Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Horror Rises from the Tomb (1972): or, How to Get A Head in Life

If you've been paying attention at all, then you know the undying and slightly disturbing passion that the Duke and I have for the movies of Paul Naschy, the charismatic and tireless actor/writer/director born Jacinto Molina and called "The Lon Chaney of Spain." His Waldemar Daninsky Werewolf saga is rightly hailed as one of the most entertaining series of films in the Mad Mad Mad Mad Movie canon, and anyone who loves both the ridiculous and the sublime has no reason not to be a full-fledged Naschy fanatic. The character of Waldemar Daninsky--a good man cursed with both La Marca del Hombre-Lobo and sexual irresistability to women--is one of the most admirable tragic heroes in movies, for my money.

But Jacinto is not without his dark side, oh no. It's not all tragic curses and noble quests against villainous vampire women and witches. In 1972's Horror Rises from the Tomb, Naschy shows us his dark side and then some, but without sacrificing the outrageousness and fun that are his trademark.

In Horror Rises from the Tomb we witness the origin of Alaric de Marnac: the vile, Satan-worshipping, witchcraft-practicing, blood-drinking, flesh-eating, knight-killing, baby-sacrificing, booty-slapping MACHINE that Naschy created as the dark yin to Waldemar Daninsky's formidable yang. Everything that makes Daninsky so great and tragic--his nobility, his kindness, his emotional depth, his cursed remorse--finds its opposite in de Marnac. In fact the only things de Marnac and Daninsky share is the incredible and irresistible manliness that any character played by Paul Naschy must indeed possess. That, and the fact that the babes just can't stay away.

We open the movie, as we so often do, with a procession of armored knights on horseback, as seen through a close of bushes and tree branches. It is winter, and the plants have lost their leaves, giving us a better view through their barren, bone-like limbs. In the rear of the procession is an ox-drawn cart containing the shackled magnificence of the Nasch. His glower, glare, and maleficent defiance of his captors is chilling, even from our hiding spot in the bushes. It makes the viewer glad he's chained, though still a little nervous, for what shackles could possibly contain such evil?

They're on their way to the Hangin' Tree, where a sentence of death against de Marnac and his partner in crime Mabille is about to be carried out. The reading of the charges is just fantastic, as all those I listed above and more are trotted out--what a laundry-list of crimes!-- while de Marnac sneers pridefully at his "accomplishments." Of course before they get around to carrying out the sentence the foolish kniggits give the unrepentant warlock a chance to spew a vitriolic curse at them, their anscestors, and his own twin brother, who grins down from one of the horses, scarred on one side of his face. This is reminiscent of the brothers from Vengeance of the Zombies, except in this case the scarred one is not the villain (though to be fair, we've nothing to convince us the brother isn't ALSO a bastard). Alas, that's all we'll see of the Marnac twin, as Jacinto probably rightly concluded that 3 Naschys in one film was just too much for the world to bear.

"That's right. I ate a baby. Want to make something of it?"

The whole execution scene is very well-executed (ha!) as de Marnac is beheaded and we get to see a particularly nice head-roll using one of the better prosthetic heads I've seen in movies of this era. Then they strip Mabille buck nekkid and hang her upside down from the tree, tarot-card style, to whip and torture her a bit before her own execution. Of course this allows HER to spew curses for a good five minutes as well. You'd think the inquisitor would say, "Hey! Somebody shut her up, for God's sake!" But they just never learn.

After some great organ music over low-rent opening credits, we flash forward to modern day Paris, or at least stock-footage thereof. In what is undoubtedly the same office used by the doctor in the sequel Panic Beats (watch for a future review!), a painter is working on his latest creation. He is interrupted by a friend, the beefy and swaggering Jacinto Molina himself, who invites him out to drinks. When the arrive at the drinkin' place the painter is reunited with his old flame, and immediately (I mean IMMEDIATELY) tries to suck her ribs up her neck. Get a room, you two! In the intro scene we learn that Paul is a witty but womanizing cad--a really great role for him.

On a lark they go to a seance (always a good idea), where the spirit of Alaric de Marnac is summoned and tells them the location of his and Mabille's tombs on Paul's ancestral estate. Of course that sort of thing can't go uninvestigated, so the friends agree to take a long weekend to check it out.

The seance scene is GREAT, lots of good camera angles and trickery, and some fine acting by the medium and Paul as the spirit of evil. Later, back in his studio, the painter starts working in a hypnotic frenzy, unaware of what he's painting until he stops to see it's a headless body holding the bloody head of de Marnac in its fist. In a truly creepy moment, Alaric appears as a floating head above the painting, dripping blood onto the picture and laughing evilly. Of course the painter dismisses it all as a dream, and tells no one.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

On the road to Paul's estate, the friends are waylaid by highwaymen, naturally.* The painter proves himself useless in a scrap, but Paul kicks enough ass for the both of them. Just as he's got things under control, a mob of villagers shows up and summarily executes one of the robbers with a shotgun! This is really a showstopper sequence, as Paul and Co. negotiate renting a car with the head villager while the rest of the posse goes about getting ready to hang the other robber, and another takes the fallen criminal's ear as a souvenir for his girlfriend! A more sadistic mob you will not see in the annals of cinema.

* (The attack by highwaymen is a recurring motif in Naschy's films, and one wonders whether some event in his past led him to keep revisiting it in film after film. Sadly no mention of it is made in his excellent autobiography, Memoirs of a Wolf Man, leaving Naschy scholars to guess and conjecture.)

