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Old 10-23-2008, 09:17 PM
 
Scored: 9
Views: 7,545
Paul Naschy Collection, The




Reviewer: Styx
Review Date: October 23, 2008

Released by: BCI
Release date: 10/21/2008
MSRP: $39.98
Region 0, NTSC
Progressive Scan
Full frame 1.33:1 [Exorcism, Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll, Vengeance of the Zombies]
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes [Horror Rises from the Tomb, Human Beasts]
1972-1980




inline ImageWhen we talk foreign horror, the people who usually come up in conversation are directors. Fulci, Argento, de Ossorio, the Pangs, etc. Actors rarely get mention, despite their sometimes prolific tenures as leads in horror by the dozen. The one exception, though, is the Spanish icon, Paul Naschy. He brought a vintage versatility and showmanship to his performance that always inspired comparisons with Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff. He was a classical actor who just happened to be coming of age in the grindhouse era of cinema, so his grandiose acting was always revolutionary amidst the common splatter. He worked A LOT. Like Christopher Lee A LOT. While no box set could possibly do justice to his range and oeuvre, BCI has certainly tried with their Paul Naschy Collection box set. Included are five films from every horror sub-genre imaginable, from zombies to gialli. Is this a selection we should remember Naschy for, and more importantly, are these the transfers we should be remembering with?

The Story


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Vengeance of the Zombies begins with a couple grave robbers getting their comeuppance from the graves themselves. Yes, a masked man has employed voodoo to bring the dead back to life in order to fulfill his dirty deeds. There's going to be a lot more vengeance for him too, since Krisna (Paul Naschy), a séance guru, has decided to relocate from London to the same countryside where the masked man was lynched by visitors because of his powers in black magic. Like Freddy though, Kantaka (also Naschy) is back to make sure the progeny of his murderers continue to bathe in blood.

With Naschy in the two lead roles, and another one off as the devil, this is the perfect showcase for his versatility and his tenacity for performing behind the veils of make-up. On the one hand he is magnetic and suave as Krisna, while on the other he is almost unrecognizable behind a burned face. This duality is the perfect metaphor for the battles Naschy faced in his own career, teetering between the sex symbol idolatry of being a leading man, or the professional anonymity that comes with being a character actor. Naschy wanted it both ways, and he grossly succeeds here. The film as a whole, too, is worthy of study, since its horror is of a different tonality than that commonly found in the genre. Rather than the guilt that fuses most western contributions to the genre, there's an almost glorification of murder here. Captured in slow motion and with a feverous jazz soundtrack, it's a virtual celebration of the fragility of death.



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Horror Rises from the Tomb turns its sights this time to witchcraft. As a witch and warlock are tried for heresy, the Alaric de Marnac (Naschy) vows his return should he and his partner be murdered. The villagers don't listen, and sure enough years later the murders begin once more from beyond the tomb. Apparently Naschy's head has been living ever since it was purged from his body, and when a couple believers place his head with his torso, he comes alive once more, along with his bride of the black arts. Without much reason, they vow simply to kill anyone in their paths, usually first by seduction and then by ripping their beating heart out of their chest. Little do they know, though, that a few sharp pieces of silver are just waiting to be pricked into their body to end their reign of terror for good.

It's slow going in this, by most accounts, rudimentary clone of Hammer's Dracula franchise, with voluptuous women stuck in a laborious period setting. Christopher Lee never played dual roles in his Draculas, though, and it is fun to see Naschy once again toying with his image. On the one hand he's a nerdy, turtle-neck wearing sissy, and on the other a bearded lothario, with a stare that could kill Stevie Wonder. This time, though, he's almost one upped in the second half of the film with a seemingly never-ending display of traditional special effects. Beheadings coming to life, witches disappearing, and bodies rotting on the spot are just some of the visual showcases the crew takes joy in bringing to crude life. It isn't believable for a second, but there's a sort of old silent movie-like joy in the illusion of death. Think the Melies brothers, but with blood. Still, you've got to have a lot of patience to make it to the half-way mark.



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Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll, as its title suggests, is manufactured in the mold of Argento’s gialli. Rather than sticking to the decay of the big city though, Naschy makes a point of starting out on the road, hitchhiking in the open Spanish countryside, looking for work. He gets hired in the garden of a rich mansion in the country. Inside it are three very dysfunctional sisters – one a paraplegic, one a burn victim and the other spiteful. Sexual tensions rise in the household, but tensions rise throughout the county when people start turning out dead. It seems the killer is after their eyes, and it could be anyone. Is it Naschy with his proletariat sensibilities, one of the jealous girls, the police chief, the psychiatrist or somebody else out of left field? They better find out quick, before everyone gets the Blues.

