Thursday, October 23, 2014

WEREWOLF WOMAN (Raro Video Blu-ray)

You start to think about movies that feature female werewolves, and you feel like there aren't all that many of them. I sat down and started off with the premise that there were only a couple. Turns out it's a rich subset of the genre and has some strong members. We're here to talk about Rino Di Silvestro's Werewolf Woman which predates a number of our favorite bitch wolf flicks and is notoriously one of Quentin Tarantino's favorite films. To name a few... The Howling, a book first, features two tremendous female werewolves and each of the subsequent sequels are chock full of interesting takes on female werewolves, some more flattering and believable than others. Ginger Snaps and its sequels (for better or worse) is a more recent example of strong female characters demonstrating the power of women as lycanthropes. Then of course there's Dr. Terror's House of Horrors form the mid 60's that features a story with a perfectly ironic twist pitting female wolf against a legendary family enemy. 1976 sees the release of the movie in the spotlight today. It doesn't necessarily carry with it the standard baggage of the werewolf legend, but it is, nonetheless a werewolf movie. In some ways you might even consider a movie like Werewolf Woman as a predecessor of Ginger Snaps. You'd find it hard to believe but somehow I can't seem to help but draw that conclusion that these movies have a similar message or at least the underpinning of a deeper meaning than the skin flick that WW may appear to be.

Synopsis from Raro Video:

From notorious Italian exploitation filmmaker Rino Di Silvestro (Deported Women of the SS Special Section) comes Werewolf Woman, a psychological, psychosexual, pseudo-shapeshiter shocker and a favorite of director Quentin Tarantino. In it, a mentally unstable young woman named Daniela (Annik Borel) fantasizes that she is the reincarnation of her long-dead ancestor, a woman who was thought to have been a werewolf. Dealing with her lifetime of sexual abuse, she seduces men before transgressing into a feral monster, screaming, cursing and ripping them to shreds. When she meets the man of her dreams, Daniela seems ready to forgive her past and bury the beast within until another traumatic encounter seals both her own fate and the collective fates of the Werewolf Woman’s wild wrath. A strange, erotic, outrageously sleazy and provocative Eurohorror classic about a woman pushed well-past the edge of sanity, Werewolf Woman is finally presented here with the respect it deserves, in beautifully realized, remastered high-definition. Watch it with someone you trust.

I almost feel bad trying to create deeper meaning in a movie like Werewolf Woman. It has obvious exploitation elements that will appeal to a certain crowd (I am a member of this crowd). It's erotic and bestial with intense moments of raw sexuality and a beautiful portrait of the female form, in and out of lupine form. That means there's a hot naked woman on the screen... a lot. Normally I end up feeling like a sleazy 42nd street dweller in my own living room when I watch pictures like this. They come off as having real horror elements only to bury the ambiance and mood below a pair of amazing knockers. It just so happens that I didn't have to imagine seeing this a seedy theater with a bunch o' perves. I had the chance to enjoy it at an Exhumed Films screening. While I slept through a portion of the movie (along with Vampire's Night Orgy, I awoke to better understand the wolfed out female figure several times. We all should have been wearing raincoats, smoking cigarettes and sticking to the seat. Thankfully, the crowd that enjoys Exhumed's screening know a thing or two about using the restroom rather than their shirt cuff. This kind of disjointed viewing, a late night (morning really) tryst during a movie horrorthon that goes for 24 hours doesn't lend itself to deep analysis or even appreciation for a more quiet picture like Werewolf Woman. You actually need to sit with it, perhaps a couple times. You need to leave your hormones at the door (and your tissue box). 

Watching the Raro Blu-ray was a wholly unique experience with it's handsome presentation that seems to yield an almost scholarly feeling. It's the kind of feeling you might offer a "Criterion Jr." (a disc that isn't Criterion but has packaging and booklet that give it a regal presentation. I am a fan of Raro's style. I like their slip cases (better now that they remove easier). I love that they include a booklet to give fans a backstory that isn't straight out of Wikipedia written by esteemed fans or historians For Werewolf Woman we are treated to Chris Alexander's account of the movie. For those of you who are familiar with Alexander, you are well aware that he adores foreign horror from the 60's and 70's and shows knowledge and kind analysis to a movie that almost doesn't fee like it deserves it. I'm a fan of his work. I enjoyed his comments about the movie and its context .Both the slip sleeve and actual cover insert are slightly different but both are beautiful representations of the classic poster art. Di Silvestro gives a 20 minute interview. You'd almost hope to get something from Tarantino or an introduction from Chris Alexander. The disc also features the English and Italian trailers.

This is a very adult werewolf picture and one that strays from the common look of the wolf as well as the origin story. It's not for the Universal Monster crowd but would be better suited in a double feature with a Jess Franco undead tale or a Rollin vamp flick. Unlike Franco and Rollin, this doens't come off like an art picture at all, and it doesn't come off like pure smut. It is raw and animalistic though without the energy to sustain tension; Werewolf Woman focus on inner struggle and the strength of woman in overcoming adversity (though Silvestro stills let's you know that he directed Deported Women of the SS Special Section as well). Perhaps that's why I find it so similar to Ginger Snaps. It represents a period of change in a woman's life marked by a physical transformation into a beast of immeasurable power. The metaphor is clear even if the movie seems to muddy up serious discussion with elements designed to titillate the body and not the mind. I suppose that's just as animal as the transformation in the movie. Is it possible to be as horny as bunny while exploring your inner emotional power struggle? It's more than an adult feature, not quite a horror picture and even more of a Mafu Cage-ish battle with psychological trauma and animism.

Special Features

Video interview with the director Rino Di Silvestro (19 min. 22 sec.)
Original Italian theatrical trailer (3 min. 58 sec.) / Original English theatrical trailer (3 min. 58 sec.) A fully illustrated booklet on the genesis and production of the film by Chris Alexander, Fangoria Magazine / New HD transfer from original 35mm negative / Digitally restored
New and improved English subtitle translation
Werewolf Woman is available now, available from DiabolikDVD. These are the same fellas behind Exhumed Films who screened it the first time I saw it. Do yourself a favor and support them when purchasing this Blu-ray because they've cared enough to both stock it and screen it for you.

Order Werewolf Woman now:

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