Cheese Magnet is proud to be a part of the Paul Naschy blogathon, the brainchild of the Vicar of VHS at Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Movies. Be sure to head over there to join the celebration of the father of Spanish horror.
I’m embarrassed to admit that despite a lifetime of watching horror movies, before the Naschy Blogathon got rolling, I’d only seen one Paul Naschy movie — and I can’t even remember what it was now. Tanzi has been heaping praise upon the works of Naschy for months and I’m glad to have finally gotten on board the Naschy train.
I’d be faking it if I approached my contribution to the Blogathan with the usual review, so I’m gonna come at this from the perspective of a Naschy newbie and just talk a little bit about the wonders I’m discovering as I wade into the man’s filmography.
First up: Horror Rises From the Tomb (1973, directed by Carlos Aured). I chose this one as my starting point on Tanzi’s recommendation, and he certainly called it. Opening in France in the 1400s, Horror Rises from the Tomb immediately delivers the groceries as the sorcerer Alaric de Marnac (Naschy, looking suave as hell) and his mistress, Mabille de LancrÃ© (the pants-rendingly sexy Helga LinÃ©) face punishment for the crimes of witchcraft, vampirism and lycanthropy. De Marnac puts a curse on his brother (also played by Naschy), his pal Andre (Vic Winner) and their descendants for turning him in to the French Satanism police. De Marnac is beheaded, but fortunately for us, de LancrÃ© is stripped naked and strung up by her heels (spouting curses the entire time) before she’s tortured and killed.
We cut to present-day Paris where we meet Hugo de Marnac (Naschy) and Maurice Roland (Winner), and their lovely girlfriends Sylvia (BetsabÃ© Ruiz) and Paula (Cristina Suriani). Maurice is a painter who’s been dreaming of “a pair of dark eyes” but can’t quite capture it on canvas. When they’re invited to a seance, Hugo decides it’d be a kick to see if they can call up the spirit of Alaric and find out where his head might be tucked away. In a cool scene, Alaric’s head shows up and tells them where to find his various parts, conveniently located on Hugo’s estate in a mountain village. Soon afterwards, Maurice zones out and paints Alaric’s headless portrait, then gets a visit from the ghostly head itself.
The four head off (zing!) to search for Alaric’s corpse and what follows is one hell of a good time — never skimping on the horror goods as director Aured loads up on atmospheric shots of the countryside (and the spooky chalet our heroes stay in), zombiefied villagers creeping about, gore (without ever becoming too gruesome, although one killing in particular carries far more weight than all the Saw movies combined), and of course, plenty of naked girls (and believe me, brother, if you’re of that particular bent you’re gonna wanna see the scene where the revived Ms. LinÃ© tempts a victim with her vampiric delights).
The trailer below doesn’t even begin to do justice to the movie (and for some reason the narrator keeps calling it “Fear Rises from the Tomb”), but it’ll give you an idea of the old-school thrills Horror Rises From The Tomb delivers. Highly recommended.
Next up was La Noche de Walpurgis (a.k.a. The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman, 1971, directed by Leon Klimovsky). This was my first encounter with Waldemar Daninsky, the werewolf character that Naschy portrayed in a series of films. As the movie begins, a pair of coroners who “don’t believe in superstition” find themselves faced with the corpse of Daninsky, who bears the mark of the werewolf on his chest and has been shot through that mark with two silver bullets. One of the docs figures he’ll prove all that werewolf business is just a lot of bunk by removing the bullets from Daninsky’s heart. As soon as the bullets are out and the doc has a moment of cocky glee, Daninsky transforms into a werewolf and kills the two men.
We cut to a club in Paris where college girls Elvira (Gaby Fuchs) and Genevieve (Barbara Capell) are discussing their thesis with Marcel (Andres Resino). It seems they’ve been researching 15th century Countess Wandesa DÃ¡rvula de Nadasdy, and believe they’ve discovered the whereabouts of her tomb. Wandesa (Patty Shepard) was put to death as a Satan-worshipping vampire who lived on the blood of virgins — so right away, you know she’s not the kind of gal whose corpse you wanna dig up, but Elvira and Genevieve are strong-willed young women (in swinging hep-cat clothes), and so they set out to the small village where they think Wandesa is buried.
Running low on gas, they accept an offer from none other than Waldemar Daninsky to spend a few days at his home until his handyman arrives and can drive them to town for some gasoline. When the girls tell Daninsky that they’re in search of Wandesa, he reacts like he’s seen a ghost. The girls turn in for the night, but Elvira is concerned that there’s no lock on their bedroom door. Sure enough, during the night, Waldemar’s sister Elizabeth (Yelena Samarina) sneaks in, wakes Elvira up with some vaguely-threatening babble, starts to strangle the girl, then decides to feel her up instead.
The next day, the girls and Waldemar track down Wandesa’s tomb and dig up the body. Genevieve makes the mistake of pulling the silver cross from Wandesa’s chest, accidentally cutting herself and bleeding into the open mouth of Wandesa’s skeleton. You know what that means.
Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but La Noche de Walpurgis once again drives home just how much fun Naschy’s movies are — and again, the groceries are delivered in fine style, with sexy babes in see-through nighties, rotting corpses, scary undead monks, and of course plenty of werewolf and vampire action. And yeah, I’m dropping a spoiler, but that Genevieve makes for the cutest vampire ever, right down to her adorable inch-and-a-half long fangs. Plus the scene where Daninsky’s handyman finally arrives and drives Elvira into town is deliriously unsettling.
About halfway through La Noche de Walpurgis, I realized how much I wish I had seen these movies as a kid, because they’ve got everything a kid — at least a kid in the early ’70s — could want from a horror movie. In fact, what struck me is that Naschy’s movies (or at least the ones I’ve seen so far) are the cinematic equivalent of that old Disney Sounds of the Haunted House record: they’re Halloween scare-fests that never go too far — the gore never becomes stomach-churning or off-putting (in La Noche de Walpurgis, one victim seems to bleed diluted tomato soup), and while the nudity might have embarrassed me when I was 10, it’s all very innocent as well. But what kid doesn’t wanna see spooky old houses and crumbling ruins, desiccated corpses, skeletons scattered everywhere, and monsters slugging it out? Hell, at times, I’d even swear that old sound effects record is playing on the soundtrack.
I realize I haven’t even scratched the surface of Paul Naschy’s vast filmography — his imdb page lists 99 titles — but I can assure you, I’m eagerly anticipating seeing more of his work. Naschy was a great onscreen presence, very likable, and he obviously had a great love for the horror genre. If you’re a Naschy newbie like me, I urge you to seek out his movies and dive in headfirst.
For more funky movies, check out my book Unsafe On Any Screen:
And you might dig my new novel, Squirrel Eyes (a story of lust, movies and more):
Not to mention my collection of short stories, Tales of Misery and Imagination: