The Werewolf Woman (1976) aka La Lupa Mannara, The Legend of the Wolf Woman, She-Wolf, Terror of the She Wolf, Naked Werewolf Woman
Dir. Rino Di Silvestro
Written by Rino Di Silvestro, Anthony La Penna, Howard Ross
Starring Annik Borel, Dagmar Lassander, Howard Ross, Frederick Stafford
[warning: trigger words/situations/adult content/nude werewolf dancing below]
[no seriously bro, this gets kinda fucked up, if you can even dimly imagine a situation where any combination of words in the English language would potentially upset you, bail now, I swear there’s some classy shit coming down the pipeline for ya]
[ok, now that they’re gone, everyone else: take a shot every time I write “raped and molested as a child.” Trust me, you’re gonna need it.]
For the first five minutes or so, THE WEREWOLF WOMAN threatens to be interesting. The movie begins with dancing. Specifically, actress Annik Borel (“Stalingrad” in the Isaac Hayes classic TRUCK TURNER) dancing bareass naked in some kind of freaky evil voodoo ritual thing. And I’m not talking coy James Bond nude silhouettes or nothin', I’m talking straight up, full frontal, eyes wild, freaking out on ecstasy, definitely not choreographed ahead of time dancing. And then she turns into a hairy werewolf woman and axes a guy in the head. That’s definitely an attention-grabbing opening, and I respect it.
|There aren't a lot of screengrabs I can safely use here for nudity reasons, but this should give you an idea.|
Unfortunately it’s the only thing even marginally watchable about the rest of this excruciating, unpleasant slog of a movie. See, instead of making a movie about a werewolf woman, as the title and the opening five minutes would suggest, they decided instead it would be better to make a movie about not a werewolf woman because fuck you very much, some men just want to watch the world burn. So in lieu of an actual werewolf woman, we get Daniella (Borel again) as a wannabe werewolf woman, a mentally unstable victim who believes herself to be a werewolf (even though she’s not). See, the woman in the opening was her ancestor, and so it follows that she too would be a werewolf (except, again, she’s not). So it’s kind of a spiritual precursor to Nicolas Cage’s not-a-vampire alphabetizing masterpiece KISS OF THE VAMPIRE. If we found out that the reason Nic Cage thinks he’s a bloodsucker is because he was raped and molested as a child. Cough.
Basically, because she was raped and molested as a child, she now believes herself to be the reincarnation of her werewolf ancestor. So you see, she now believes herself to be a werewolf. Because she was raped and molested as a child. But Doctor, how is such a thing possible? Well, I’m glad you asked. See, when you’re raped and molested as a child, sometimes the mind reacts by believing you are a werewolf. So what you’re saying is, she now believes herself to be a werewolf because she was raped and molested as a child? Exactly that, yes. Her mind was unable to deal with having been raped and molested as a child, and as a result of that, she now believes herself to be a reincarnation of her werewolf ancestor. But why would she believe herself to be a reincarnation of a werewolf ancestor? Well it’s very simple, really. You see, she was raped and molested as a child.
|Oh, I'm sorry, did I break your concentration?|
There, I’m sorry we had to go through that together but now I’ve saved you about 40+ minutes of suffering, because the above paragraph is at least 50% of the movie. Various men in luxurious sitting rooms casually wondering aloud why this chick is so fucking crazy, and then explaining it’s because she was raped and molested as a child. I am not exaggerating when I say there are at least five torturously labored scenes in the movie which are all essentially minor variations on the above paragraph, with vaguely different people saying the lines. Aside from being an outrageously, infuriatingly depressing premise for a movie called WEREWOLF WOMAN, this is also about as exciting as listening to a coworker describe the same dream over and over every 15 minutes for nearly two hours. I mean, it’s equally meaningless; this is not a real thing that happens, it’s not like this is an earnest attempt to educate the world of the plight of those thousands of unfortunate souls who were raped and molested as children and now believe themselves to be werewolves.
