• Paul Naschy Collection II, The



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: October 31st, 2017.
    Director: Javier Aguiree/Leon Klimovsky/Juan Bosch/Miguel Iglesias
    Cast: Paul Naschy, Elena Arpón, Erika Blanc, Ángel Aranda
    Year: 1972/1973/1974/1975/1975
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    The Movies:

    Shout! Factory offers up another five films starring Spanish horror stalwart Paul Naschy.

    Hunchback Of The Morgue (El Jorobado Del La Morgue):

    Directed by Javier Aguiree, who had directed Paul Naschy the year before in Count Dracula’s Great Love, 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), 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 assaulted 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 jewelry 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 that 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 activists as these are very definitely live rats being set on fire in this scene) while above ground the police (lead by Manuel de Blas) are looking for Gotho.

    Not sure what to do or who to turn to, Gotho visits Doctor Orla (Alberto Dalbés), 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), 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 Universal 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 obviously 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 the effects are, for the most part, really well done. Some of the limb severing and decapitations 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.

    Note that Shout! Factory has provided two cuts of the film – the covered version runs 82:06 and the uncovered version (with the nudity/love scene in it taken from an inferior source of some sort) clocks in at 82:04.

    A Dragonfly For Each Corpse (Una Lebelula Para Cada Muerto):

    This picture, presented in its uncovered form, is closer to a giallo than a traditional horror picture. Set in Milan, Italy when the picture begins there’s a murderer on the loose – first he takes out a junkie using an antique sword, and then he kills a prostitute with an umbrella! What do the two murders have in common? A bejeweled dragonfly was left on each corpse.

    When the police commissioner (Mariano Vidal Molina) finds out that his son has also been killed, he assigns top-cop Paolo Scaporella (Naschy) to the case. Soon enough, Scaporella makes a connection – each of the victims is tied to the Milanese underworld – is this guy a serial killer or a vigilante? With help from his fashion-centric girlfriend Silvana (Erika Blanc), Paolo starts digging around for clues. He even gets some information from aged Professor Capitelli (Eduardo Calvo), part of a clique wherein each member would seem to be hiding their own secrets. When Paolo finds a button at the latest crime scene, he enlists fashion designer Vittorio (Ramón Centenero) to trace the origin of the button and hopefully crack the case before the killer can strike again.

    Directed with a reasonable amount of style by frequent Nachy co-conspirator León Klimovsky, A Dragonfly For Each Corpse moves at a pretty nice pace. It’s not quite as sexy, sleazy or violent as many of its Italian counterparts, but it does offer up a nice mix of tension, high drama and strong action set pieces. Naschy is in fine form as the lead, a cigar chomping man’s man of a cop, the kind that likes to punch first and ask questions later. He roughs anyone he deems worthy, chewing a bit of scenery here and there along the way but doing a fine job of throwing his weight around in that inimitable Naschy fashion. He and Blanc have genuinely good chemistry, his character warms up around her and is even genuinely humorous in some of the scenes they share. This humanizes him a bit, it makes him more than just an uber-macho tough guy and the movie is better for it.

    The soundtrack is quite good, using a mix of library tracks and more familiar Euro-cult sounds (Bava fans will notice some of the music used in Blood And Black Lace is recycled in this picture). There are also some pretty memorable set pieces here – not only the aforementioned sword and umbrella murders but there’s some axe murdering going on too. On top of that we get Nazi bikers and a genuinely bizarre scene where Paolo chases a transvestite through a carnival resulting in a shoot-out on a roller coaster.

    The Devil’s Possessed (El Mariscal Del Infierno) :

    The next feature introduces us to Gilles de Lancre (Naschy), a Baron who has been denied a loan by his king despite his noble service in a recent war against the English. De Lancre heads back to his castle home where he decide to study up on The Philosopher's Stone and the mystical powers it is said to contain. He eventually becomes quite powerful and is able to replace the king as ruler of France, but not before he must take part in some arcane black magic rituals, many of which involve virgin blood sacrifices.

    When a fellow solider named Captain Gaston de Malebranche (Guillermo Bredeston), recently freed from an English prison, learns that Gilles has essentially gone made, torturing and killing anyone who got in his way, he decides to gather together a posse of sorts to stand up to the insane de Lancre. What de Malebranche doesn’t realize is that de Lancre is being influenced by those close to him – his beautiful wife Georgelle (Norma Sebre), his Lieutenant Sillé (Mariano Vidal Molina) and a mage named Simon de Braqueville (Eduardo Calvo).

