rare Spanish-Japanese co-production, Human
Beasts is pretty much Paul Naschy's show —
in addition to playing the lead role, the Eurohorror icon also
wrote the screenplay and directed (using his birth name, Jacinto
Molina Alverez). Naschy's werewolf films of the 1970s were quite
popular in Japan; as European investors grew scarcer he was able
to secure funding there.* He appears
to have been given a free hand on this project, the only caveats
being that the cast should include Japanese actors and the film
be partially shot in that country. Naschy's script duly incorporates
these prerequisites with ease, while at the same time delivering
one of the weirdest scenarios in his filmography. This is a really
(Naschy), a hard-bitten mercenary, has just finished up a job
in Hong Kong when he's approached by Mieko (Eiko Nagashima), member
of a radical Japanese political group. She dangles a lucrative
proposal: help her and her comrades steal a consignment of diamonds
worth millions. The group's leader, Mieko's brother (Kogi Maritugu),
explains that he also wants Bruno to pass on his professional
skills to Mieko and the other young "amateur" revolutionaries.
Bruno agrees, since this kind of work is right up his alley —
even without the extra incentive of Mieko sharing his bed. As
the day of the job draws near, however, he's informed that Mieko
is now pregnant with his child. Her brother feels this will only
secure Bruno's loyalty to the family and their cause.
He couldn't be more wrong.
heist goes down without a hitch, carried out by Bruno as members
of the group observe from the sidelines. With cold efficiency
he kills the shipment's armed guards but also ruthlessly murders
the helpless diamond company agent as the man begs for his life.
Mieko and her brother are shocked and appalled by this senseless
act of violence. "Professionals don't leave witnesses,"
Bruno says, then pulls his gun on them and takes the diamonds
for himself. "I'm sorry. It's too much of a temptation!"
He roars off on his motorbike, leaving the outraged Japanese swearing
vengeance. Mieko, her love for Bruno betrayed, is particularly
vehement. She wants the double-crossing jerk dead.
and her brother, assisted by a pair of hired guns, track Bruno
to Spain; in the very next scene they have him cornered in the
ruins of a dilapidated castle, where a firefight ensues. But Bruno's
a tough hombre. Even though wounded, he manages to kill
all of his attackers except Mieko, who pursues him through the
woods as he tries to escape (with the diamonds stashed in one
of his boots). Bleeding and near death, he eludes Mieko but is
unable to go any further. So he digs a hole in the ground to hide
the diamonds and then passes out.
he awakens, Bruno finds himself in very different surroundings
as the guest of Dr. Simon (Lautaro Murúa), a wealthy landowner.
He's told that Simon's daughter stumbled across his battered,
unconscious body and had him brought to the family mansion. Luckily
for Bruno, his host is a retired medical doctor able to treat
his wounds and give him blood transfusions. Even better, Simon
has not one but two nubile, hot young daughters (Azucena
Hernández, Silvia Aguilar) who appear eager to minister to his
every (wink, wink) need. Initially fearful that they'll
call the police, Bruno is understandably puzzled by the Simon
family's complete disinterest in his identity and why he had a
gunshot wound. When he offers them even a little information about
himself the Simons politely refuse to listen. Apparently these
Good Samaritans want nothing more than their guest to recover
his health and strength. Or do they…?
is quite the mishmash —
a hodgepodge of seemingly disparate ingredients
that our chef, Señor Naschy, is able to blend
together fairly well, or at least better than one might imagine.
Starting out as a straight action/crime flick, it then morphs
into a giallo-like mystery/thriller (an unseen murderer
is stalking the Simon estate) with elements of a ghost story
(Bruno sees a woman who is supposed to be dead wandering around
the house) before making a final demarche into full-blown horror.
A touch of politically incorrect kink —
Dr. Simon's sassy but masochistic African maid begs to be beaten
by her white "master" as she writhes semi-nude beneath
his whip —
supplements the familiar boudoir conquests by our leading man.
(...Because if Paul Naschy writes a script with foxy young babes
in the cast, his character is definitely going to have
sex with them at some point.) In perhaps the film's most outlandish
scene, the nosy veterinarian (Pepe Ruiz) who treats the Simon
livestock is devoured alive by voracious pigs!
does a solid job at the helm, displaying a knack for effective
visuals without being ostentatiously showy. (As with his other
directing efforts I've seen to date, he certainly knew how to
create and maintain a creepy, otherworldly atmosphere.) He doesn't
do as well script-wise, unfortunately, as the film's middle act
tends to get bogged down by a series of awkward flashbacks detailing
Bruno's relationship with Mieko in Japan and hallucinatory fever-dreams
he experiences while recovering from his wounds. These sequences
are meant to flesh out the characters but for the most part feel
like gratuitous padding. Now if only there'd been a tad more gratuitous
nudity… Hernández and Aguilar are among the sexiest ladies
to ever grace Naschy's films (both appear in Night
of the Werewolf), and while we do get a bit of skin from
them it's not to the degree one might prefer.
to think of it, we could've used a bit more skin from Naschy himself,
'skin' as in scalp. In the Japanese sequences he's
stuck wearing a hideous rug with very long bangs, absolutely one
of the worst-looking toupees — which isn't supposed to
be intentionally obvious or comical — that I've ever seen in a
motion picture. In the Spanish-lensed scenes his shorter 'do is
fine, but because the story jumps back and forth between countries
via flashback the effect is kind of jarring. The Japanese crew's
hair stylist should've committed seppuku to atone!
Naschy would star in/write/direct another
Spanish-Japanese co-production, the werewolf vs. samurai flick
The Beast and the Magic Sword (1983).
of BCI's releases are technically out of print ever since the
company closed up shop in 2009, but happily most of these titles
remain readily available. As of this writing the 2008 special
edition DVD of Human Beasts is still
being sold "new" directly from Amazon.
The DVD's anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer looks
terrific and is practically blemish-free. Audio is Spanish/Japanese
language only, with optional, easy-to-read English subtitles.
(Burned-in Spanish subs appear onscreen in the brief scenes of
Japanese dialog.) Overall this mono track is pretty good, although
the music which plays over the opening credits is marred by distortion.
Extras: An amusing video introduction by Naschy (you can tell
he really enjoyed doing these), the Spanish theatrical trailer
(which is chock full of spoilers; avoid watching before seeing
the movie!), a step-through image gallery of production stills,
lobby cards, etc., and the shot-on-video short The Vampyre
(23 min.), featuring Naschy as the undead "Lord Ruthven". (It's
not very good, but at least Naschy seems to be having fun.) A
booklet of excellent liner notes by Latarnia's Mirek Lipinski
provides background info on the making of Human