From there things play out predictably but satsfyingly. They arrive at the estate and quickly find the remains of de Marnac and Mabille. Just as quickly one of the villagers is enslaved by black magic and brings both evildoers back to life, so they can rise horrifically from the tomb. Another great scene ensues as they take de Marnac's disembodied head and reattach it to his body--a recapitation, if you will--again, with some of the best use of a prosthetic head I've seen, cutting it back and forth with the real head of Naschy almost seamlessly. They sacrifice a Eurobabe to bring Mabille back in a fantastic and chilling ritual, and then Mabille and Alaric go on a romp for 7 full moons, seducing and murdering villagers and being as evil as possible until the painter and Paul discover the amulet of Thor's Hammers (?) that is needed to overcome the black magic of de Marnac. But will they prevail?

I loved this movie, of course. Paul's look is great throughout as de Marnac--very pale skin and dark stylized evil beard, with his crazy eyes workin' overtime. There's plenty of Euroflesh on display too, and one scene where de Marnac disrobes that will have you aghast and Paul's washerboard-style abs, not to mention the Hairy Pecs of Doom. The gore is great as well, with beheadings, lashings, slashings, and more than one chest-ripping heart-extraction. There's even a chilling zombie attack late in the movie, as de Marnac's victims now serve his evil wishes.

"Hi, we're lost. Can you tell us how to get to Manchester?"

There are some great shots as always from director Carlos Aured, including a beautiful death scene with bright red blood flowing down a bank into a running stream. Add some real sadism and preversity going on and it's enough to keep any fan happy.

But what's really great is the way that you're never sure who the protagonist is--for a while it's the painter, then Paul, then the daughter of the caretaker of the estate, then the painter again, until you really don't know who to follow. Several scenes where you are conditioned to expect a rescue (one of the main chicks is captured by the witches and held for quite a while in preparation for a Black Mass), let's just say you don't get what you are led to expect. Evil triumphs when you expect good to intervene, and keeps you guessing as to what exactly will transpire. The disorientation is delicious, and one of the best things about the flick.

Other good things:

Best Use of Nightgown in the Movie: the obligatory nighttime walk through the castle, with see-thru nightie over black undies. Zang!
Undeniable sign you're watching a 70s Euro Horror flick: a grief stricken teen wears a miniskirt to her father's funeral. I LOVE EUROPE!

So another Mmmmmasterpiece from the filmography of Paul Naschy. DeimosDVD has put out a fantastic special edition (with commentary from the Man Himself!), and it should really be on every horror fan's shelf. 6 thumbs, easily. Surrender to de Marnac, and may God have mercy on us all!

Can't sleep. Paul will eat me.


Anonymous said...

OK. I'm going to hang my head in shame and admit to not knowing a whole hell of a lot about Naschy. Seen a few films, but couldn't tell you which ones they were. I'm interested though. What are some good starting points, and what should be avoided?

The Vicar of VHS said...


I really don't think you can go wrong with any Naschy selection, but then I'm a fanatic. Horror Rises... is a fairly good starting point, though if you want to jump into the saga that made Naschy famous (the Waldemar Daninsky Werewolf Chronicles) I suggest either The Werewolf versus the Vampire Women (aka Werewolf Shadow), Curse of the Devil, or Night of the Werewolf (which just got a great Deimos DVD release).

Of course if you want the acid test you could start where the Duke and I did, with Vengeance of the Zombies (also a great Deimos DVD)--it's got all the goofiness and terror you can take. But it might be better to hit that after you know whether you like him or not.

And be watching MMMMMovies for further Naschy reviews...I've got several just waiting to be posted, and tons more yet to review. Use the category tags to explore. And let me know if you like what you watch!

Anonymous said...

Alright, tonight I bought Vengeance Of The Zombies and Night Of The Werewolf. I've got a stack of screeners and other DVDs I have to wade through this weekend, but I'll definitely let you know what I think after (eventually) watching them. Can't wait though!!

Decadesman said...

Horror Rises from the Tomb(uncut version), imho, is one of his best.

Great blog here. I just joined.


The Vicar of VHS said...

Hi Decadesman--

You certainly won't get much argument with that assessment, from fanatics nor from casual Naschy watchers. I've got a soft spot for WWvVW, but then I love me a Monster Mash.

Still, HRftT is definitely something special. And Paul is never eviller than when he's with the stunning Helga Line, imo.

Thanks for commenting!

kochillt said...

Pittsburgh's CHILLER THEATER introduced me to the delirious works of Paul Naschy in 1978. Avco Embassy imported many Euro titles to the US, and THE FURY OF THE WOLF MAN, COUNT DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE, THE MUMMY'S REVENGE, and HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB were all part of the TV package. I believe it is perhaps Naschy's finest achievement overall, featuring a character he would return to many times, that of a human monster whose evil is so total and far reaching that no one is safe. And at age 40, usually topless throughout the 70's, luscious Helga Line gets to display her unique Germanic beauty completely nude (only BLACK CANDLES can compare). The incredible DVD includes all the clothed scenes as well; no wonder I couldn't recall all those fabulous see-through nighties! HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB is full of surprises, a joy from start to finish, with all the ingredients (beauty and blood) that make for the ultimate Naschy experience.

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