So half the movie is disturbing and nonsensical psychobabble, and the other half isn’t a whole lot better. Basically, it’s just Daniella wandering around, stumbling upon people having sex or trying to rape her, and then freaking out and murdering them. If poorly lit Italian softcore is your bag, I guess you might enjoy the first 30 minutes or so, but afterwards this story also takes a turn for the depressing and rapey, so not much to look forward to there, either. It’s narratively totally inert, there’s not really any story to speak of, just this episodic tale of a mentally ill woman who thinks she’s a werewolf biting people to death occasionally while men in sitting rooms talk about her being raped and molested as a child.
I guess this might be funny in a terrible sort of way if it were campier or more incompetent, but the tone is really dire and grim, and while the filmmaking isn’t gonna win any awards it’s not so unremittingly amateurish that you can spend the whole movie laughing at it. Ironically, the best part of the film is probably the last 20 minutes or so, when they actually junk the whole thinks-she’s-a-werewolf plot and it just becomes a standard sleazy rape-revenge tale. Blessedly, this is a rare Italian rape movie which at least seems to think rape is generally a bad thing, and appreciably resists a leering, fetishized rape sequence. But because she believes herself to be a werewolf (again, and let me stress this point: because she was raped and molested as a child and her ancestor was a werewolf*) she turns out to be really good at the revenge part -- too good, in fact. She knocks the whole thing out pretty satisfactorily in about five minutes, and then it’s back to wandering. Still, it’s the only point in the movie where there’s enough story to result in any actual engagement, so even though it has nothing to do with the promise of a werewolf woman it’s far and away the only watchable part of the movie save the opening five minutes. And hell, at least it’s the one part of the movie which is just about rape, not child rape. So in that sense a clear improvement over the first three quarters of the movie.
|I realize this looks like I must have included a shot from a different movie, but no, this is part of the end. I should mention that it takes place on an abandoned Western movie set.|
I will say one nice thing here: this lady Annik Borel didn’t do many movies, and as far as I can tell this is her only starring role. But she fuckin’ commits to this part, man. I don’t know how great she is at dialogue (not that she really has much here) but she attacks the character with a physicality that really sells it. There’s a physical intensity to her performance which makes her feel genuinely desperate and unhinged, you can tell from her body language that she really truly believes that she is a wolf right now. They call Hollywood actresses “brave” if they have a sex scene after age 22 or do a few scenes without fifteen pounds of makeup-- here’s this lady who starts out the movie totally naked doing a crazy dance, and will spend the rest of the movie screaming, crying, biting, and covered in blood with murder in her eyes. I mean, this is character who is almost impossible to like or even identify with, and Borel just goes there, does not give a single fuck what you think. Her mini-bio on IMDB ends with “Alas, following her appearances in the European trash pictures "Black Aphrodite" and "Erotic Encounters" Annik Borel suddenly quit acting and seems to have disappeared altogether,” which is a shame because those are her only two film credits after this one. Wherever she disappeared to, I sincerely hope this movie didn’t break her mind and leave her wandering naked in the woods, looking for Italians couples having sex to bite. Although if it did I hope Werner Herzog makes a documentary about it.
I respect Borel’s commitment to her craft, but the same cannot be said about basically any other aspect of this movie. I mean, just at the most fundamental level this was terribly misconceived. So this is a movie that accepts that werewolf women are real, and even begins by showing us one, but then is entirely about some other lady who is merely a tragic, victimized descendent of a werewolf. Just, you know, off the cuff, which story do you think is probably more interesting? The satanic werewolf woman ax murderer, or a mentally confused landy wandering around? There’s only one way to make this right: get Borel back for the prequel film about the legit werewolf woman extravaganza you should have made in the first place. But this time do a better job. I think we’ve all had more than our fill of prequel films which rape and molest our childhoods, OK? That just leads to more trouble.
*Dan P: what? this woman isn't a werewolf! that would be silly, she's just crazy
no no no no, she's just related to a werewolf, that's why she thinks she's one
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