Saturday, April 28, 2007

Viva Naschy! Viva BCI! Viva Lipinski!

I couldn't resist bringing you some images today from the new BCI Eclipse release of León Klimovsky's VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES, written by Jacinto Molina and starring his alter ego Paul Naschy in no fewer than three roles. Fans love Naschy's werewolf performances, but I think this Devil character is the most fearsome image he ever conjured onscreen, with his cruel Mr. Hyde from DR. JEKYLL AND THE WEREWOLF a close second. In his autobiography MEMOIRS OF A WOLFMAN, Naschy couldn't decide whether or not this image had sprung from a nightmare or the effects of hashish. I never pegged this award-winning weightlifter as a stoner, but one feels grateful for whatever indulgences may have opened the portals to this particular vision.

The movie is actually not one of Naschy's best; in my opinion, it's kind of a mess -- a throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks conflation of Hammer's STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY and THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, Franco's A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD, and masked killer gialli with some cheap voodoo thrown in. Naschy principally stars as an Indian mystic, looking a lot like Marlon Brando in CANDY, but he also turns up as his own facially fried brother, Kantaka, who presides over the decapitation of a live chicken. (That's right: Kantaka... fried... chicken.) If you think that's funny, you should hear the score by Juan Carlos Calderón, with its stupefying "dow dow d-d-d dow dow" theme, or thrill to the Scotland Yard dialogue scene that runs for a full six minutes, or get a load of the scene where a morgue attendant is actually stabbed in the throat by a can of Amstel beer.

Uncut Spanish elements for Naschy's films are non-existent, but BCI Eclipse has successfully reconstructed an "uncut" VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES by wedding the export version with nudity to the Castilian Spanish soundtrack for the first time. The transfer is standard ratio, handsomely mastered in high definition (which doesn't mean it's in HD), and can be viewed in Castilian with English subtitles, or in English mono or English surround. I found the English dub a considerably livelier experience. Naschy himself introduces the film with the sort of portentous blarney that would have made William Castle feel proud, and the disc extras include alternate "clothed" versions of some scenes, the Spanish title sequence, Spanish and English trailers, and a wonderfully thorough stills and poster gallery compiled by MUCHAS GRACIAS SENIOR LOBO! author Thorsten Benzel. Incidentally, this book is a must for every Naschy fan: a paperback documenting stills and poster art from numerous countries pertaining to every Paul Naschy film. Most are in black-and-white, but each section is introduced with poster art in full color. The text is in German, but the book features a concise appendix that offers all the important details in English. If you miss out on this, you will regret it.

The cherry, whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles on this release are courtesy of Mirek Lipinski of Latarnia Fantastique International, who provided the generously informative text found inside the fold-out color brochure included inside the keepcase. Mirek answered every question that I had about the film and its cast, put the picture into context, and revealed some very interesting background stories that made me want to watch the film -- or at least portions of it -- again. It's a pleasure to read liner notes know that no one writing in English could have done the job better, though it's surprising to see FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR's Aurora de Alba, who strips down for her death scene, referred to as "a perfect MILF." Regardless, the notes are scholarly and BCI's Naschy series would seem to be in the best possible hands. I'm now looking forward to enjoying this title's companion release, NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF -- which, if memory serves, is a much better movie and one of the best Naschy werewolf pictures.

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