Well, Argento it ain’t. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. It’s shot like a soap opera, with high key lighting, comfortable framing and simple moves. It plays like one too, though, with each of the sisters continually competing for the love of Naschy’s chi. Couple that with the big band soundtrack that totally lightens even the most horrific of death scenes with its brass, and you’ve got a distinctive take on giallo. It’s drama like only the Spaniards can do it, and with plastic hands, severed eyes and murderous nightmares, there’s a fair bit of perversity thrown into the mix as well. Naschy’s your straight arrow this time around, but his role in the finale definitely goes against expectations. Certainly not the best in the genre, but the tone definitely sets it apart.



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Exorcism sees Naschy take on the devil. A woman’s young daughter is possessed by a satanic spirit. At first she thinks it’s a mental disorder, but even with psychiatric help, many people start to turn up dead around her. Eventually though, she starts showing facial aberrations and talking in a voice much deeper than her own. The devil is inside her, and only the power of a priest (Naschy) can save her. Sounds like The Exorcist? Yeah, but this one also factors in hippie cults, catastrophic car accidents, nude orgies and a bearded Paul Naschy.

Like Beyond the Door, Exorcism covers very similar ground to The Exorcist, but like that Italian production, its ethnicity is what sets it apart. There’s Spanish countryside abound, and much of the cult mysticism harks back to the Blind Dead mythology. More interesting, though, is the way the Spaniards handle the effects, shying away from the high gloss class of Hollywood or the tech-heavy opticals of Italy. Instead, they use primitive, but undeniably effective make-up techniques to make a truly horrific incarnation of the devil. There’s an organic sloppiness to the whole setup that makes this possession a horror all its own. The crusted contact lenses, particularly, are downright nasty. Grounding the film in all that Manson-cult pretext also helps give it a relevance here in North America that it might not possess (heh) abroad. Compared to the previous films Naschy struggles to stand out from the foliage, and it certainly takes awhile for the devil to finally manifest. Still though, like Horror Rises from the Tomb, if you’re patient it’s more than worth the wait.



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Naschy’s back in Human Beasts. A little larger, a little less hair, but back nonetheless. He’s hired by his lover and associate, Mieko, to kill off a few shady businessmen, but when more bodies drop than expected, he becomes the hunted. Mieko seeks revenge, and when Naschy is injured and lost in the woods, it seems that may be just what she gets. At the last minute, though, he is rescued by a kind family with a pig farm, gorgeous daughters and a sexy black slave. Everything seems too perfect – they give him pills, bandage his wounds, feed him well and even sex him up any chance they get. Mieko is hot on his trail, but the true cause for concern is what kind of meet he’s been eating.

After a string of disappointments to close off the seventies, Paul Naschy found himself coupling with Japanese investors to get his brand of films made. This was the first, with The Beast and the Magic Sword to follow shortly thereafter. This explains the forced first act with a Japanese mafia and love interest. Once Naschy is grounded in bed, though, this goes down similar Naschy territory. Compared to the others, though, this one has a wild sense of A.D.D., always jumping from one weird plot to the other. This one is all over the map, and whether it’s being incredibly racist (whether it’s whipping the black slave, her liking it, or her referring to herself as “Watermelon”) or trying to infuse some class commentary in the intercutting of pigs feeding in the stable and the rich munching down at dinner, it’s always a curiosity. Easily the worst of the bunch, but if ever there was a document to prove the worth of political correctness, this is probably it.


Image Quality

inline ImageExorcism, Vengeance of the Zombies and Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll are all 1.33:1, while Human Beasts and Horror Rises from the Tomb are 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Apart from that, there’s little difference in these transfers – they’re all fantastic! All of them digitally remastered, these transfers look amazing considering their age, budget and distance from the usual Hollywood preservation core. BCI has done an amazing job cleaning them up, removing almost every instance of debris. The prints they have to work with, though, are also in excellent condition. Of the lot, Human Beasts is a slight step down from the rest in terms of coloring and dust, given it was shot on a lower budget in Japan. The rest though, all exhibit very saturated colors, deep blacks and a limited amount of grain. It really is amazing how nice they look. All the prints are a wee bit soft, but that’s a small price to pay for all the other leaps these transfers have over their predecessors on video. A fabulous restoration, and all uncut, to boot!


Sound

BCI didn’t just stop with the video. The sound is presented in the two options viewers will care about most – the original Castilian, and the dubbed English. Human Beasts is the only film without the English dubbing, but English subtitles are provided (as they are on the other films). All the tracks sound very clear, although faint crackles can be heard throughout each track. There is never a drop out, and the mix effectively balances dialogue, sound effects and music. All the tracks are mono only, but since that’s the way they were recorded, that’s more than alright.

