Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Crimson (1973), Or The Majesty That Is Paul Naschy

Like a starving ship captain who suddenly realizes that his first mate’s ass can serve the dual purposes of sexual release and dinner, I was feeling giddy as I stepped out of my calash, having arrived in the early morning hours at the townhouse of the local noted phrenologist Herbert Wakken. Herr Wakken had sent a hastily scrawled note my way a few days previous, claiming in vague words to have made a breakthrough. Needless to say, I made travel arrangements post haste, and off I went.

The familiar scents of associated with scapulimancy were in full effect as I crossed the good doctor’s threshold. Letting myself in and making my way down a long, dark hallway, I entered a room on the right, which was dully lit by a wax candle made from the rendered fat of an unborn human fetus. Averting my gaze from the arcane charts on the walls lest I become lost in their mysteries, I hurried on, through a heavy curtain door that was damp and rank.

Beyond lay my destination, a circular room large enough to hold a small congregation, but containing only Herr Wakken, who stood over a bronze brazier set in the middle of the room. Acrid smoke drifted up from the bluish flame that burned therein, giving off the scent of Juniper berries and scorched bone. Lifting a large shoulder-blade from the brazier, the doctor and I watched as cracks began to form and run throughout the wide bone, in patterns easily decipherable to those who followed the discipline.

The doctor turned to me and began to speak, but I already knew what he was going to say, so I held up a hand, signalling instead for him to continue. He nodded, and turned back to the brazier. From within the folds of his robes, he produced a stopped bottle, and dumped its contest into the pot. Steam hissed, and a low rumbled filled the room as Herr Wakken began chanting.

Suddenly, from within the steam, a blackened, taloned hand shot upward. Red, angry welts covered its surface, its three fingers grasping an object that made my heart skip a beat upon viewing. The doctor reached forward and plucked the object from its grasp. The hand slowly descended back into the brazier, a final hiss of steam and billowing smoke announced the ritual’s ending. The doctor slowly turned to me, a wicked grin on his face, and placed in my hand…

Crimson, starring the genius mangod Paul Naschy, aka Jacinto Molina, aka Paul Nash (as he is credited in this particular film), is a movie that titillates and enthralls on so many levels. Starring a cast of characters so nefarious and fabulous-looking that it forever scars the mind, completely ruining all future movies with its brilliance and subtleties, but alas I get ahead of myself. Let us start at the beginning.

Surnett, played by Naschy, is the head of a gang of thieves. Our movie opens with Surnett cracking the safe of a jewelry store in the early morning hours while his gang waits nearby. After hiding from a cop, the safe is cracked, but before it can be opened one of Surnett’s henchman, a guy who resembles a ‘70s sex predator, botches the whole thing by stupidly setting off the alarm. Fleeing in a car, the gang runs for the hills, only to run right into a police roadblock. In the process of getting the car turned around, Surnett takes a bullet to the back of the head.

The criminals escape back to their lair. Surnett’s girlfriend is called in and one of the lackeys goes for the only doctor that they can get to help, a drunk who owes them. The movie is filled with both intentional and unintentional hilarity, and the scene in which the bumbling lackey gets the doctor is one of the former. Unable to rouse the doc, who is passed out drunk, the thug grabs a vase of flowers, thinking to throw water on the doc, only the vase contains no water and he succeeds in dumping only flowers all over the oblivious doctor!

"I'm Keith Richards, have you seen Mick around?"

Finally getting the doc to come help, via a combo of slapping and threats, they race back to the hideout. The doc deems the task of saving Surnett beyond his less than capable hands, and suggests they take the gang leader to a friend of his, another doc who is on the cutting edge of mad science. Seeing no alternative, they load Surnett up and head that way. I must pause here to describe Naschy’s gang. First we have the idiot who stole a necklace and set of the alarm, next we have a stereotypical Frenchman who is tall and overtly gay. The default leader in Surnett’s absence falls to this grey-haired gent who alternates between brutality and more brutality to get his point across. Finally, we have the girlfriend, a busty blond who I’d assume Paul was hitting between shots (and sometimes in them!).

Arriving at the scientist’s house, the gang coerces the unfortunate doc into helping them via threats against his hot wife and young daughter. I say unfortunate because the scientist apparently lost the use of his hands in an experiment gone wrong. He takes Naschy in for an exam and quickly deduces that the only way to save him is to perform a BRAIN TRANSPLANT! Is that all? No problem! But where to get a brain? The gang figures out that the only brain that will do belongs to none other than Surnett’s greatest enemy: The Sadist!

No. Fucking. Shit.