    More of an action/adventure film than the type of horror picture that Naschy is typically known for, The Devil’s Possessed is nevertheless a pretty entertaining film. There’s plenty of action, much of which involves some well-choreographed swordplay, and when the darker and more horrific elements do creep into the story they are well handled. The plot itself is quite strong, with Naschy’s character clearly being manipulated by those closest to him. Naschy himself makes for a good lead, he’s fairly charismatic here and definitely committed to the part, clearly inspired by France’s own Gilles de Rais, once a noble soldier himself later convicted of killing children who reportedly had an interest in the occult himself. He was quite a despicable character, going much further into genuine depravity in real life than Naschy’s character does in this movie. Naschy excels at playing these types of characters, they clearly fascinated him on a personal level.

    The rest of the cast is solid too. Guillermo Bredeston is solid, if a bit wooden, as ‘the good guy’ of the picture. His character is interesting because due to his past experiences with Naschy’s character, he is reluctant to believe that de Lancre has gone mad as he’s been told. Of course, the evidence speaks for itself and he quickly changes his tune – Bredeston could have been a bit more emotionally involved than he seems to be, but he’s fine, if unremarkable. The striking Norma Sebre is sultry and sneaky in all the right ways as Naschy’s love interest, with Mariano Vidal Molina and Eduardo Calvo holding their own as a pair of manipulative types.

    Production values are decent. The movie has a reasonable amount of atmosphere, the locations work quite well and the costumes look just fine. Some of the few gore effects that are featured in the picture are less than completely convincing and the stunts can be quite impressive, particularly in the sword play scenes.

    Exorcism (Exorcismo):

    Exorcismo finds a young woman named Leila (Mercedes Molina as Grace Mills) participating in a Satanic ritual involving blood drinking and drug use. Unbeknownst to her, she becomes possessed by the spirit of long dead father.

    Her family understandably becomes alarmed when she starts to vomit and curse, and her behavior only gets progressively stranger the more they try and help her. Her brother fears that her no good boyfriend, who got her into the ritual in the first place, may have something to do with it and orders him to stay away from his sister, but this doesn’t do any good either and Leila continues to get worse. Eventually, both Leila’s brother and her boyfriend wind up dead, with their heads turned around and their necks broken.

    The family enlists the help of Father Adrian Dunning (Naschy, of course!), the local Catholic priest. Dunning, an expert in all things evil, investigates the situation and eventually concurs that yes, Leila is in need of an actual exorcism.

    While certain elements of Exorcismo are certainly reminiscent of a similarly titled William Friedkin film, but the movie is more than a rip off of The Exorcist, even if there are a few too many similarities to be coincidental (the tumble down the stairs at the end, the makeup effects, the floating bed – you get the idea).

    Naschy makes for a likeable priest though and it’s refreshing to see him cast against type as the hero of the film rather than as the antagonistic types he is so commonly associated with. As Father Adam he is both believable and sympathetic, never going too over the top in his role and always seemingly well-grounded in his faith and his theology. Grace Mills does a great job in the dual role of the possessed/non-possessed Leila, lending her girlish features and good looks to bringing a sense of childish innocence to her part, but looking sufficiently sinister when made up to look possessed.

    If you're looking for a remarkably original horror movie this one isn't going to cut the proverbial mustard for you, but it's still an entertaining romp through Naschy land with some truly bizarre imagery, a good performance from Paul, and some solid make-up effects during the films climax. Exorcism is presented on Blu-ray in its uncovered version with the nudity intact.

    The Werewolf And The Yeti (La Maldicion De La Bestia):

    Up next, presented in its uncovered version and also known as Night Of The Howling Beast, our final film brings us back to the world of Waldemar Daninsky (Nashy again, obviously), now working as an anthropologist alongside Professor Lacombe (Josep Castillo Escalona) on an expedition that takes them into the mountains of Tibet in search of the mythical Yeti. After being snowed in at a hotel, Daninsky takes the advice of guide Joel (Víctor Israel) who claims to know his way through the mountains. The two of them split and leave the rest of the party, but once the weather becomes too much to bear, the guide takes off and leaves poor Waldemar alone on the snowy slops.