Supplemental Material

This section could be really long, or really short. Let’s make it short: BCI has done a commendable job in creating a very polished disc with personal supplements right from the source. The first thing to note on every film is just how nicely everything is packaged. All the casings for the five discs all have the same aged backdrop, and inside each case are quality liner notes. On the discs themselves the menus aggregate the experience even more, each with a beautifully rendered gothic motion menu. The menu structure is convincingly set up like a book, with each menu a turn of the page away. Just from a presentation standpoint, BCI has really done a stellar job in uniting Naschy’s films together in a package that complements his work ably.



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What’s a Naschy set without word from Naschy, though? BCI has gone to great lengths to include the Spanish legend extensively on every disc. He first provides an introduction for each film. More than just saying the title, he uses props and speaks with a macabre that would do Alfred Hitchcock proud, introducing the major themes of each film and providing a wonderful lens by which to view the rest of the film. He also contributes two commentaries, one on Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll and the other on Horror Rises from the Tomb. Although you wouldn’t necessarily tell it from his films, Naschy is a surprisingly deep thinker and well versed in film history. He’s constantly referring to older films, and really does an effective job of dissecting the themes of his movies, from the fetishization of the plastic hand in Blue Eyes to the appeal of surrealism in general. There is a lot to learn about Naschy, and the cinema itself, from listening to these tracks.

Naschy also has a sitdown interview in Exorcism that runs about thirty minutes. In it he talks about a number of interesting items, from the pluses of making movies in the seventies to his collaborations with Japan. He then talks about each film from the box set specifically, as well as others such as his famous Wolfman character. Like the rest of his supplements, this is filled with a wealth of information. The last of the Naschy exclusives is a newer short film with Naschy, The Vampyre, which is a pretty shoddy recapitulation of his older films, with Naschy predictably the count. Shot on video, it doesn’t have the appeal that his other films do.

Each DVD in this set also has extensive still galleries, with photos both on set and from advertising used all across the world. Most usually have the theatrical trailer as well, alternate title sequences, and, most interestingly of all, “fully clothed sequences”. These are, as you might imagine, the riskier scenes from the films shot with clothing. So that sexy nude sacrifice in Exorcism becomes a display of tacky nylon shawls. While it would have been nice to hear from a few other filmmakers somewhere in the extras, what’s here is truly commendable. This set really does do Paul Naschy right.



Final Thoughts

inline ImagePaul Naschy worked the genre film like no other, never typecast and always donning new appearances to further lose himself in character. His tour de force multi-character performances in Horror Rises from the Tomb and Vengeance of the Zombies are the real standouts here, but even when he’s playing it straight in Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll or Exorcism, he’s always a captivating screen presence. More than just fine examples of Naschy’s versatility, these films in BCI’s box set really showcase the diverse appeal of Spanish horror. This is the perfect set to sample for those looking to get a foot into the country politic, since it covers a wide variety of sub-genres within all of horror. The visual transfers are spectacular, and the audio is preserved nicely in two languages. The entourage of extras, many with Paul Naschy today, really help pay respect to these usually slighted films, and the professional packaging of the casing and menus just seals the deal.

BCI has released all these titles separately in the past, but this is a great place to start for those who did not snap these up originally. My only gripe with the set is BCI not including one of their previously produced Naschy Werewolf films. Considering his werewolf is his longest running and most famous creation, the lack of any films on the subject, be it Night of the Werewolf or Werewolf’s Shadow, is a major oversight. One of those could have easily replaced the sub-par offense of Human Beasts. Perhaps a Naschy werewolf set is on the horizon? Even without any Naschy wolf man theatrics though, this is a stellar sample of one of the most iconic horror careers in the history of cinema. Spend your Cashy on Naschy…this is a great box set.



Rating

.
Vengeance of the Zombies
Movie - A-
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B+
Supplements - B+

Horror Rises from the Tomb
Movie - B+
Image Quality - A
Sound - B+
Supplements - A-

Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll
Movie - B
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B+
Supplements - A-

Exorcism
Movie - B
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B+
Supplements - B+

Human Beasts
Movie - C
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B
Supplements - B+




Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 7 hours 22 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • 5 Discs
  • Chapter Stops
  • English mono [all but Human Beasts]
  • Castilian mono
  • English subtitles

Supplements
  • Audio commentaries with Paul Naschy
  • Introductions by Paul Naschy
  • Interview with Paul Naschy
  • Paul Naschy short film (The Vampyre)
  • Theatrical trailers
  • "Clothed" alternate scenes
  • Still galleries
  • Alternate credit sequences
  • Liner notes

Other Pictures

 


Last edited by Styx; 10-23-2008 at 09:20 PM..
 

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Old 10-24-2008, 11:36 PM
Stalker
Thanks for reviewing this! I was wondering whether these flicks are any good.
 
 
Old 10-25-2008, 10:44 PM
I'm one of the few who likes "Horror Rises from the Tomb" I would imagine. I've never seen it uncut tho.. would be a treat.
 
 

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