Monday, January 16, 2012

Naschy. Paul Naschy.

I had a Naschy itch this weekend, so I watched a bunch of his flicks. Here are some quickie reviews.
Tomb of the Werewolf (2004)

Woe to the Temple of Waldemar Daninsky.
If modern cinema truly is product, however, then I cannot fault Paul Naschy and the ignominious ending for his legendary character in the direct-to-video opus, Tomb of the Werewolf (2004). Why not, right? A low-budget horror film with a healthy amount of softcore sex, helmed by one of the cinema’s pioneers, Fred Olen Ray. In addition, cult icon, Michelle Bauer appears as Elizabeth Bathory with a bevy of young attractive people in the cast to provide a little skin or a body count. For all practical purposes, Naschy’s inclusion seems a marketing ploy--drawing in his small yet very strong base of fans (of whom I am a proud member). Yes, I am very cynical and yes, I was hoping for a more romantic end to Naschy’s Daninsky character. However, I did have a smirk on my face throughout most of the film, so I’m not nearly as uptight as I should be, in order to be a proper critic.

Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy) has a wife, Eleanor (Stephanie Bentley), who is dying of the plague. Daninsky wants to save his wife. Elizabeth Bathory (Michelle Bauer) is in league with Satan and as compensation for doing evil shit for him, she is granted eternal youth after she bathes in the blood of young women. Bathory is also the broker for a deal between Satan and Daninsky--Daninsky’s wife may be saved but Daninsky will be cursed as a werewolf. Almost as soon as Daninsky is cursed and turns into the werewolf, he slays his wife as his first victim. This is a problem.
Cut to 2004 and Richard Daninsky (Jay Richardson) has inherited his ancestor’s estate, once belonging to the nobleman Waldemar Daninsky. Richard is a little bit of a shady character. He hires a television crew who makes paranormal investigations to document a medium (also played by Bentley) at his estate. This medium will help him find some hidden treasure. Bauer’s Bathory is the servant at the estate, and of course, she looks exactly the same.
O.K. Naschy appears in this one briefly and in addition, I do not believe he utters a single line. In fact, I highly doubt that it is the elder Naschy under the werewolf makeup, jumping out of bushes onto unsuspecting couples. This, however, is not a major issue. The highlight of Tomb of the Werewolf is its array of attractive women all of whom I enjoyed watching very much. The downside of Tomb of the Werewolf is everything else. The film did afford me a wonderful daydream, however. There is a bar sequence early in the film where Richardson’s Daninsky completes the contract with the paranormal television crew. It appears as if the actors in the scene have quite the buzz going on while performing. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to drink alcohol at work and get paid while drinking? That would be cool.

School Killer (2001)

School Killer is a post-Scream, Spanish horror film where Naschy is the killer of the film’s title.

Six young adults, three males and three females, arrive at an abandoned school during a spooky evening to spend a weekend. They are led by Ramón (Carlos Fuentes) whose father has recently died. Ramón’s father left Ramón his diary, detailing a fateful evening he spent in the abandoned school with five friends in 1973. This diary was the impetus for Ramón bringing his friends to the location during the present time.
School Killer is talky, and being a film of the post-Scream era, a lot of the dialogue is meta. Although the characters explicitly reference films like Scream 3 and The Blair Witch Project in their dialogue, I do not believe the film makers wanted to make an American-style film in a Spanish setting with Spanish actors. Is School Killer successful? Is it derivative of its American predecessors? In my opinion, yes to the latter question and “kind of” to the former question. There are creative sequences, indeed, but there are also myriad problems: School Killer is too talky, poorly paced, and has a very unsatisfying ending.

The best scene of School Killer, unsurprisingly, involves Naschy. Its setting: the toilet. Naschy plays a psychopathic killer and he confronts a young woman in a toilet stall in an unsuspecting manner. Naschy delivers ridiculous dialogue in a straight-faced, intense manner. One can easily see in the elder Naschy the same energy and charisma that drove his previous roles. This scene, alone, is worth multiple viewings.

Latidos de pánico (Panic Beats) (1983)

Panic Beats is a gem. It was written and directed by Naschy who also stars. “Latidos de pánico,” writes Naschy, “is a revisitation of the claustrophobic, phantasmagorical world of the most characteristic Naschy works. (from Memoirs of a Wolfman by Paul Naschy, translated by Mike Hodges, Midnight Marquee Press, Baltimore, Maryland, 2000: p.168.)

Paul (Paul Naschy) is a descendant of Alaric de Marnac, a medieval knight who murdered his unfaithful wife in cold blood. Paul is married to an ill woman, Geneviève (Julia Saly) and in order to help her recuperate, Paul moves his frail wife to the country into the ancestral home of the ruthless knight. A faithful maidservant, Maville (Lola Gaos), and her wayward niece, Julie (Pat Ondiviela), are in attendance at the home and will care for Paul's ailing wife. Soon after arrival, however, Geneviève begins having sinister visions, especially of Alaric de Marnac, and her health condition plummets.
Naschy returns Alaric de Marnac from El espanto surge de la tumba (Horror Rises from the Tomb) (1973) to cause havoc in Panic Beats. “Its the return of Alaric de Marnac,” writes Naschy, “this time in a plot of sex and violence set in a large house which appears to be lost in time, and in which the more modern parts are mixed with the most terrible of medieval traditions.” (“Filmography by Paul Naschy,” Videooze, Fall 1994, No. 6/7, ed. Bob Sargent, Alexandria, VA, 1994, p.39) As Naschy describes, Panic Beats is clearly a film of the fantastic but also a morality tale. The following paragraph has SPOILERS:

The best scene in Panic Beats has Naschy in the bathtub. He is smoking a cigar while bathing. Poor Geneviève is dead. Paul and young Julie have concocted a plan to kill Geneviève and were successful. The dialogue between Paul and Julie is precious: Paul openly acknowledges to Julie that both are wicked people and both should be grateful that they love each other. I love the sentiment: wicked people deserve to love each other or wicked people deserve love, too. Pat Ondiviela nearly steals this film.

Mondo Macabro released Panic Beats on DVD. Image Entertainment released School Killer on DVD. Tomb of the Werewolf is also available on DVD.

1 comment:

Dr.LargePackage said...

Super review, Hans. I know what you mean about drinking at work. I drink a little bit, and my employer frowns on it, but damn it, those kids have to get to school. Children arriving safely at a school that is not abandoned is large and in charge.