In this blog I’ve covered director retrospectives on everyone from Tsui Hark to Jess Franco to Chris Nolan to Atom Egoyan to Dario Argento to name a few.
One I have not delved into is Paul Naschy aka Jacinto Molina.
The recently passed, Paul Naschy. I hope to rectify that a bit here.
I haven’t seen enough of Naschy’s films to come at it with any sense of summation or authoritativeness on his body of work, but I did want to at least speak on the Naschy films that I have seen. Four films out of the 90 he is credited in starring in, which is probably four more Naschy films than most people have seen.
I have seen his first starring role, in 1968’s FRANKENSTEINS BLOODY TERROR. His most mentioned (and most retitled?) film WEREWOLF VS THE VAMPIRE WOMAN/WEREWOLF SHADOW (1971), his most problematic film in HUMAN BEASTS (1980), and the almost immediately forgettable CURSE OF THE DEVIL (1973).
What to say about these films?
They are not good.
I appreciate Naschy’s ability as a jack of all trades, actor/writer/director, and his ability to pretty much single-handedly, raise himself out of muscle-man and extra status, and create starring roles and a genre for himself. Very similar to what Sylvester Stallone did with the ‘Rocky’ then ‘Rambo’ films.
But Naschy is no Stallone, who people tend to forget has written and directed some of the most critically and commercially successful films of the latter years of the 20th century.
Bottom line, these four films I’m about to mention are not good, and I can’t even work up enthusiasm enough to give them much of a play by play.
But I’ll try and be concise.
I’ll start with the worst.
Hmm that’s a real toss up between CURSE OF THE DEVIL and HUMAN BEASTS. Both written by Paul Naschy (aka Jacinto Molina), with the latter also directed by him, and the former directed by Carlos Aured. Both are filled with inept dialog, and seven years separating them, still pretty piss poor acting by the lead and most of the actors. However CURSE OF THE DEVIL is just plain boring, as well as ineptly directed. It’s a bad paint job, that refuses to dry so you can paint over it. This film lacks the one thing that made the earlier FRANKENSTEIN’S BLOODY TERROR, while no less inept, a far more enjoyable film. We’ll get to what that is in a minute.
Yeah so from a pathetic opening featuring armored knights “dueling” (A Monty Python skit would look more realistic) to the forget it two minutes after you see it ending, CURSE OF THE DEVIL has nothing to recommend it.
So put that on the bottom of the pile. Now comes HUMAN BEASTS. Wow, this film pretty much defines inept. From the cheesy beginning, extremely bad editing, bad sound, nonexistent transitions, terrible dialog, replete with every offensive stereotype that can slink out of the mind/pen of Nashy.
It’s pretty sad stuff. But that said underneath the poor dialog, and poor script, the germ of the story is sound(though maybe you could do enough research to settle on a tribe, or at least a country, rather than falling back on the nice bigoted trope of impugning an entire CONTINENT).
It’s a hacked together version of The Beguiled and The Perfume of the Lady in Black, but unfortunately Molina, while he loves casting himself as the woman’s man lead in these films (and no one begrudges him for that, if a guy can write himself into love scenes with gorgeous women… he does) he lacks the acting skill, and more the chemistry to pull it off. This, HUMAN BEAST, one of his later day films, and he still seems wooden, and uncomfortable in front the camera. And his direction, he doesn’t know how to build tension AT ALL!
How about, (possible spoiler) “let’s mention we’re cannibals, in the first act of the film”, thus completely making the reveal at the end… uhh… not a reveal. 🙂
Really, really not good.
That said, I keep coming back to the fact, the germ of the story is there, and I was quite rooting for it, I just think that germ of an idea needed a talented scriptwriter and a solid director, and a talented lead, and for the love of heaven an editor (and lose the whipping the Black chick stuff. Oy Vey, please keep your fever dreams to yourself.), and it might have worked as a homage/reworking to THE PERFUME OF THE LADY IN BLACK. It might have worked nicely. As it is, there is not a subtle or competent bone in this film’s body, and it is ultimately a pretty glaring misfire. D-.
Actually, I have to rework my list. Because as inept as HUMAN BEASTS was, it didn’t bore me (at least too long) and moved rather speedily toward its at least memorable if not entirely original ending. Which is more than I can say for WEREWOLF VS VAMPIRE WOMAN. Sporting a lackluster Werewolf performance by Naschy to go with his lackluster out of makeup performance.
A solidly uninteresting flick. I picked it up due to the ravings of some reviewers for this film, having seen WEREWOLF VS VAMPIRE WOMAN, I can clearly say… they lie like rugs. 🙂
Of the four it is easily the least interesting. F-. Avoid on pain of death by boredom.
So if that’s the worse, what does that leave as the “best” of this little lot.
Oddly enough it’s Naschy’s first time in the makeup, the film FRANKENSTEIN’S BLOODY TERROR. And it has very little to do with directing or script, which is on par with the ludicrousness of the previous films mentioned.
No what elevates this film, is nothing more and nothing less, than the absolute Bat-shit crazy performance of Naschy in this, his first outing as the Wolf-Man. Not before or since, have I ever seen someone throw themselves into the role of a man-monster as Naschy does here. It is all drooling, primal, snarling, completely unselfconscious evocation of the primal id.
It is an amazing, jaw-dropping, head-shaking inducing performance, that to my mind you could only get from an actor who has not yet learned to be self-conscious or to attempt to “be” an actor.
Which seemingly is what Nashcy tried in films after this one. Compare his monster in this film, to his monster in the previously mentioned werewolf films. Those are very by the numbers, man in a suit, Naschy trying to “act” like a Werewolf. As opposed to this first film, where I am frigging positive people in a scene with Naschy were quite truly terrified. He was effing people up :).
In this early film, Nashcy did not act like a Werewolf, he simply was. I’ve seen every major werewolf movie, and I’ve never seen a better portrayal of what a Werewolf could be, than what Nashy did in this first movie.
Forget the horrendous poof Vampire, and other extremely poor acting, and so-called story, when Naschy is in the makeup, you can not take your eyes off the screen. I recommend FRANKENSTEIN’S BLOODY TERROR to any werewolf fans, just for that completely one-of-a-kind, and unfortunately not repeated (from the movies I’ve seen) or repeatable performance of a man giving in to his monster. The movie gets bumped to a C/C+ just for that. It’s the only one I would recommend buying.
Well those are my Naschy reviews. Hope you find them of use. Oh, and please feel free to suggest your own favorites, or films you think will help me reassess Paul Naschy. Thanks.