With a name like that, you know we are in for a treat! A quick cut later and we are at a nightclub. Two gentlemen are watching a burlesque show. One of them, a suave, mustachioed gent, is The Sadist, the other his right-hand man. What a show it is, too! I haven’t witnessed such awesome since the last Druid orgy I attended. On stage, two men resembling Klingons and dressed like Russian sheepherders, leap around a nubile woman in a gold, sparkly bikini. Pantomiming a fight, the dudes push and pull, all the while the woman is tugged around between them. Suddenly, employing the use of real magic, the woman blinks out of existence!

A rare glimpse at a Klingon wedding.

The Sadist and his partner look on with the same bored expressions they constantly wear, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. Personally, I would have been at least somewhat impressed, but apparently these guys are hard to please. Inexplicably, the woman is suddenly back, now dressed like one of the dudes, and the dance continues a bit more before they bow to thunderous applause, but not from our two bad guys, no, they finish their drinks and leave.

In the next scene, The Sadist and his lackey are at a card game, which quickly goes bad when The Sadist accuses another player of cheating. Threatened with a switchblade and a gun, the other players quickly leave, which signals to The Sadist that he’d better head home for bed time. This allows one of Surnett’s gang to follow him. After being offered a flower from a local merchant, who recognizes both Surnett’s henchman and The Sadist, we finally get to see some real action. The Sadist is confronted by Surnett’s girl, who apparently left The Sadist for Surnett a while back. Claiming to now hate Surnett, she seduces The Sadist in a dark alley, allowing the trailing henchman to shoot The Sadist in the back! We get a tiny amount of boobage here, but that is more than made up for later.

Two of Surnett’s gang carry The Sadist’s body off in a large wicker basket to a local graveyard. Unable to perform the necessary decapitation themselves, they decide to bring the whole body back with them, until a stroke of genius hits one of them as they are passing a railroad. If you need a head severed from a body, why not use a train?! In no time at all, the head is neatly severed and off they go, leaving the body where it is.

Behold the brain-swapping power of the kaleidoscope!

The scientist, employing the use of his wives hands as well as a kaleidoscope, begins the brain transplant procedure. Meanwhile, in a flash of brilliance, Surnett’s right-hand man sends The Sadist’s severed (but now empty) head to his own gang, wrapped up like a Xmas gift. The ensuing scene, in which the head is unwrapped, sets off The Sadist’s gang like a nest of angry hornets. The Sadist’s girlfriend, in particular, is incensed.

Naschy has the right to refuse any women, but he lets them down easy.

Meanwhile, Surnett is finally out of surgery, which was an apparent success. After convalescing for a while, he regains conscienceness, only to discover that he now shares The Sadist’s perverse desires. These include throttling his own girlfriend and basically macking on anything young and nubile that enters his gravity. And gravity it is, folks! Naschy exudes raw manliness in waves; a virtual avalanche of masculine power that would turn even the straightest among us into pride-flag-waving friends of Dorothy. But, alas, Paul loves the ladies, and in this film we get to see that again and again. Whether pressing a young nymph up against a tree in a fit of animal passion or throwing a woman across an examination table and tearing open her shirt like a sexual beast, Paul approaches these scenes with a poise and grace that few, if any, achieve.

Naschy, pictured here, giving off his natural musk.

The unfortunate delivery of The Sadist’s head quickly results in most of Surnett’s gang being accosted by their rivals. The figure out Surnett’s gang is responsible via the flower merchant, who rats them out. The drunk doc is beaten to a pulp and unceremoniously dumped out of a car. After making his way back to the scientist’s house, he warns of the impending danger before succumbing to his wounds. Surnett’s girl is captured and tortured with cigarettes until she gives up the gang’s locale. A rotating guard is posted, but alas this is not enough for the machinegun-wielding Sadist-worshippers, who quickly surround the house.

Under a withering hail of bullets, Surnett’s gang is reduced one by one, until only Surnett himself is left. With a bandage wrapped around his head, he runs through the woods, before finally returning to the house and having his way with the scientist’s wife, who very much looks like a young Judy Dench. Finding the good scientist’s pistol, he runs headlong into danger via the front door, confronting cops who have arrived. In a spectacular death scene, in which no less than 25,000 bullets are fired into Surnett, Naschy collapses, a bullet-riddled man with a confused idea of who he is.

Paul takes what is rightfully his.

It is with great fortune that the DVD of Crimson contains as extras sexy scenes thought myth by some, and lost by others. We are treated to several scenes that border on the hardcore (no penetration is shown, but man it looks real). Most of them are dull, but the scenes with Naschy more than make up for it! Paul disrobes and kneads some breasts with his meaty paws. We get to see some bare ass, but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) Naschy chose to use a stunt-butt.

Behold, the stunt-butt.

