“Paul Naschy (born Jacinto Molina Álvarez) was Spain’s answer to Lon Chaney. He has portrayed many classic monsters – the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, Count Dracula, the Mummy and more. He was not only a terrific actor, but an accomplished writer, producer and director. This Blu-ray box set includes five stellar films from his long and distinguished career.”
The first Paul Naschy Collection was an eye opener to me as a fan of the horror genre as I was introduced to someone I had never heard of before. Through the films of Paul Naschy, I learned a lot about the man himself, as each film contained something very personal that he strove to include in each of his films. Not only were they commentaries on social and political happenings at the time, but also commentaries on humanity itself, as Naschy used the films as a lens to look at the darker sides of ourselves. The first collection contained five very different films, each one made at a different period in Naschy’s life, reflecting his current state of mind at the time. This set continues to provide a good balance and sample of the great achievements Naschy made in his lifetime.
Hunchback of the Morgue
Imagine Beauty and the Beast crossed with Frankenstein and this is what you get with Hunchback of the Morgue. Insanely entertaining, Naschy stars as Gotho, a hunchback who is constantly tormented and treated poorly in his small town, working in the morgue tending to the bodies of the dead. The only light in his life is his daily visits to an ailing girl, Ilse, who treats him as though he was a human being and not a monster to be mocked and shunned. When Ilse succumbs to her illness and passes away, Gotho lashes out at all who mock their relationship, killing several people.
As it turns out, the head of the hospital where Gotho works has been researching how to create life from lifelessness, and turns to Gotho to use him and his grief, promising to return Ilse to life if he brings all the necessary ingredients, including unwilling participants, to be used in the twisted experiment that yield something terrifying. Naschy consistently explores the darkness of humanity, usually juxtaposed with the monsters he plays. Gotho is no different, through his love and compassion, he is manipulated and his strength used to further the evils of man.
One thing that has always puzzled me is the decency laws or aversion to nudity during this time period. As such, there are two different versions of the film, the censored and uncensored version, which was shown internationally. Be warned, that although Spaniards may have qualms with showing women with little to no clothing, they have no problem showing real rats be set on fire and burned alive. It really serves no purpose in the film artistically or structurally, but I guess times have changed.
The Hunchback of the Morgue is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen 1.85:1. All the films of the set are prefaced by a statement that the prints were not made available to them to oversee their own new transfers. Although it is very unfortunate, as Shout is able to do some phenomenal transfers of poor quality prints, it seems their hands are tied for this set. Fortunately for us, however, these prints don’t seem to be in horrific shape. We do get some scratches, blemishes, and a bit of softness that you might expect from an older film, but the overall quality I was quite pleased with. It’s not perfect, far from it, but for an obscure Spanish horror film, it looks pretty damn good.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio Mono Castilian and DTS-HD Master Audio Mono English Dub. I’ve always been a firm believer the subtitles are far more accurate than the dubs, and carry that tradition to these films. The Castilian track is good for a mono track. There is nothing absolutely spectacular about it as one could expect, but the Naschy films always seem to contain some great scores to them, and this film is no different.
I’m so pleased when I see new material on these discs, and the guys from NaschyCast do a terrific job giving details on the film and on the man himself. Definitely worth listening to. On this disc you’re going to see:
- NEW Audio Commentary by Rod Barnett and Tony Guinn of The Podcast, NaschyCast
- Theatrical Trailers (Spanish and English)
- Still Gallery
A Dragonfly for Each Corpse
A Dragonfly for Each Corpse is one of the rare times that Naschy stays strictly in the protagonist role. Though many of his films he borders the line between good and evil, here Naschy is a gruff detective put in charge of an investigation of a series of murders in which a dragonfly is left at the corpse of each victims.
Naschy’s character, Paolo Scaporella, does seem to have a history of pushing the boundaries of police work, doing everything he can to make sure the case is solved. His history is appealing to the murderer, who appeals to Paolo’s sense of justice, writing letters to him throughout the film, detailing the reasoning behind his killings, an attempt to clean up the city from reprobates who have broken laws of both God and men.
This film is a very unique departure from his other work, influenced heavily by Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. It proves to be a decent mystery that keeps you guessing who the killer is, and with the history of Naschy, it is tough to rule out even himself at times. Although the end payoff was a bit disappointing in my opinion, seeing Naschy in a different type of role is always interesting to see and entertaining in itself for fans of Naschy who seems to be a genuine Jack of All Trades.
A Dragonfly for Each Corpse is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen 1.85:1. As with the other films, this does indeed include the preface that a new transfer was not available. This transfer does seem to be quite erratic at times, looking very good, to certain sequences that look completely horrible. Fortunately, the latter is very short lived, and most of the film does indeed look good.
The audio is presented in DTS-Master Audio Mono Castilian and English Dub. The track sounds fine for what it is, but what really shines here is the soundtrack which I absolutely loved.
On this disc you’re going to see:
- NEW Audio Commentary By Author Tory Howarth
- Still Gallery
The Devil’s Possessed
In this film, Naschy plays Barón Gilles de Lancré, who has come back from war and decided the best way to stay in power is to utilize the powers of black magic and ritualistic sacrifices to the devil. As his reign of tyranny spreads across a once peaceful land, his subjects and former comrades in arms rise up against him to put an end to the evil that has taken hold of him.