    Thankfully, Daninsky manages to come across a cave in which he is able to take shelter. Curious as to its contents, he starts to explore the cave only to learn that it’s inhabited by two sexy sisters who easily seduce our tired explorer. When he wakes up after passing out, he finds them eating what’s left of Joel. Understandably shocked by this, Waldemar tries to fight the woman, assuming them to be cannibals but learning after he’s bitten that they are in fact werewolves. Fully aware of what he’s become, Daninsky seeks the aid of a monk (Fernando Ulloa), unaware that the party he’s left behind has been attacked by Temugin (José Luis Chinchilla) and his bandit hordes! Some are lucky enough to wind up dead, while the others – including Lacombe’s gorgeous daughter Sylvia (Grace Mills again) - are taken to Sekkar Khan (Luis Induni) who intends to use them for a mystical skin replacement deal he’s entered with a sorceress named Wandessa (Silvia Solar). When Daninsky gets captured as well, things look bleak, but Waldermar isn’t down for the count just yet… and then there’s that titular Yeti to contend with.

    Naschy’s eighth werewolf film is pretty great. Miguel Iglesias throws in everything but the kitchen sink, working not only werewolves and yeti’s into the story but cannibalism, torture, kinky black magic rites and lots of fighting and, well, jumping. Naschy jumps around a lot in this one, it’s fun. Naschy himself is in fine form, playing the perpetually tortured and down on his luck Daninsky with style. He’s great in the action and horror set pieces and does just fine in the film’s fewer tender moments (of course there’s a romantic subplot between he and Grace Mills’ character!).

    The plot lags a little bit in the middle stretch but the picture starts and ends with a bang. While the film would have definitely benefitted from more Yeti action (this aspect of the story seems sadly underdeveloped for whatever reason), what we do get – an opening attack scene and then of course the battle that the title promises – is enjoyable enough. We spend more time dealing with Waldemar trying to overcome Khan and Wandessa than the Yeti, but that’s okay because Khan and Wandessa are at least interesting, quirky character that hold our attention without any trouble.

    We get a decent amount of werewolf carnage here and the action scenes are both plentiful and well-choreographed. There’s a nice look to the movie, the sets and locations employed work nicely and the camerawork is more than competent, occasionally even flashy. Not the best of Naschy’s Daninsky pictures but definitely an entertaining monster mash well worth seeking out.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The five films in the set are presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition as follows:

    Hunchback Of The Morgue: The 1.85.1 widescreen transfer is decent, but not mind blowing. Minor print damage is seen throughout, though color reproduction is pretty nice. Black levels are good, and detail advances over the DVD releases that have made the rounds over the years without ever reaching the best that Blu-ray can provide.

    A Dragonfly For Each Corpse: Also framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, this transfer is the best of the bunch. It’s clean, quite colorful and shows nice detail. There are moments where softness encroaches into the image but for the most part the image is crisp and reasonably organic looking with a natural amount of film grain present. Roughly half way through the film, however, there is a tape sourced insert that runs about ten seconds where the quality dip is quite noticeable.

    The Devil’s Possessed: Also framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, this transfer is decent though again, like all five films in the set, it never reaches reference quality levels. Detail is okay, better than what DVD could offer, but it leaves room for improvement. The image is reasonably clean showing little in the way of print damage but there are some spots where grain looks a little clumpy. Colors are nicely reproduced, however, and we get good black levels.

    Exorcism: This one is presented in 1.33.1 fullframe, just as the previous BCI DVD release was years back. Framing looks a bit off here and you have to wonder if it should have been matted for widescreen, but the image is decent even if there isn’t a massive leap forward in detail when compared to the DVD release. Colors look really nice and this one was clearly cleaned up more than the other four films in the set.

    The Werewolf And The Yeti: The 1.33.1 fullframe transfer should probably have been matted. This transfer is the most uneven of the bunch. Not only is there a tape sourced insert that runs about a minute and is quite noticeable during the first love scene, but there are also stock footage inserts and a lot of lighting and focus tricks used here. As such, detail is a bit all over the place and there image quality isn’t particularly consistent. Still, inserts aside, this looks better than the bootlegs that have been around for years, presenting the film with reasonably decent color reproduction, good black levels and only minimal print damage.

    Audio options/comments are as follows:

    Hunchback Of The Morgue: Spanish and English language DTS-HD Mono, optional English subtitles. There is some minor hiss evident throughout regardless of which option you choose. Levels are nicely balanced, however, and there’s some depth here.

