wasn't introduced to the filmography of Spanish horror icon Paul
Naschy until the advent of DVD. My very first Naschy film was
a good place to start. I've enjoyed every one I've seen since,
be they good, bad or just plain cheesy as hell. His movies are
at the very least entertaining, something that can't be
said of innumerable pics with much higher budgets. It was Naschy's
unapologetic love of the horror genre that endeared him to me,
so it was with genuine sadness that I learned of his death from
cancer on November 29, 2009, at age 75.
of the Morgue
is the latest Paul Naschy title to be released on DVD in North
America, and it definitely falls into the 'cheesy as hell' category.
It could well be the closest thing he ever did to a Mexican-wrestlers-vs.-monsters
movie... minus only the masked luchadors.
plays Gotho, a simpleminded gimp who works as a handyman of sorts
for a medical college's hospital morgue. Strong as a bull but
gentle of demeanor, his physical deformity and slow wits earn
him the cruel mockery of almost everyone he encounters. Only three
people in the whole town treat him with any degree of kindness:
Ilse (María Elena Arpón), the childhood friend whom Gotho has
been madly in love with most of his life; Elke (Rosanna Yanni),
an attractive blonde psychiatrist; and Dr. Orla (Alberto Dalbés),
a research scientist teaching at the hospital.
hangs out at the hospital, too —
she's a patient there, slowly dying of lung disease. Gotho visits
her every day to bring fresh flowers. (His entire existence revolves
around these visits.) Eventually she expires. Gotho snaps. In
a berserk frenzy he butchers two morgue attendants when he hears
them laughing about stealing dead Ilse's gold crucifix. Carrying
away her corpse, he takes it with him to his secret underground
lair, a warren of catacombs and tunnels beneath the local cemetery
that just happens to include an ancient torture chamber. Here
he hides out from the police, doting over his beloved. Unfortunately
Ilse doesn't hold up so well. She's gnawed on by rats, and starts
to stink up the joint.
desperation Gotho turns to Dr. Orla for help. He pleads with him
to somehow revive Ilsa, to "wake her up". Rather than
notify the police, the kindly scientist agrees to do all he can.
Which isn't much of anything, since he's only interested in Gotho's
subterranean home. The torture chamber is the ideal place for
Orla to set up a secret laboratory and continue his banned experiments.
Orla is stark raving mad, you see, hell-bent on creating an artificial
life form. Gotho will be useful in this endeavor, doing the doc's
dirty work — procuring body parts, for instance — in exchange
for the promise of Ilse's restoration.
me, things are
only beginning to get nutty.
obsessively labors over his creature, a blob of protoplasm christened
"The Primordial" that he's growing in a vat like a culture.
For nourishment he feeds it the severed heads of cadavers stolen
from the morgue by Gotho, but soon determines that only living
tissue will suffice. Meanwhile, Gotho continues to pine away for
his lost love — even after Elke the Shrink takes him to bed because
she's strangely attracted to him. With his goal so close to fruition,
the mad doctor has little patience for Gotho's pleas concerning
Ilse. The matter is rendered moot when a trio of thugs working
for Orla tire of the smell and dump her rotting corpse in an acid
bath. Needless to say, Gotho isn't too happy about this...
gory and patently absurd, Hunchback of
the Morgue is a real shock 'n' schlock show — both the
blood and the cheese flow with equal abandon. Since this is
a Naschy film which he also co-wrote you're guaranteed to see
him in a fight scene beating up some guys as well as making
out with a curvy babe, despite his playing a hunchbacked idiot.
(Chicks just dig him!) His performance is genuinely sincere,
creating real empathy for Gotho even though the character is
dumb as a fence post and guilty of some fairly heinous deeds.
It's the film's main strength as entertainment — that, and the
utter silliness of the scenario. I kept thinking, So when
are El Santo and Blue Demon gonna show up? In certain aspects
the movie has a definite Mexican luchador-vs.-mad-doctor
vibe to it (even if there aren't any wrestlers), and to my psychotronic
tastes that's by no means a bad thing. The script is pure melodrama
on steroids, cheaply produced and amusingly ham-fisted in its
execution, complete with inane, laughable dialog. (The dubbed
English version particularly so). As crazy Dr. Orla, Dalbés
of the Skull) chews the scenery like there's no mañana.
Gore is rather copious for its day, to include bloody dismemberment,
decapitations, death by acid, and other fun stuff.
you make it past the first 20 minutes — and you enjoy cheesy,
sensationalistic horror films, of course — Hunchback
offers a pretty groovy time spent buzzed in front of the telly.
(I suppose the movie's low point comes when a number of live rats
are actually set on fire, something you'd expect only Bruno Mattei
to stoop to. Yeah, I know, they're just rats... but maybe Colonel
Landa did have a point after all.)
Mya's release of Hunchback is repeating
the same sorry pattern of the company's Island
of the Fishmen DVD. The first announced street date was
missed, then the revised street date, after which only a small
number of copies were available for a brief period of time. As
of this review's posting the disc is currently unavailable on
Amazon (in new condition). If the Fishmen
pattern holds, expect it to back on the market in a couple of
weeks or so.
anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer uses a Spanish-titled print that has
seen better days, battered in spots and awfully damn dark in a
couple of outdoor night scenes. It suffers from an irritating
image jitter off and on throughout; "moire effect" crops
up at times, too. Still, it's not quite as terrible as I'd expected.
(Color levels are for the most part quite acceptable.) Such as
it is, the source print is at least the fully uncut export version,
retaining all the gore and a one-second flash of Yanni's naked
boob that was censored for domestic exhibition in Spain. In a
change from their usual practice, Mya offers three separate mono
audio tracks —
English, Spanish and Italian —
with optional English subtitles. For maximum cheese effect I personally
prefer the English dub; alas, it's the weakest and most muffled
sounding of the three.
Mya also happily departs from SOP with a genuine
slate of extras. Beyond the U.S. theatrical trailer there are
three alternate opening/end credit sequences on hand (for American,
German and Italian versions), along with four separate image galleries
(production stills, movie posters, video box covers, etc.). The
censored "clothed" version of the Naschy-Yanni love
scene is presented in a side-by-side comparison clip. 1/07/10