Human Beasts (1980)

Bruno is a soldier of fortune who is enlisted by a young Japanese woman named Mieko to help her and her brother Taro in a diamond heist. During the lengthy training and planning stages, Mieko and Bruno have an affair through which she becomes pregnant. Even though he professes to love her, on the day of the actual heist Bruno betrays them all and takes the diamonds. Taro and Mieko vow vengeance and attempt to hunt him down and retrieve the diamonds. During the course of their hunt, Bruno kills all of his former colleagues save for Mieko although she does wound him badly and he passes out in the woods.

Spanish lobby-card showing Alicia and Monica fighting over their guest.

In the following scene, Bruno awakes to find himself in bed, his wounds dressed and bandaged and he is surrounded by the smiling faces of his new hosts, Don Simon and his two lovely daughters, Alicia and Monica. Continually refusing any explanation of his past, they nurse him back to health and watch over him until he is fit to leave of his own accord. When he is well enough to start interacting with the family, he falls in love with Alicia and she tries to convince him to stay. He is reluctant; because he knows Mieko might still be looking for him and doesn’t want to bring any bad juju upon the family for harboring him.
He is right too as Mieko tries several times to penetrate the wall of silence surrounding the family and their rumored guest. She hires a local man who has dealings with the family to find out who is staying at the house and he in turn hires to petty criminals to go snoop around the house and see if they can’t divine who is there. Everyone who goes there, however, doesn’t return. Eventually, a frustrated Mieko goes herself and is taken down by a mysterious stranger who seems to prowl the grounds at night.

Spanish lobby-card showing a set hand pulling away another victim. Note how his forearms are a different color from the rest of his shirt sleeves. In the film the murderer is never shown in his entirety.

Finally, when Bruno is well enough to leave, he makes plans with Alicia to return soon once he settles his business with Mieko, but Don Simon and his clan have other plans for their guest…

The poster which initially confused me because of its were-pig imagery.

I enjoyed “El Carnaval de lasBestias” a/k/a “Human Beasts (1980) a lot more than I thought I would. Because of some promotional poster art I’d seen, I thought it was going to be an exploitative take on the Island of Dr Moreau, with a mad doctor creating human/animal hybrids, but it has nothing to do with that at all. However, I do not wish to give away the twist, so I’ll stop here with the plot.
As usual in a film by Paul Naschy (billed in the case as Jacinto Molina Alvarez—his real name), there are lots of naked women, some BDSM and some old school gore, but nothing too explicit. There is some dialog which might put off some people with its racist or chauvinistic overtones, but a lot of it is just cultural idioms, like the term “negra” used as an endearment for a black woman by her suitor (my grandfather used to call my grandmother “la negrita” because she was dark skinned and she didn’t used to think anything of it) and some of it is just plain 70’s ignorance and insensitivity, like when Alicia tells Bruno about a visit from Mieko whom she describes as (roughly translated here from the original Spanish, as the English subtitle is a little off) “…Chinese, or Japanese, the Orientals to me seem to all have the same face”.
There is a scene near the end where the family throws a costume/dinner party which has overtones of Poe’s madhouse farce “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether”and the whole affair has echoes of Grand Guignol throughout and in the end is very satisfying even from a karmic standpoint if one is willing to make the leap.

Spanish lobbycard depicting costume/dinner party scene.

The DVD by BCI also has a short film based on John Polidori’s “The Vampyre” as well as a gallery of posters, lobby-cards and stills from the feature film.

BCI DVD of “Human Beasts”.


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