VIVA MOLINA: Why You’re Shooting Yourself in the Foot if You’re Not Watching Paul Naschy Movies
By Bill Adcock
Greetings, Brothers and Sisters of the Psychotronic Video World! Today I want to talk about one thing in the strange, wild world of world/cult/exploitation/horror cinema fandom that’s been bothering me for a couple years now. We’re a diverse bunch of movie-watchers, I like to think, and I don’t think I’m alone in the community in that I’m always eager to be shown something new and weird that I hadn’t seen before. With that being said, I’m more then a little stunned and how infrequently I see the name of Paul Naschy (aka Jacinto Molina) brought up in discussion. For my money, he’s one of the most fascinating and idiosyncratic figures in the last half-century of horror cinema, a broad-shouldered link between the Universal Monsters and the horrors of the Grindhouse whose work deserves far more attention then it’s received from the horror fan community.
Naschy (1934-2009) was a weightlifter, actor, screenwriter and director who over the course of a long and varied career played most of the major monsters – the Frankenstein’s Monster, Mr. Hyde, Dracula, the Mummy, a Hunchback, a Warlock, and most importantly, a Wolfman, playing the lycanthrope in a stunning fifteen films, twelve of which form the Hombre Lobo series of films. Often writing and occasionally directing the films he starred in, Naschy’s prolific nature cannot be understated – in 1972 he starred in an astonishing seven films! Every one of these films bears the unmistakably mark of Naschy’s powerful touch, and tend to be strange and wild films that defy logic and narrative cohesion in favor of spectacle and jaw-dropping, “did that really just happen?” moments. Allow me to lay down three examples for you:
PANIC BEATS (original title: LATIDOS DE PANICO, 1982) stars Naschy as Paul Marnac, a devoted husband and the descendant of Alaric de Marnac, a medieval nobleman driven insane by his wife’s infidelity – de Marnac brutally murdered her and her bastard offspring, then turned to Satanism and witchcraft in the aftermath. It is rumored that de Marnac’s ghost, still clad in blood-caked armor, roams the grounds of his old castle to administer “justice” to those unfaithful to their marriage vows. The modern-day Paul Marnac is the inheritor of his Satanic ancestor’s estate and castle, and decides that this would be the perfect place to bring his ill wife, Genevieve, to recuperate from her unspecified sickness.
It’s also the perfect place for Paul to pursue some hot adulterous affairs; one with his lover Julie (who’s dressed to the nines – when she’s dressed at all – in a tiger strip pleather catsuit that I’d love to find in my girlfriend’s size) and then some incestuous extra tail on the side of that with his cousin Mireille! Hot damn, Paul, that’s nasty! Before long a gory, armor-clad skeleton is clanking down the hallways of the old castle, sword in hand…but is it Alaric de Marnac back from the dead, or Paul trying to scare his wife to death so he can legitimize his relationship with Julie?
While PANIC BEATS may be nothing outrageously special in terms of plot and story, it more then makes up for it in Eurosleaze. We’ve got full frontal female nudity before the opening credits roll, we’ve got guts getting torn out, eyes getting torn out, rotting carcasses and three women with more bush on display then a GOP convention. It’s glorious, it’s wonderful, it’s an absolute must-see.
FURY OF THE WOLF MAN (original title LA FURIA DEL HOMBRE LOBO, 1972) is, as you might have surmised from the title, a part of the “Hombre Lobo” series, 12 werewolf films in which Naschy starred, always as the same character – Waldemar Daninsky. Or is it always the same character? Some of the films in the Hombre Lobo series take place centuries apart, and there’s no actual continuity between any of them – and most of them start with Waldemar Daninsky getting infected with lycanthropy. I guess they’re just twelve films about different guys named Waldemar Daninsky who are unlucky enough to get werewolfism. FURY OF THE WOLFMAN is neither the first nor the best of the franchise, it’s perhaps the most batshit insane of the bunch. Direction is credited to Jose Maria Zabalza, but from what I’ve heard Zabalza was a notorious drunk, frequently too inebriated on set to actually direct the picture, resulting in either Naschy or Zabalza’s 14 year old nephew stepping in the handle the directing. Yes, parts of this movie were directed by a 14 year old, which explains rather neatly why this film rockets so quickly into the Outer Batshittosphere.