    A Dragonfly For Each Corpse: Spanish and English language DTS-HD Mono, optional English subtitles. The audio here is fine, hiss is minor when it occasionally comes into the mix, but thankfully that happens infrequently. No problems with any distortion or balance related issues here.

    The Devil’s Possessed: Spanish and English language DTS-HD Mono, optional English subtitles. There are some noticeable typos in the subtitles on this one, and there’s some audible hiss and the odd pop in both mixes. Some more cleanup work would have been nice, but what’s here is serviceable, if unremarkable.

    Exorcism: Spanish and English language DTS-HD Mono, optional English subtitles. The Spanish track sounds a fair bit better than its English counterpart, here’s marginally better depth here and it might be a little bit cleaner as well. Aside from that, both tracks are properly balanced and for the most part they sound fine.

    The Werewolf And The Yeti: Spanish and English language DTS-HD Mono, optional English subtitles. There’s some minor hiss and occasional background noise here but generally speaking the audio is fine, if a bit flat in spots. Levels are alright and you won’t have any trouble following the dialogue.

    Extras are specific to each movie in the set and laid out across the five disc as follows:

    Hunchback Of The Morgue:

    Extras on the first disc include an audio commentary by Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn of The NaschyCast podcast. As with their contributions to the first set, this track is pretty solid, a nicely delivered and well researched piece that offers up plenty of interesting trivia about the movie as well as some astute observations about the film. They talk about the film’s connections to other Naschy pictures, Count Dracula’s Great Love being one of them, and they spend some time dissecting the morality of Naschy’s character in the film. They also discuss the locations and effects work used in the picture, and offer up the usual assortment of facts and trivia about the cast and crew. All in all, this is enjoyable.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are Spanish and English theatrical trailers, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. Note that the extras included on the German DVD release from Anolis – including a super 8 version and a commentary from Naschy himself – have not been included on this release.

    A Dragonfly For Each Corpse:

    This disc includes an audio commentary by Troy Howarth. While there are occasionally moments where Howarth tells us what we’re looking at on screen, he does manage to make some interesting connections here between the characters Naschy has played in other films to the character he plays here. He also notes the film’s similarities to other Giallos that were made in both Italy (obviously) and Spain in addition to providing detail on the cast, the director and the locations featured in the picture.

    Round out the extras on the disc are a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    The Devil’s Possessed:

    Aside from menus and chapter selection, this disc includes Spanish and English theatrical trailers and alternate Spanish credits for the feature.

    Exorcism:

    On the Exorcism Blu-ray we find a second new audio commentary by author Troy Howarth, who talks at length about the influence of William Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist and of how this film compares to other supernatural/occult themed horror pictures of the era. Additionally, he offers lots of trivia about the cast and crew, connections to their work in other films, observations about the locations and the effectiveness of certain set pieces and more.

    Also on hand are six minutes of alternate “clothed” versions of the film’s nude scenes that were shot to be included in the film’s original Spanish release. Outside of that we get English and Spanish language theatrical trailers, some alternate English credits, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. The Naschy interview and the Spanish credits sequences that were included on the aforementioned BCI DVD release have not been carried over to this release.

    The Werewolf And The Yeti:

    The last disc includes a still gallery, menus and chapter selection – that’s it.

    The five disc in the set rest inside a ‘flipper’ style case that in turn fits inside a nice cardboard slipcover. Accompanying the five discs in the set is a nice color insert booklet containing writing on the films by Mirek Lipinski of The Mark Of Naschy website. Lipinski’s liners are quite detailed and well written, making this a nice addition to the set.

    The Final Word:

    Is your glass half empty or is your glass half full? The presentations here are imperfect, but these are still the best that these films have been treated on home video to date in terms of picture and sound quality. More extras are always welcome but the commentary tracks add some value. As to the features themselves, obviously the most important aspect of this set? They hold up well, providing plenty of eerie entertainment and taking advantage of Naschy’s inimitable screen presence quite nicely. Fans of European horror, Spanish chillers in particular, should find much to enjoy here.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




































































































    Comments 3 Comments
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      If we get lucky another company may try these titles in another country, but Victory is so screwed up I doubt anyone will do better than what Scream has done. I helped out on these and the behind the scenes problems could not be overcome despite trying. I applaud Scream and the disc producer for even trying to deal with the rights holder.
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      In terms of the presentation of the films I mean. The extras leave room for a vast amount of improvement.
    1. Raf A.'s Avatar
      Raf A. -
      The compression is once again horrendous on a Scream Factory relase.