It’s a pretty simple plot, and like all of Naschy’s films, his charisma and energy is what drives the entire film. The major flaw in this film is there doesn’t seem to be enough of him in it, and the parts without him seem to slow the pacing down to a screeching halt. What I thoroughly enjoy about it, though, is Naschy’s dedication to the genre which seems to be of great interest to him, as the main character loosely based on Gilles de Rais, a historical figure in the 1400’s who was convicted of Satanism and the murder of over 140 children.
Although one of the weaker films of the set, I always find the period films Naschy writes to be fun, as he thrives in the world of magic and mystery, and there can be no better time to explore that than in the Middle Ages.
The Devil’s Possessed is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen 1.85:1. For the most part, this track is relatively free of major defects or blemishes, and you get a nice range of color. Most of Naschy’s films are so dark, but this one takes place primarily in daytime, highlighting the vivid range of the countryside and costumes.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio Mono Castilian and English Dub. Unfortunately, this may be one of the worst audio tracks of the set. It appears that many of the sequences have been added from different elements, and at times the audio changes from fine to horrible, creating a terrible buzzing noise. This is prevalent in several sequences, and quite distracting.
On this set you’re only going to see:
- Theatrical Trailers (Spanish and English)
In Exorcism, Naschy again plays a strictly good and moral character with an unwavering devotion to God as he plays Father Adrian Dunning, who becomes entangled in a web of mystery as several members of his friend’s family end up dead, with their daughter Leila at the center of it all.
Naschy claims to have written Exorcism years before The Exorcist was released and could never get it made. However, after the explosion of popularity of the film that spawned an entire sub-genre that was taking the world by storm, Naschy finally got the opportunity to make his film. Where this film differs from any of the other Exorcism films out there is the entire family dynamic and murder mystery that is added. It gives it another layer, that although it may be hard to sift through at times, really adds to it. The film suggests the girl is possessed by something besides a demon, relating to hints of molestation and incest by the girl’s father, which is a bit more real and more sinister.
Though the film is made with a miniscule budget, the effects at the end are pretty impressive, definitely creating a shock factor that one would expect in an exorcism film, and a Naschy film at that. Exorcism has a little more substance, demonstrating Naschy’s skill as a writer.
Exorcism is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen 1.78:1. This transfer seems to be one of the best of the sets, with very few small defects and no major issues noticed. Grain is a bit heavy in some of the darker scenes, which is almost all of the third act, but for the most part things look good.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio Mono. This track sounds good as well, with no issues noticed. The score isn’t as catchy as some of Naschy’s other films in the set, but the haunting sounds definitely set the atmosphere.
For this film we do get a few extras, including an audio commentary that contains quite a few interesting things about the film. Fans of Naschy will definitely want to watch again to listen to it.
- NEW Audio Commentary by Author Troy Howarth
- Alternate “Clothed” Versions of the Nude Scenes for the Original Spanish Release
- Theatrical Trailers (Spanish and English)
- English Credit Sequence
- Still Gallery
The Werewolf and the Yeti
Naschy again plays his most known character Waldemar Daninsky, who always seems to get bitten by some kind of creature at the worst time. Thankfully for us, here it is during an expedition to find the elusive creature The Yeti.
While looking for a path into the mountains, Waldemar heads into an area that is said to be cursed by demons. Lost in a snow storm, he seeks a cave for shelter, a cave which resides evil beasts who infect him. The rest of his party is captured by bandits except for Sylvia, the daughter of the leader of the expedition. Waldemar vows to search for her father while trying to find a cure for this terrible curse that has befallen him.
Naschy’s Waldemar Daninsky is a favorite of fans, and for good reason. He played the character thirteen times, and although the character seems to be unrelated in each film as far as I can tell, Naschy is always able to bring something new and entertaining to the character each time. The Werewolf and the Yeti may be my favorite one of the set, with Naschy giving a great performance. My only issue is the fact you almost forget all about the Yeti, as it’s really not even mentioned until the very end, resulting in a very anti-climactic showdown that Naschy admits was not what he intended due to budget restraints and a terrible Yeti costume that caused him to avoid lengthy close-ups. However, another tale with Waldemar Daninsky is always a welcome addition to any Naschy set.
The Werewolf and the Yeti is presented in 1080p High Definition 1.33:1. There are moments of poor quality, as it seems parts of the film were taken from other elements. The majority of the film looks fairly good, however, with a bright and colorful color range during the brighter scenes.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio Mono Castilian and English Dub. In some of the less than perfect scenes that I mentioned seemed taken from other elements, the sound does suffer a bit in quality. Thankfully that is a very short sequence, and the rest of the film seems to go on with a great score.
Unfortunately, only one extra on this disc, and not a very good one at that. With the popularity of the Waldemar Daninsky character, I was hoping for much more.
- Still Gallery
As with the first set, I thoroughly enjoyed watching these films. Hailed as one of the most recognizable faces in Spanish horror, Paul Naschy has captivated fans for years, and hopefully with these sets will captivate a new generation. My hopes came to fruition as I wished Scream Factory would do a second set, and again, I can continue to hope that a third set will be considered, as they haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the long and riveting career of Paul Naschy!