No doubt this is to stave off the wave of suicides that would result from men everywhere, who would witness such a perfect male ass and choose death, knowing that they could never achieve this perfection, and knowing full well that this would be the ass by which all other asses would be judged by all of woman-kind. Thank you, Paul, for such a wise decision. Many of us would be eager to gaze upon the sun, only to get a few seconds of glory before our eyes ran like milky fluid down our blackened and crumbling faces, burned to ash by the awesome.

I have no words.

I encourage everyone to watch Crimson, and to check out the extras on the DVD. It is by no means a perfect movie, for it has far too little Naschy screen-time to be called such, but what there is works on many levels. I give Crimson Two Solid Thumbs Up, and deem it a must-own for Naschy fans everywhere. It is unfortunate that the movie isn’t known here by its international title, “The Rats Don't Sleep at Night”. So much better, no?

Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

As an added bonus, check out this picture of The Sadist. (hint: he's the one with the rakish good looks, the molester mustache, and the glint in his eye that says he'd do a whole room full of nuns before breakfast, then watch non-stop go-go dancing for 10 hours)


Tenebrous Kate said...

Darling Duke, there is so much, so right about this review :) While I didn't share your abundance of love for this film, I'm glad it exists because it inspired this unbridled Valentine to hetero mancrushing. Related to this--I deeply appreciate the equal-opportunity ass-bearing that I find here on MMMMMovies.

The Paul Naschy Boob-Touching Contract Rider was in full effect in this flick, though in much rapey-er form than I'm used to seeing. That was more than a little alarming to me! The Naschinator is generally in much smoooooother form. Such is the brilliance of his actor's craft that he was able to make it *look* as if the ladies weren't putty in his hands.

I raise a glass to you, Mr. Naschy. *clink*

Now, as an Official Naschy Scientist--do you think that dance number was ganked from an entirely different and probably-ten-years-earlier film? Cos it looked so out-of-place in this flick. Clue a sister in, wontcha?

The Duke of DVD said...

I do believe you might be correct in your musings on the origins of the dance sequence. Perhaps someone filmed a Beltaine ritual, or simply put a motion-activated camera in one of the Vicar's gardens and this is what was captured. I have spent many hours mulling over all things Naschy, and this is one of the greatest unknowns.

As for Naschy's rapist tendencies in this film, in my research I've read passages that suggested Paul himself denied the scenes in question even existed, so perhaps a double was used for most all of them. The close-up camera work does hide a lot, but Paul definitely grabs some free-range teat roughly a few times, I must admit.

Such is his dedication to the craft.

The Vicar of VHS said...

Ah, Duke, I remember the first time we watched this as part of our second annual Naschymas celebration. The relative lack of Naschy screentime is a problem, but as you point out, what's left is certainly entertaining and exciting.

I do wish the DVD company had taken the time to integrate the excised "sexy" scenes back into the movie itself, though, because in my mind that would significantly change the tone and overall effect of the movie for the better. Not for the added sexiness--in point of fact the scenes are NOT sexy at all, but largely to do with rape, torture, and murder (in fact, only one scene was a "good time" sex scene IIRC, involving the seemingly gay Frenchman who in the cut scene earns his nom de guerre "Booty Slappin' Pierre"!). The re-integration of those scenes would have taken the movie from a silly, slightly hilarious crime/mad science caper into a sort of gritty, disturbing, sleazily violent exploitationer. More visceral, dirtier, more soul-withering--as I say, BETTER. :)

As to the Dance Scene in question, I for one don't care where it comes from--I haven't been so entertained by a vanishing dancer since the Pope's bachelor party. As I've said before, the Europeans have it ALL over us for night club acts!

The Duke of DVD said...

In addition to the Booty-slappin' Frenchman, there's another scene that comes to mind that I failed to mention: the conversational go-go dancer. At one point in the film, The Sadist's right-hand man is out looking for his boss and stops back by the club that they were at the night previous.

He talks to a couple of the girls at the club, including one that appears to be in her 50's and who simply cannot stop dancing! Such a boogie she's throwing out, I just had to stand up and applaud. The henchman finally asks her to stop "wiggling about" so he can question her. Before they are even done talkin' she sets off again, traveling without moving, Jamiroquai-esque in her gyrations.

All of the oddness that this movie contains, coupled with the inclusion of His High Manliness, makes it a must-watch. If only the first half of the movie had had more Jacinto, then it would have been perfection. (and perhaps a few more booty-slappin' scenes)

The Duke of DVD said...

As an added bonus to our dear readers, I've included a bonus picture of The Sadist at the end of the review so that everyone can bask in his slimy glory.

Anonymous said...

Paul Naschy, un Must

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