Well, with America's illustrious film industry cranking out one crappy direct-to-video flick after another and an entire generation of so-called moviemakers riding on the coattails of their predecessors churning out a slew of theatrical remakes and reboots of truly classic (and often original) horror films, I figured this was as good of a time as any to revisit the works of the great Paul Naschy.
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the works (let alone the name) of Paul Naschy, allow me to bore you for a few moments with a little history: Paul Naschy (born Jacinto Molina) has been referred to as the Spanish Lon Chaney and has earned quite the reputation with EuroHorror lovers as a horror movie auteur: having written, produced, directed and starred in dozens of horror movies from the '70s. Vampire, mummy, hunchback, Republican — he's done it all! But perhaps his most famous (or infamous, if you prefer) portrayal would be the recurring character of Waldemar Daninsky, the tortured protagonist of numerous werewolf features (a role that helped to earn him a Gold Medal Award for Fine Arts from King Juan Carlos I in 2001).
So anyway, BCI, under their kick-ass Deimos label, has unleashed five of the EuroHorror Maestro’s non-werewolf movies (which are also available individually) packaged together in a box-set sporting the rather generic title, The Paul Naschy Collection, and consist of:
Exorcism (1975) – Despite his claims that he had the idea several years before William Friedkin struck paydirt with his international blockbuster, The Exorcist, Naschy’s Exorcismo is altogether entirely too similar to its American counterpart to be considered anything but original (although I do prefer this one over Mario Bava’s Lisa And The Devil).
A bearded Naschy plays Father Dunning, the poor soul who is called in to remove the inner-demon from a young lady (Grace Mills) that has (somehow or another) been possessed by the spirit of her dead (and abusive) father. If you’ve seen Max Von Sydow do it, then you can pretty much guess how Paul Naschy will do it (although Max downright owns everyone’s ass — sorry, Paul, but it is true, you know). Spanish horror queens Maria Perschy and María Kosty co-star. Definitely better than Exorcist II: The Heretic or Exorcist: The Beginning, but not enough to earn it more than a 1 and 1/2 star rating.
Blue Eyes Of The Broken Doll (1973) – Departing from his then-usual gothic horror route, Naschy opted to try his hand at making a Spanish Giallo film. Originally released in the States as House Of The Psychotic Women, Blue Eyes Of The Broken Doll is an entertaining and somewhat bloody whodunit wherein an ex-con gets wrapped up with a trio of weird sisters in a remote French village.
Sex, murder, sex, sex, the actual slaughter of a pig, more sex, and more murder are just some of the highlights in this enjoyable thriller where the killer keeps the headless eyes of his victims in a glass bowl — all the better to see them with, right? Ha, ha! Sorry. 3 and 1/2 stars (for fun.)
Human Beasts (1980) – And what beasts we humans are. When the '80s rolled around, even Naschy’s fellow Spaniards had grown weary of his cinematic triumphs, so, like all wise horror movie-makers with bizarre tales to tell, he went to Japan to beg for financing. Human Beasts (El Caranval De Las Bestias) has Naschy as a thief that’s on the run after betraying and murdering some of his Japanese mob cohorts.
Finding his way to a seemingly pleasant and small community, our anti-hero encountering a group of people that look all fine and dandy like on the outside, but who are concealing something just a bit more than sinister on the inside. Although the movie does serve up its usual quota of bare breasts, the gore is downplayed a bit throughout most of the movie, but fortunately turns the blood lever on during the right scenes (such as a man being devoured by pigs.). 2 stars.
Horror Rises From The Tomb (1973) – Taking its cue from the Universal’s 1958 oddity (and MST3K favorite) The Thing That Couldn’t Die, Horror Rises From The Tomb has Naschy cutting back the cost of production by appearing as three different characters: a warlock who was beheaded and toasted in medieval France, the warlock’s brother (and executioner!), and the modern-day descendant of the siblings (our protagonist).
Naschy and his frequent co-star Vic Winner (an anglicized name if I ever saw one) decide to take some babes over to Paul’s ancestral home after a goofy séance insinuates they should dig up the remains of their great-great-great-great-great-great-granduncle (although I think it’s all just another excuse to swing). What follows is a bloody rampage of fun featuring decapitations, recapitations, zombies, nekkid ladies (including Helga Line and Emma Cohen), and witchcraft, too. How can you possibly go wrong with this one? 3 stars!
Vengeance Of The Zombies (1973) – If Spain’s Goya Awards had a category for Most Funkadelic Music Score, La Rebelión De Las Muertas would have surely won in ‘73 – the music in this movie is so funny and inappropriate at times that it completely washes any atmosphere the movie may have away. Naschy goes for the Peter Sellers Award once more by playing three roles again: an Eastern Indian mysticism bloke named Krishna (doh!); his twin-brother, the horribly-scarred diabolical voodoo feller Kantaka; and (in a dream sequence) a man-goat kind of Satan-like figure.
Story-wise, Vengeance Of The Zombies has several pasty-faced females running around (in slow motion) while the aforesaid funky and upbeat music plays attacking folks. Naturally, a good Naschy flick wouldn’t be good if there wasn’t any gore or nudity in it. Never fear, kiddies: this one delivers on that front, too (albeit in smaller doses than some might hope for). 3 and 1/2 stars for sheer goofiness if nothing else.
BCI has done an excellent job with the presentation of these features: all titles have been remastered in High Def from their original Spanish vault elements and have some truly beautiful colors and absolutely solid black levels. Aside from that (not to mention the fact that these vintage fright flicks are at long last officially on DVD), the BCI/Deimos DVDs go the extra mile by including some wonderful Special Features: all discs contain new video Introductions by Señor Naschy himself, Still Galleries, and Liner Notes by horror historian Mirek Lipinski.
Additional Bonus Materials consist of Spanish Language Credits and Theatrical Trailers (available on all titles except Human Beasts), Alternate “Clothed” Sequences which replaced the nudity during the Spanish theatrical showings (available on Exorcism, Horror Rises From The Tomb, and Vengeance Of The Zombies), Audio Commentary Tracks with Naschy, director Carlos Aured and moderator Angel Gomez Rivero (Blue Eyes Of The Broken Doll, Horror Rises From The Tomb), and a short film entitled The Vampyre, which is available on Human Beasts.
With the exception of Spanish-Language only audio on Human Beasts (it was never released in the States, I guess), the oh-so-silly English Dubs that some of us all grew up to admire so well are given a good spruce-up by BCI for these releases, and the original Castilian Spanish language tracks are also included (with optional Subtitles), giving the Naschy Purist (yes, I know that’s an oxymoron) just that much more to brag about.
With a Suggested Retail Price of only $39.98, The Paul Naschy Collection comes highly recommended as the ideal gift for your god-fearing bible-thumping neighbors and Spanish Horror aficionados alike (even if it doesn’t have any of Naschy’s werewolf films).