• Hunchback Of The Morgue, The

    Released by: Anolis Entertainment

    Released on: April 27, 2006.
    Director: Javier Aguirre
    Cast: Paul Naschy, Rosanna Yanni, Victor Alcazar, Alberto Dalbes, Maria Elena Arpon, Maria Perschy, Manuel de Blas
    Year: 1975
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Javier Aguiree, who had directed Paul Naschy the year before in Count Dracula’s Great Love, 1973’s The Hunchback Of The Morgue (alternately known as The Hunchback Of The Rue Morgue despite its German locations) has as much in common with a Hammer gothic as it does the wolfman films that Naschy is best known for – if not more.

    Here Naschy plays Wolfgang Gotho, a hunchback who finds himself the object of ridicule, tease by the local children and even some of the more insensitive adults who live in the German town where he works at the local medical school as a morgue assistant. One night, while prowling the streets, Gotho runs into a drunk who happens to stumble and fall, cracking his head on the cobblestone streets and killing himself in the process. Gotho picks up the photograph that fell out of the man’s pocket and recognizes the woman as Ilsa (Elena Arpón of Tombs Of The Blind Dead), a childhood friend of his and one of the only people in the world who was ever nice to him. Gotho lugs the corpse back to the morgue and revels in cutting up the dead man where he intends to send various parts of him off to be used in medical studies.

    When the sun rises the next morning, Gotho trudges off to the hospital where he visits the lovely Ilsa, who lies there dying of a respiratory disease of some sort. He brings her flowers and takes her outside where he pushes her in her wheelchair, and he tells her that he’ll come back day after day until she’s better. A day or two after that and Gotho is out picking flowers when he’s teased and then assualted by a few of the students who find themselves in a brawl with poor Gotho. When it ends, he makes his way to Ilsa’s room, but he’s a minute too late – his delay meant that he arrived just after she died.

    Gotho, being the morgue attendant and all, finds himself in the awkward position of having to deal with his true love’s corpse, made all the worse by some teasing courtesy of two doctors who he makes short work of by way of decapitation and disembowelment after they try and take the jewellry off of her body. He takes her corpse and runs off into the night, hiding it in the nearby catacombs which are now abandoned. He leaves her there and heads out to finish off his mission of revenge by taking care of one of the students who caused his delay and when he returns, he finds that the rats who dwell in the catacombs have begun to feast on Ilsa’s corpse! He scurries them off by way of a torch (in a scene which will certainly upset animal rights activits as these are very definitely live rats being set on fire in this scene) while above ground the police (lead by Manuel de Blas of Ghost Ships Of The Blind Dead) are looking for Gotho.

    Not sure what to do or who to turn to, Gotho visits Doctor Orla (Alberto Dalbés who appeared in a slew of Jess Franco movies including Dracula Prisoner Of Frankenstein and who shows up in Cut-Throats Nine), who he trusts. He brings him to the hidden catacombs and shows him Ilsa’s body, and Orla promises him that he’ll ‘wake her up’ once he helps him bring all of his lab equipment to the hidden chambers where he will work in secret on his experiments which he hopes will be able to recreate those who have passed on. Gotho obliges and helps him setup shop, but there’s more to Orlan than meets the eye and his experiments prove to be very unorthodox and completely unholy. Thankfully Gotho has Elke (Rosanna Yanni of Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror), Orla’s assistant, who appears to be falling in love with him, to turn to for advice as he knows deep within his heart that Orla’s experiments are wrong and that he should not be helping him…

    Far gorier than you might expect, The Hunchback Of The Morgue isn’t really breaking any new ground and it borrows heavily from the Hammer and Univerasl films that came before it, but it’s still a lot of fun and plenty atmospheric. Aguirre’s direction is strong as he keeps the movie going at a very brisk pace but manages to do so without sacrificing important character development bits which make Gotho a very sympathetic lead. Naschy does quite well in the part, keeping in character and not often straying from the ‘hunchback stance’ that he manages to maintain quite convincingly throughout the film. The script, co-written by Naschy as Jacinto Molina, is lean and to the point but it manages to give us a few characters to care about aside from Gotho, those being Ilsa and Elke respectively.

    The cinematography from Raul Pérez Cubero, who also worked on Count Dracula’s Great Love, does a very good job of capturing not only the German village where the story plays out but particularly the underground catacombs where the finale takes place. No details are left out in the sets and those who pay close attention will notice how the camera takes in all manner of macabre details such as the skeletons against the walls or the rats running around the chambers.

