As a kid I remember being at my grandparents house in Pennsylvania and watching monster movies with my uber serious immigrant progenitors rolling their eyes at the 'monkey shines' I was watching (..I miss them both, RIP..).
One that had me enthralled was a movie where aliens come to earth and then take the forms of recently deceased scientists who then seek to take over the earth by reviving what appear to be the classic universal monsters who they want to clone!
What an outrageous concept, but this was no campy film (like Plan 9 from Outer Space), it was utterly serious.
Watching this film I knew right away that this was not American and was in fact quite dark and almost hopeless in tone (and very low budget). But the monster versus monster battles were awesome with the Wolfman being the most sympathetic and beating both Frankenstein and the Mummy! Of course he is shot by the woman he loves in the end.
Not long after I saw another film in my hometown of pre hipster, high crime Brooklyn at night on television. The same actor was playing the wolfman again! Once again there was a real dark and foreign tone to it all and this time the wolfman fought an evil female mad scientist, street thugs, psychos wearing armor and a female werewolf! Once again the heroine sadly shoots him. This was almost too much for my young and sensitive mind. I remember the sad expression of the actor who was an odd looking but powerfully built man who seemed to fight more in his human form than even as a werewolf.
Who the heck was this guy? I always missed the credits and I could never find
descriptions of these films in the few books in the library that covered monster movies.
The Werewolf is my favorite classic horror creature (the Wolfman style, not the killing machine style werewolves in the Howling or Dog Soldiers, although they are cool in their own right).Misunderstood and not to blame for their curse, they were the truly tragic monsters because they were also human half the time and knew they would transform under the full moon! Nice and chivalric guys(i.e Saps) who did not want to kill anyone but always ended up putting the ones they loved in danger.
They were always portrayed by non leading man looking actors who emanated both vulnerability and a brooding menace/rage. Basically guys I could relate to (lol!). Lon Chaney Junior, Oliver Reed and the main focus of this journal entry, Paul Naschy.
With the 90's and home video (as well as bootlegs from japan where they revered
EuroHorror films and released them uncut) I finally discovered who this guy was. His film name was Paul Naschy but he was really a Spaniard (with Basque mixed in) named Jacinto Molina who actually wrote the scripts and then played the Wolf man who was a recurring character named Waldemar Daninsky. I also then saw he made many other non werewolf horror films with revived sorcerers, vampires, zombies, satanic possessions and historical inquisitions.
Jacinto grew up during the bloody and, in the end, pointless Spanish Civil War (Spain is a notoriously leftist country now where the Church is nearly dead so to me Franco lost.) but after peace resumed he was able to see some of the Universal horror films that made into spain. He saw Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man and was forever hooked. (That is my hands down favorite Universal horror film as well). You can see where his particular love for monsters fighting each other as well as being persecuted by humans came. A bit of a loner, Jacinto was bullied but being powerfully built and with a temper he soon stopped that decisively. In a way it was a metaphor for his career where he had to fight everyone from producers and directors to the spanish film industry.
Paul Naschy films to me (Along with Amando De Ossorio) typify what Spanish Horror cinema was defined by. They have a decrepit atmosphere helped by many real ruins of centuries old abandoned castles, cemeteries and churches(apparently they were mostly filmed outside Madrid). One wonders if some of them were the ones destroyed by the communists/anarchists in the civil war as Orwell described in Homage to Catalonia. Crypts, stonework, barren rocky woodlands, tons of fog, spiderwebs and creepy tombs and stone coffins. The poverty of the spanish countryside is quite apparent. The two other features that typify Spanish horror are of course lovely (and depending on the version) nude women who are both damsels in distress and sadistic villainesses and quite gory and bloody violence, possibly the most violent and nasty films of the time. Like with the Japanese films, War and death had a psychic impact even decades after the fact.
