Archive for Paul Naschy

Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror (1971)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 26, 2016 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Originally released in Spain in 1968 under the more appropriate title of “La Marca del Hombre Lobo”, this was Paul Naschy’s first starring role as Waldemar Daninsky: El Hombre Lobo. As a young lad Jacinto Molina (Naschy’s real name) had seen the film “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man”, which really struck a chord with him. Years later, he wrote a script intending to give it to Lon Chaney Jr, but Mr Chaney was already too long in the tooth for the role, so it was suggested that Molina play the part of the wolf man. Changing his name to sound more exotic and in step (or steppe?) with the region where most of the traditional Horror tales take place, he chose to take on the stage name of Paul Naschy; Paul, after the concurrent pope, and Naschy after a well-known Hungarian athlete of the day.

Spanish poster for "La Marca del Hombre Lobo" (1968).

Spanish poster for “La Marca del Hombre Lobo” (1968).

It was released in the US under the title “Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror” in 1971 because the distributor had promised a Frankenstein movie to pad a double billing for contractual reasons, so they created an animated sequence at the beginning of the film to explain why there is no Frankenstein monster in the film, despite the title and poster art:

USA poster for "Frankenstein's Bloody Terror" (1971)

USA poster for “Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror” (1971)

“Now the most frightening Frankenstein story of all, as the ancient werewolf curse brands the family of monster makers as Wolfstein…Wolfstein, the inhuman clan of blood-hungry wolf monsters!”

There is no other mention of the Frankenstein family or their monster for the remainder of the film. This is the version that I saw, so it will be the one I review.

Count Sigmund von Aarenberg throws a masquerade party for his debutante daughter, the lovely young Countess Janice von Aarenberg to celebrate her return from school and her entrance into society. At the party, she reunites with an old childhood chum, Rudolph Weissmann, the son of her father’s colleague, Judge Aarno Weissmann. Both the judge and the count are pleased to see the youngsters dancing and getting reacquainted, until a stranger comes in who sweeps Janice off her feet. It is the infamous Count Waldemar Daninsky, who has a reputation for having some sinister interests, particularly the abandoned castle of Imre Wolfstein.

Upon a drive home from a failed outing with Waldemar, Janice and Rudolph at the Wolfstein castle, the youngsters almost run a gypsy couple’s wagon off the road. Daninsky, however, stops to help them get back on the road and directs them to the castle as a place to take shelter for the night.

The gypsies follow his advice but upon arrival start to snoop around through the cupboards until they find a stash of wine bottles, which they drink to excess. Emboldened by the wine, they decide to open the sarcophagi in the family crypt to look for spoils but instead find the previous tenant to be intact, save for a silver knife shaped like a cross shoved into his heart. Startled at first, their greed overpowers their trepidation and they yank the precious blade out of Imre Wolfstein’s supernaturally preserved corpse, which revives him; after which, he quickly changes into a werewolf, and kills them both. The bodies of the gypsies are later discovered by Waldemar, who pockets the silver blade which he finds in the hands of the dead gypsy woman.

The gypsies attempt to plunder the sarcophagus of Imre Wolfstein.

The gypsies attempt to plunder the sarcophagus of Imre Wolfstein.

The werewolf then roams freely, terrorizing the countryside, so a hunting party is formed to find the creature and put an end to his bloody spree. Waldemar hears Rudolph cry out and runs to find him in a fight for his life with Wolfstein. Waldemar saves him by returning the silver blade to its rightful place, but gets bitten by Wolfstein in the process. Rudolph is then torn between feeling indebted to the Count, yet still resentful that his sweetheart seems to favor the Count over him. Even so, he pledges to help the Count find a cure.

A shackled Waldemar begins to shapeshift.

A shackled Waldemar begins to shapeshift.

Daninsky decides to set up shop in the castle where he can look through Wolfstein’s library for clues on how to cure himself of his werewolf curse and be locked in the dungeon on nights of the full moon. Eventually, it is Janice who stumbles across a letter to Wolfstein from a Doctor Janos Mikhelov who had offered to help with his curse, so Rudolph contacts him to see if he would help Waldemar. He responds in the affirmative, stating that he will arrive in a couple of days on a late-night train. Mikhelov’s arrival with his wife Wandessa, a voluptuous Maria Callas look-alike (all hair, nose and lips, with a pronounced decolletage), surprises everyone because he is so young looking and the letter was at least 30 years old. The tall, gaunt young doctor explains that he is the son of the original Dr. Mikhelov, but that he has continued his father’s studies and can still help. Unfortunately, Waldemar and company soon find out that the Doctor and his wife have misrepresented themselves, and that they have agendas of their own.

A page from the pressbook for "Frankenstein's Bloody Terror".

A page from the pressbook for “Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror”.

I enjoyed this movie a lot. It has lots of good Gothic atmosphere and a decent plot. The actors played their respective parts well, and I particularly enjoyed Dr. Mikhelov and his wife. The lead ingenue was delectable, but unlike the ladies in the latter films, she kept her clothes on–at least in this edit of the film. The gore wasn’t as explicit either, with only a few splashes of blood here and there. In essence, this is probably closer to the Universal film that inspired Naschy than his later efforts, which were more exploitative.

