PictureNight Of The Werewolf comes in with a 1.85:1 aspect whilst Zombies is at 1.33:1. Both are now transferred in 1080p from the original negatives - which just has to have Naschy chuffed to little mint-balls.
Werewolf looks much better than any version I have glimpsed of it before, with some quite striking primaries - reds in particular. But it has a fairly severe contrast ramping that sees the image looking hazy and jaundiced. Simply put, it is far too light to look anywhere decent for a hi-def image. The soft-focus filming and supposedly diffuse lighting can play havoc with the image and, even if there are no major problems with edge enhancement, blocking, smearing or compression, the resulting picture is still far from average 1080p in depth, saturation or clarity. Blacks are of various strengths throughout, and the high contrast wrecks any atmosphere they may have added to by diluting them with greys and compromising shadow integrity. However, there was no evidence of motion drag or even that much grain in the print, and detail during some of the daylight external scenes - the castle ruins and some of the forests especially - was quite impressive for such a low-budget production utilising low-grade film stock.
Vengeance of the Zombies, like Werewolf, has been remastered in high-definition from original negative materials, and the resulting 1.33:1 image looks much better. It sports a much more patently vivid spectrum - the primaries are quite wild ... unrealistic, but wild - and blacks that possess a more potent depth. The often stark appearance of the sets can benefit from such stylized colouring, making the image quite picturesque and it is certainly nice to see that the print has been cleaned-up despite some occasional fluctuations in the level of grain and some slight blocking in the deeper hues. Sharpness seems compromised by the smoothing-out effect of noise reduction, though, and this can lead to some scenes gaining an artificial appearance that may bother some people more than others.
But the main area for concern is the motion drag that dogs some sideways movement. This can occasionally lead to a slight smearing residue - although it can be argued that this effect may actually fit in quite nicely with the hallucinogenic visuals that the film seems so proud of.
Overall, compared to the many previous incarnations that some people may have viewed, these BD versions almost certainly come out on top. Though, by hi-def standards, this really isn't saying much.
The joint-transfer get a 6 out of 10. The images are clean and detail is certainly more in evidence than it has been before, making this a relevent upgrade for fans.
SoundBoth films come with quite ridiculous English dubbed versions - in either DD 2.0 or full 5.1 - but please, if you are even contemplating purchasing this package, stick with the original Spanish 2-channel mono option because the voiceovers are simply atrocious. And the 5.1 mixes are amongst the worst audio tracks that I have ever heard - far, far worse than even Anchor Bay's woefully misguided attempts to wrap pseudo-surround around your ears from original mono tracks.
The 5.1 mixes are incredibly out-of-synch with the lips and the on-screen action. Several sequences during Werewolf sounded as though they had been recorded underwater with voices emanating from some otherworldly region far beyond the speakers in my room. In fact, so bad was this dislocated effect that I couldn't stick with the surround tracks for either film for much more than the first few scenes. Believe me, they are simply terrible.
The problem is that even the supposedly original Castilian tracks are mismatched with the actors' lips and come across as incredibly subdued, utterly bereft of depth and totally lacking in vigour. The scores -library tracks, in the main - are insipid and weakly presented and atmospherics, such as wind, screams, howling etc are packed decidedly without any wallop at all.
In the grand scheme of things, you shouldn't expect too much from these audio mixes in the first place. Certainly, fans of Euro-horror won't be disappointed with the quality on offer here because part of the charm of these hokey B (or Z) grade movies is their disjointed soundtrack. Therefore, for a Blu-ray transfer to come along and conjure up convincing effects and spatial steerage to wrap around the listener would actually be sacrilege.
So, the upshot is - ignore the 5.1 makeover and stick with the subtitled Castilian. The tracks have definitely been cleaned-up but they still sound clumsy and ill-fitting.
ExtrasPaul Naschy delivers brief introductions to both films in a rather ominous/pompous manner - “It is a tale of werewolves ... and vampires,” and try this, “I hope you enjoy it, and the dreams ... and why not, the nightmares too, that will follow.” It is surprising how much he now resembles the English actor Dennis Price after he, himself, made the descent into bargain-basement horror fodder for another of Spain's dons of cheapo-sleaze Jesus (Jess) Franco.
On Werewolf, we get a glimpse at the original Spanish main titles and end credits. A trifle odd, perhaps, but when you see the International version, you may understand why they felt the need to throw this on the disc. We also get some alternate and deleted scenes. But don't get excited by any of this. The deleted scene - I think there's only a couple - are merely extensions that add nothing and segue back into far too much of the finished film footage. The alternate footage is a little more interesting for it details the “clothed” or “un-clothed” versions of the ritual-throat-slashing scene. Basically, sans any real explanation as to exactly which market demanded such a clean-up in the first place, we get to see the doomed cutie dangling full-frontal nude in the full version and then the same shot with the girl still clothed. I guess it's “make your mind up time” ... which version do you prefer? Huh ... no way ... you're just saying that, aren't you? There are also galleries of production stills and a selection of posters, lobby cards and promotional art from around the world.
Vengeance Of The Zombies carries a similar assortment, still galleries, alternate clothed scenes, original Spanish titles and theatrical trailer etc, but it really would have been nice to have heard what Naschy thought about it all in a “making of” or a commentary. Though, of course, the latter would have to be subtitled.
The discs also feature some nice animated menus that take the form of gothic tomes page-flicking their way to scene chapters, special features and audio options ... though, it must be said, that the to-ing and fro-ing can become tiresome.
VerdictWell, to honest, you've really got to be into this stuff in the first place to find it enjoyable enough to pick up on BD. These are not horror films that your average genre-lover could easily take to. The Euro-trash mentality and quasi-surrealism mask what are, basically, incredibly slight and inferior stories. The imagery on offer may be weirdly compelling but Vengeance Of The Zombies really makes no sense at all and is only borderline horror and, as such, should probably only be seen as an extra feature alongside Werewolf. The main feature, however, is strangely atmospheric and it is always nice to see a full-bodied gothic frightfest with a man in a werewolf costume running about. Naschy's place in horror's history books is assured, so he won't mind me saying, as an absolute aficionado of the genre, that he is a klutzy filmmaker and whilst his oeuvre may be outlandish, it is rarely other than yawn-inducing.
With a surprising release on Blu-ray, both Werewolf and Vengeance have probably never looked better, but these transfers are most definitely on the lower rung of 1080p material. The extras are cute but infinitely disposable and once-seen, like the movies, easily forgettable.
Only for the die-hards.
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