Monday, February 8, 2016

The Night of the Executioner (La noche del ejecutor) (1993)

The Night of the Executioner (La noche del ejecutor) (1993) is a nasty exploitation film, starring Paul Naschy, who also wrote and directed.

Naschy plays Dr. Hugo Arranz, a successful surgeon, who is spending his fiftieth birthday with his wife and teenage daughter at his home.  While they were shopping earlier in the evening, a thug spied on them and noticed that Dr. Arranz carried a large sum of money.  This thug and his crew have now invaded the Arranz home during dinner.  They rape and murder Arranz’s wife.  They rape and murder his daughter in front of him, while he remains beaten and bound with his tongue cut out.  The thugs presume Arranz dies, but he survives.  Now unable to speak, Arranz hits the gym and pumps iron; conditions himself with jogging; and becomes seriously adept at firearms and throwing knives.  All that is left is to find the thugs responsible for the deaths of his loved ones.  Back at his home, fresh from the hospital, Arranz finds a flyer for a local bar.  There is a name inscribed upon the back, “Gloria.” 

Naschy writes that, “It has been said that this film is a copy of Death Wish, the film starring the ever impassive Charles Bronson.  There is a grain of truth in that statement but I approached the film from a totally Spanish viewpoint, with the Madrid criminal underworld in mind.  I wanted to make a movie that reflected the sordid side of certain parts of the capital.” (1)  Naschy was inspired to write the screenplay after an experience that he had one evening leaving the gym. (2) He writes:
“Suddenly three scruffy youths appeared in front of me.  They looked like they were out for trouble.  Two of them whipped out hunting knives and I knew what I was in for.  I don’t know exactly what thoughts flashed through my mind at that moment, I just reacted instinctively.  Dropping my sports bag to the ground I quickly unzipped it and got hold of the thick protective belt used for power lifting.  I could feel rage boiling up inside me.  Maybe it was the pure anger of frustration that I’d had to hold back so many times in my life or maybe I saw those thugs as a symbol of all the bastards who’ve had it in for me down the years.  The fact is I just went for them with a vengeance and left two of them in a really bad way.  ¶ It looked like I wasn’t going to be so lucky with the third assailant but, fortunately, the headlights of a passing car put the wind up them and they made a run for it.” (3)
Naschy’s screenplay also embraces the current discourse in regards to the current system of justice, criminals’ rights vis-à-vis the rights of their victims.  Clearly Naschy sides with the victims.  For example, the character of Olga, a magistrate and close friend of Dr. Arranz, advocates for a better criminal justice system and reforming jails and prisons to make them true rehabilitation facilities.  The thugs who assault Dr. Arranz’s family later gang rape the woman in her garage.  Subsequent to her assault, now a victim, Olga ceases to be a staunch advocate for criminal rights but she does not wholly abandon her causes.  I believe Olga, like Naschy with his screenplay, sees the issue as not a completely academic one and one which must confront the rights of victims.

Naschy never abandons his lofty ideals in Night and he certainly is not reticent to put the sensationalism on display.  In a creative scene, Arranz busts through a window like The Terminator upon two thugs in their apartment.  He ices one with his magnum, and with the other, the lone female in the group of thugs who attacked his family, he hesitates.  Naschy’s character has a Bergman/Von Sydow/Virgin Spring moment, where he can see his criminal as human when begging for mercy.  However, Arranz is so overcome with vengeance that he cannot stop his parade of violence.  He ices her.  (This character was shown earlier castrating a guy.)  The thugs who attacked Arranz’s family are part of a larger syndicate who are run by “Cobra,” whose face is never seen by the viewer until the final act.  In my favorite scene of Night, two thugs report to Cobra for orders.  Cobra is in an S&M session and only stops when his thugs enter the room.  In a nifty shot, his portrait is shown but he is hidden behind his S&M mask.  (I don’t know why but I find this hilarious.)  Finally, I believe Naschy’s son, Sergio, appears later in the film.  He is an adolescent boy who lives near Dr. Arranz’s country home.  Arranz has housed Gloria there, in order for her to have a home while she puts her life together.  This adolescent boy meets a very ignominious ending during the final act shootout.

Despite The Night of the Executioner being filmed and released in the early nineteen-nineties, Naschy’s visual style and story content feel straight out of the nineteen-seventies in true grindhouse fashion.  Paul Naschy plays a bad motherfucker in this one, and it is highly recommended for fans of his work.
1. Naschy, Paul.  Memoirs of a Wolfman.  Translated by Mike Hodges.  Midnight Marquee Press, Inc.  Baltimore, Maryland.  2000: p.205.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.

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