Italian films had a dreamy quality. British had class and the theatric tradition. Spanish films were ugly and mean. No happy endings, or hope and lots of violence, much of it done by normal humans and not the monsters!
The spanish thugs, both city and provincial, that appear time and time again in these films are almost as bad as the supernatural threat. Scientists were mostly insane villains and meant harm to the protagonists and often the monster itself was the most sympathetic player in the film. Even when they were a force of unnamed evil like The Blind Dead Templar Knight films of Amando De Ossorio, the human characters are often more vile in their lumpen mundanity or megalomania.
Naschy's Werewolf films in particular have his protagonist Waldemar dispensing bloody, throat ripping justice on criminals,bandits, rapists and murderers and equally to the evil women who abound in these films. This is not even done in a noble or vigilante way, its just that these cretins are foolish enough to be in a cemetery at night trying to rape the heroine under a full moon or a manipulative woman fails in her gamble to control the werewolf for her own ends. If you are a PC or SJW type, stay the hell away from Naschy films!!!!
The Daninsky movies usually ended with him being shot with a silver bullet from the woman who loves him and in a few of them, the woman also dies in the process. "The Wolfman can only be killed by a woman who loves him enough to die for him" is a common refrain. Naschy always convey a sad and weary expression in his sympathetic characters but if the heroine is threatened god help the attacker, monster or human. The fight scene stunts are all done by him and he is quite an athletic specimen (in the power lifter vein, real strength not pretty boy body building 'strength') and pugnacious. As a werewolf he is utterly savage and leaping around and clawing the shit out of his enemies. However he also kills innocent women who mean him no harm sometimes so he is still a threat that must be stopped in the end (and he knows it).
My fave Waldemar films are Assignment Terror (the one with the Aliens), Fury of the Wolfman (the one with the mad woman scientist), Werewolf Shadow and its remake The Craving (where he fights a revived vampiress in the Bathory mold) and my favorite of all
Night of the Howling Beast, where Waldemar fights himalayan bandits, a barbarian khan, an evil flesh ripping witch and the Yeti! It is also the only Waldemar film to have a happy ending where he is cured by a rare flower! Finally some hope!
Other films were he is a sympathetic monster are Count Dracula's Great Love (where he stakes himself so he cannot vampirize the woman he loves!) and
The grim as hell Hunchback of the Morgue(Rue Morgue Massacres, I don't think Poe had this in mind!). Gotho the Hunchback is maybe his saddest character who nonetheless butchers the men who laugh at and use him in a brutal manner.
Conversely he also plays some real evil and unsympathetic villains as well.
Horror Rises From The Tomb as a revived sorcerer is one of his goriest and as sad as Waldemar or Gotho looked, The Count De Alamaric has a sadistic and evil expression and enjoys his evil doings. Also Vengeance of the Mummy as an evil blood drinking mummy who smashes in women's faces because they do not look like his long lost beloved. The first mummy gore film. Also of note is The Hanging Woman, Naschy plays a necrophilic grave digger but is a minor character yet he wrote the film which is one of the most creepiest and underrated zombie flicks
created in the wake of Night of the Living Dead.
He made so many films and enjoyed a renaissance in his career in the early 2000's when spanish horror revived. When I read news of his passing from cancer in 2009 I was quite sad.
Now a personal anecdote. I met Paul Naschy at his first convention appearance at the Fangoria Con (in the old Pennsylvania Hotel) in midtown Manhattan in early 1998. I recognized him and nervously asked for his autograph while he was walking with his two sons. He graciously complied and had his sons translate my english for him and I shook his hand. Later on in interviews he always mentioned his warm greeting in America and how he was surprised to have so many fans in a country where his films saw limited and butchered US release on video. Hey man, thats how we geeks are!
El Hombre Lobo!
Here, the rare Night of the Howling Beast aka Werewolf versus The Yeti!
Hope you enjoy!
Oh yeah its violent and not for children so I don't want to hear you bitchin, yahear?