It would take a couple of years for the Count Waldemar Daninsky franchise to find success with 1971’s “La Noche de Walpurgis” (a/k/a “The Werewolf vs The Vampire Woman”), but once he got the ball rolling there was no stopping him! Naschy also played other classic monsters over the years including Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, etc, but none so well as his own creations. He is also known for his character Alaric de Marnac whom he modeled after Gilles de Rais, the infamous medieval French nobleman known for his satanic interests and murderous pastimes.




Human Beasts (1980)

Posted in anthropophagy, John Polidori, Paul Naschy, Spanish Horror Films, The Vampyre with tags , , , , on November 30, 2012 by Manuel Paul Arenas

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”.

The Hunchback of the Morgue

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on October 20, 2012 by Manuel Paul Arenas

As much as I love the original portrayals of the classic monsters of the silver screen, every once in a while someone will come along and do an interpretation that is so outlandish and uncharacteristic that it cannot be ignored. Such is the case with Spanish Horror actor/screenwriter/director Paul Naschy (nee Jacinto Molina) and his reinterpretations of the classic Universal Monsters, his most famous incarnation of course being the werewolf Waldemar Daninsky, whom he has brought to audiences twelve times over the last forty-odd years.
He has also, however, brought his unusual mixture of Exploitation and Gothic Fantasy to the time honored characters of Dracula, Dr Jekyll & Mister Hyde, the Frankenstein Monster and, as in this case, the Hunchback. The hunchback of this story is known as Gotho, and works as a sort of servile lackey (a la Igor of the Universal Frankenstein films) of the unorthodox Dr Orla at the morgue of the Feldkirch hospital in western Austria, prepping bodies for dissection. Here he is pushed around a lot by the other morgue attendants who look down on him because of his disfigurement and simple-mindedness.

Spanish poster

Like Quasimodo of the Notre Dame story, he falls in love with a pretty girl, Ilse, whom he grew up with and has always been nice to him but unlike the sympathetic creature of the Victor Hugo tale, whenever he is teased or mistreated he lashes out violently. Where this really comes out is when his beloved Ilse succumbs to some malady of the lungs and the other morgue attendants try to steal a gold cross necklace from her cadaver. Gotho goes ballistic and kills them both, even decapitating one with a single swing of a hatchet, which just happened to be handy in the prep room.
Realizing what he has done, he then takes Ilse’s corpse and goes into hiding in a secret chamber below the hospital which apparently is a leftover torture room from the Inquisition, replete with an acid pit, which comes into use later on in the film. As police go around questioning hospital employees about the whereabouts of Gotho, who is their prime suspect in the murders, the hunchback attempts to enlist the help of Dr Orla to revive her. Orla, who definitely falls within the “mad doctor” category, agrees to help Gotho if he will let him use his hideout as a lab to work on his unconventional experiments, which the hospital board members have barred him from continuing on site. Gotho agrees to allow this and to help him as a gofer if it will mean the re-animation of his beloved Ilse.

Dr Orla feeds his creation body parts (El Jorobado de la Morgue_1973_lobbycard_German).

Orla, however, is not as concerned with reviving Ilse as he is creating his own life form which requires the sacrifice of living organisms to aliment the creature growing in his enormous glass beaker. Eventually the creature will grow big enough where it breaks the beaker and needs to be kept in a cell behind a large wooden door with a slot for the doctor to occasionally peep through to check on its progress or when he feeds it live human beings. On these occasions nothing is shown but a nasty gnarring is heard which causes the doctor to wince, insinuating that whatever lies behind the door must be nasty indeed. Orla believes that the creature is an example of primordial man and sites references to such beings in alchemical and other occult treatises and even name drops the Necronomicon of H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos. Gotho struggles with wanting to please the doctor, so he will bring back his Ilse, but not wanting to hurt anyone else if they don’t deserve it. The rest of the movie deals with the police investigation, the race to reanimate Ilse before her cadaver completely rots away and the unexpected addition of an attractive female doctor who develops a crush on Gotho because of his kindness and devotion to his departed sweetheart. Her crush at first is rebuffed by Gotho, but he eventually gives in to her advances and they make love in a scene which was heavily censured back in the day. Even though this scene was filmed in alternate nude and non-nude versions, the censors ordered the nude scene to be destroyed because of its offensiveness. Basically, the censors must have gotten bugged out by seeing a shirtless hunchback getting it on, and so only a fragment of that scene survives to this day.
Another scene which I find much more disconcerting but which was apparently okay with said censors involves what appears to be a slew of rats actually being set on fire. Basically, the rodents swarm Ilse’s body while Gotho is away and when he sees them gnawing on Ilse’s face upon his return he takes a torch to the lot as they leap at him and scurry frantically about the dungeon squealing in agony—the things one could get away with in the days before PETA.

Gotho takes a torch to the rats (El Jorobado de la Morgue_1973_German lobby card).

The movie is full of such shocking scenes and charnel shenanigans and that is what makes this such a ghoulish treat for Horror fans who like a little exploitation thrown in the mix. If you are curious, and have a strong stomach, the DVD by Mya is a decent print with the unedited scenes spliced in. Although these scenes are obviously from a different source, I didn’t find the difference in quality as distracting as other reviewers have. The photo gallery seems to be comprised of random screen-caps, but the gallery of original promotional materials is interesting to look at.