewolf’s curse and had changed it’s name to Wolfstein. It was stretch on Sherman's part to tie Naschy’s werewolf film to a Frankenstein monster flick. Even though the euro-horror film included vampires, there wasn’t a hint of a mad doctor creating monsters from human cadavers. Sherman also lopped off about 11 minutes from the head of the film and made many minor changes throughout. Despite its creative marketing, or perhaps due to it, the film began to do well on the drive-in / grindhouse circuit.
Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror was also promoted as being in 70mm, even though Sherman had been working off a 35mm U.K. version of the film that had been called Hell’s Creatures. He'd used 70mm Chill-o-rama to describe the film after he had heard that it was originally produced and shot as a Hi Fi Stereo 70 m/m production. What Sherman didn’t realize at the time was that Hi Fi Stereo 70 m/m was a German company that specialized in 3-D production. The film was not however a true 70mm film, but that it was shot with both stereo eye views (the left and the right) anamorphically squeezed onto the 70mm frame. When Sherman found out that he could market a 3-D version of Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror he pulled the flat version film from release and immediately set upon producing a 3-D version of the film. This is when the trouble began.
Very few theatres in North America could play a 3-D film in the side-by-side 70mm format thatLa marca del Hombre lobo had been shot in. The film would have to be converted to a format that could be shown and that was the over-and-under format, one that would see an explosion in the early 80’s. The film was converted by Film Effects of Hollywood who later prepared prints for another Hi-Fi Stereo 70mm production Leibe en drei dimensionen (1973) a.k.a. Love in 3-D. The master elements used to create the over-and-under version were of poor quality according to Film Effects --likely because they were working from a 70mm print duplicated from a negative that was now over 3 years old.
Images from the original 1969 Hi-Fi Stereo 70mm print
of La marca del Hombre lobo. It shows how left and
right eye images were placed in a side-by-side format.
These images can be viewed in 3-D using the cross-eyed method.
Sherman ran into further problems during the English audio versioning of the film. Working with the English dub and effects that he had created for the flat version of Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror, Sherman found that the audio no longer was in sync. It’s his belief that the flat version of the film and the 3-D version of the film may have utilized different takes. It’s also possible that a different camera was used to photograph the flat version. If this is the case any flat version of the film would be a poor indication of any 3 dimensional screen piercing effects of general shot composition that may exist in the flat version, making an assessment of the film‘s 3-D quality a tenuous one.
Compounding IIP and Sherman’s problems further was a deal he had made with investors in the 3-D version of Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror. In addition to providing funds to help create the over-under prints they were also to supply the projection lenses, which would be used in theatres to recombine the left and right eye images for audiences. A lucrative investment for them if the film were to be a success since every theatre showing the film would need to have one. Alas, the lenses were made cheaply out of poured acrylic plastic which wreaked havoc on the quality of projection. No matter how well La marca del Hombre lobo had been made, Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror’s 3-D was a mess. After it’s première screening a reviewer referred to the film as being seen “through glasses darkly“. The 3-D release of Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror was a bust and negative word of mouth quickly killed it. The film wouldn’t be seen again until it appeared on television, slowly building a fan base and helping to turn Paul Nashy into an icon.
So that’s a bit of back-story. In my next post I’ll take a look at the film itself.