    As far as the more extreme content of the movie goes, in addition to the aforementioned unfortunate decision to use live rats in the fire scene, there is gore a plenty. While this obvioulsy isn’t a ‘gore film’ in the sense that more modern movies like August Underground are, it’s definitely stronger than your average film of the era and and the effects are, for the most part, really well done. Some of the limb severing and decapititations aren’t completely convincing but the pot full of guts on display in the lab looks appropriately disgusting as do the chunks of flesh floating around in the tub full of acid! Naschy, all hunched over and running around with a man’s head in a bag, is a sight to behold as is the creature we see towards the end of the film who resembles something out of the Shaw Brothers’ 1976 monster mash, The Oily Maniac.

    In the end, The Hunchback Of The Morgue works out to be a whole lot of fun. It’s a monster mash of the highest order with atmosphere to spare, gore galore, and a really solid performance from its legendary leading man. It’s not a particularly original film but it does manage to throw in enough wackiness and crazy situations to make it an effective horror film and the creepy sets and odd situations give it a lot of charm that hasn’t dwindled over the years.


    Anolis presents The Hunchback Of The Morgue is a very strong 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation which, contrary to what the imdb states, appears to be the proper aspect ratio for the film. Though the picture has been color corrected the hues aren’t quite as strong as they might be otherwise, but that’s really the only compaint one can lodge against what is otherwise a very fine presentation. There’s some grain present and some mild print damage that appears in the form of the odd speck here and there but otherwise the movie does look very good on this DVD and those who have only seen the film by way of the pan and scan VHS releases which have made the rounds are in for a treat as the cinematography does look really good and very atmospheric on this disc. There’s a pretty nice level of both foreground and background detail to the image and very little digital transfer issues, meaning no mpeg compression artifacts to complain about and only a faint trace of aliasing in a scene or two.

    Anolis has supplied three audio tracks for this release – English, Spanish and German – all of which are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono with optional subtitles available in German only. For review purposes, the English track was used. Quality wise things sound alright here, though there is some mild background hiss present throughout and once in a while you might pick up on some mild distortion in the higher end of the mix. None of it is particuarly detrimental to the experience, but it’s there. Also worth noting is that there is about two seconds of dialogue where some of the guys at the bar speak Spanish, not English, but again, it doesn’t really hurt anything. The quality of the Spanish and the German tracks sounded a little better with less hiss, but the lack of English subtitles for those options might make it difficult for some viewers.

    The most important supplement on this release is the first ever Paul Nashcy audio commentary. The track is conducted in German but thankfully there are optional English subtitles available for it, making this a pretty esssential release for Naschy fans. Anolis has also supplied a fifty minute long documentary wherein Naschy is a guest at Buio Omega, a European genre film convention and festival held in Germany.

    One of the more interesting supplements on this release comes in the form of the Super 8mm version of the feature. Its presented in German without any subtitles but if you’ve watched the feature you can figure it out easily enough and it’s neat to see how the film was edited down to fit on the two fifteen minute reels that were released in the very early days of home theater! These aren’t in pristine shape but they do look surprisingly good on DVD, and Anolis also makes sure that we get a good look at the cover art and packaging for these obscurities as well.

    Up next is a brief featurette in which Naschy and his family return to Feldkirch in Germany, over thirty years after the feature was made. There aren’t any subtitles for this one but it’s fun to see Naschy and his family enjoying themselves and basically ‘playing tourist.’

    Rounding out the extra features are the German theatrical trailer, two nice still galleries which contain all manner of press materials, promotional art and photographs, a Paul Naschy filmography, DVD credits, and some very stylish and slick animated menus and chapter stop options. There’s also a brief two minute introduction from Naschy, in German, in which he walks into a room, pulls the 8mm version of Hunchback Of The Morgue off of a shelf, and fires up the projector – without subs it’s hard to understand what he’s saying, but it’s a nice touch regardless to see the man himself so actively involved in this release.

    It should also be noted that Anolis have done an exceptional job with the packaging for this release. The disc is housed inside a faux-leather book that, when opened, includes liner notes in German and in English along with a wealth of full color photographs and stills from the film. The English essay, from Mirek Lipinski of the Mark Of Naschy website, explain the reasons for the lack of female flesh on display in the film and give a nice history of the film and the details surrounding its origins.

    The Final Word:

    Hunchback Of The Morgue is one that Naschy fans have been waiting a long time for, and it finally receives a proper presentation on DVD thanks to Anolis, who have truly gone the extra mile to deliver an exceptional package that should make his fans very happy indeed.