La Loba, A Mexican Werewolf Movie

Set the fog machine to maximum fog, cue the spooky music, pan across the graveyard. Now get a close-up of the coffin opening as a hairy, claw-like hand emerges. Wait, wait, CUT! Is this a werewolf picture or a vampire picture? Werewolves don’t sleep in coffins. Oh, sorry, yes, yes I do want to get paid, fine. Places everyone, aaand action!

Begin with the cloudy sky where we see the sinister moon hanging… is that the moon? Wait, why are these characters collecting wood in the forest in the middle of the night? It sure doesn’t look like the middle of the night. It looks like a particularly sunny day. Oh, sorry, sorry, aaaaaand action!

La Loba may be a grainy, goofy mess but it certainly has its moments. It’s even a little bit scary at times. They carefully hide trampolines throughout the film so the werewolf can bounce and pounce and soar through the air like a terrifying Tigger. The length and height of the jumps is impressive and makes the beast’s movements feel otherworldly and pretty menacing.

After Tigger kills a bunch of people in the woods it’s time for some exposition. The writer backs up a dump-truck full of characters and dumps them in a heap on the screen. Instead of the one wise scientist we get three. Instead of the one hard-boiled policeman, we get four, plus the genteel inspector. Instead of one lovely heroine, we get three. Then there’s the creepy assistant guy named Crumba, and another servant, and her deaf child. We also get the mysterious man with a mysterious dog who is trained to fight lycanthropes. We also get two werewolves instead of the usual one. We get a he-wolf and a she-wolf so as to facilitate romance, or wolfmance.

With this cumbersome cast, the writer starts weaving a web of who loves who and who is evil, and who has something to hide. All the jumping, biting, and bleeding is temporarily suspended and replaced with a pretty compelling Agatha Christie style telenovela.

La Lobas really does have some well made moments. It’s a shame that I was only able to find a version that had been reformatted to fit a television ratio. Whoever started that trend should be thrown into a pit of Republicans, but even chopped up some of the framing in La Lobas is spectacular. Rafael Baledón, the director definitely saw Citizen Kane. There are some deep shots that must have required a hell of a big set.

There is of course plenty of influence from Universal Studio’s monster movies, in particular James Whales’ The Old Dark House. The big cast runs up and down the staircases and in and out of doors like in a stage play. Universal can also be felt in the soundtrack. There is a full orchestra pumping out the melodrama and fear.

With all the extra characters running around La Loba tends to repeat itself a bit but it does manage some good suspense. The Matriarch accidentally locks herself in the giant freezer in her husband’s laboratory. When she turns around she sees that she is locked in with a frozen corpse. She randomly pulls some levers and manages to turn the heat on, but little does she know the frozen corpse is the living werewolf! Watching him slowly defrost is a clever device. We know what is coming but she does not.

Universal’s original Wolfman film with Lon Chaney came out in 1945. Baledón’s version was made in 1965. Both are tragedies with the protagonists portrayed as innocent victims of an evil curse, but Baledón’s version not only gives us two wolf-people, it gives us a Shakespearian ending where they die in each other’s arms. So what if you can never tell whether it’s day or night.

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I have an MFA in painting and I’m an art professor but I managed to convince my school to let me teach film.