The film opens with Professor Waldemar Daninsky (Naschy) leading an expedition up the icy slopes of the Himalayas. Daninsky is bitten by a Yeti and his expedition buried in an avalanche, but Daninsky survives thanks to the ministrations of a friendly monk. Upon arriving home, however, Daninsky discovers evidence that his wife is cheating on him with at least one of his grad students. When he goes to confront them, he discovers that his wife’s lover cut his breaks, and his car goes over a cliff in flames. Naschy emerges from the flaming wreckage angrier then ever, and transforms into a werewolf! Because of the Yeti bite, I guess…? WHO CARES! After butchering his cheating wife and her brake-cutting lover, he grabs a downed power line and shocks himself back into human form and into the grave.
This is the first twenty minutes of the movie.
Daninsky’s body is stolen from the morgue by Dr. Ilona, a dominatrix-scientist and former colleague of his. She shoots him up with “chematrodes” that bring him back to life and, Ilona hopes, gives her the means of controlling him. See, she’s got a whole castle full of freaks and genetic experiments staffed by a team of dominatrix-scientists. Unfortunately, Daninsky will not be controlled, and when Ilona tries to whip him into submission, all Hell breaks loose.
This movie is insane. Absolutely bugfuck insane and I love it for that. Naschy liked to cram as much as he could into every script, and here he’s at his least-restrained. And while it may not be the best of the Hombre Lobo movies, it’s still a rockin’ good time spent in front of the ol’ boob-tube. It’s got midgets, hippies, orgies, a whole squadron of dominatrix-scientists, Naschy wolfmanning all over the place, and even the silver screen’s first, and so far to my knowledge only, husband and wife werewolf brawl. See it!
THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE (original title: EL JOROBADO DE LA MORGUE, 1973) is another lesser-known Naschystravaganza. Not content with making just another mad scientist movie, Naschy decided to focus the film on the perennial supporting character, the hunchbacked assistant. Here, Naschy appears as the hunchbacked Gotho, a kind-hearted morgue assistant who is the subject of ridicule for the entire town. After being humiliated by Uno, a young man boozing the night away despite his girlfriend’s terminal illness, Gotho beats the young drunk buck to death then begins seeing his (ex) girlfriend in the hospital, striking up a friendship with her and bringing her flowers every day. When the cruelty of a doctor causes him to be late visiting her one day, she dies!
Driven mad by grief, Gotho accepts a job offer from a local mad scientist who promises to restore the young girl to life, just as soon as he’s done with his experiments involving primordial ooze. In the mean time, the girl’s body is left to rot and be eaten by rats, resulting in an INSANE scene of Gotho fighting rats (catapulted at him from off-screen; according to Naschy, the rats were quite vicious, and the look of fear on his face was real in this scene) and then lighting a skeleton on fire to drive them off!
No rats weren’t harmed in the making of this picture. There’s also a decapitation scene that used a real corpse!
Having lost all hope, Gotho finds solace in the arms (and loins) of the one lady doctor who treated him with kindness – that’s right, it’s Naschy’s movie, and if he wants a hunchbacked cadaver-chopper to bang a hot lady doctor senseless, then by god he will! The film climaxes when the primordial ooze beast (remember that?) breaks out of its container and we’re treated to a no-holds-barred throwdown between our Heroic Horny Hunchback and the Bloodthirsty Booger Beast. See it!
So I hope I’ve given you three good reasons to check out the filmography of Paul Naschy. These films are fun, crazy, gory, and full of hot naked women, so I don’t know why they haven’t caught on among horror fans the way the stuff Argento or Bava made have. Do yourself a favor, horror fans, and give Naschy’s work a watch!