Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shadows of Blood (1988): or, Amsterdamaged

That's right--there is no poster for this movie.
In the late 80s, the port of Amsterdam is rocked by a series of brazen and motiveless murders. Local police are stymied, until they learn through Interpol that two vicious serial killers have escaped a French asylum and are currently engaged in a friendly competition to see who can deal the most Dutch death. One of the men (Barry Fleming) is a maniacal, hatchet-faced freak who nurses romantic delusions about finding true love, along with an extreme sensitivity about his male-pattern baldness. The other, played by his Mad Mad Mad Mad Magnificence Paul Naschy, is a grizzled, cigar-smoking old Spaniard, who turned to serial killing after a successful career as a b-movie horror star and champion power lifter...hey waitaminnit!

Shadows of Blood (1988, dir. Sydney Ling) is something of an oddity in Naschy's career. A flick so obscure it doesn't even have an IMDb entry--in fact, Paul is the only member of the cast whose IMDb page seems to exist!--the film was apparently a direct-to-video effort produced for the burgeoning Dutch VHS market. Like many of the early shot-on-video productions, this one suffers from terrible videography, laughable video effects, and incredibly amateurish acting from everyone but the Mighty Mighty Molina. While it's probably only of interest to hardcore Naschyphiles and obsessive DTV collectors, the movie still boasts enough MADness to make it an enjoyable waste of 70 minutes, at least for connoisseurs of trash cinema like your ever lovin' Vicar.


There is really no plot or character development to speak of here--we meet Fleming's killer window-shopping in Amsterdam, walking down the street like a regular (if funny-looking) tourist. On a busy thoroughfare, he sees a young New Waver coming toward him, and something behind his eyes just snaps! Without even checking whether all ist klar, Der Kommissar, he throttles the young punk on the hood of a nearby Citroen! Whether from lack of social engagement or crippling politeness, the other Amsterdammers passing by on the street take no notice.

"I told you not to put mayonnaise on my fries, but YOU JUST DIDN'T LISTEN!"

Later, Fleming meets Paul's character (who for sake of simplicity we'll call "Paul") and they discuss their newfound freedom and what they intend to do with it--which seems to be mainly random, motiveless stranglings. Of interest to Naschy fans here is that Paul speaks his few lines in English--though so heavily accented and with such strange inflection, he's clearly working it phonetically. (No shame there though--ALL of the actors in the movie seem to be reciting their lines phonetically, with the exception of a wisecracking Cockney detective on the Amsterdam police force, who seems to serve no other purpose in the movie.) I for one got a strong Lugosi vibe off Naschy's dialogue here, which of course made me giggle with glee.

"I crap bigger than you!"
Eager to show the youngster how it's done, Paul checks into a bed & breakfast. Moments after dropping his luggage in his room, he drags a chambermaid in by the throat! (In the first of many instances of somewhat effective black humor, Paul thoughtfully puts out the "Do Not Disturb" sign. Also, in the first of many instances of filmmaking flubs, we next see Paul stepping around a stage light to get to his mark.) Still spry despite his 55 years, Paul stalks his prey before executing a stunning leap attack!

As the bodies pile up, the Amsterdam police force finally takes notice. Though the tough-as-nails female chief orders her men to bring the killers in before Interpol can come in and trample the case, her elderly, Carlsberg-swilling flatfoots make no progress. Meanwhile Fleming strangles a hobo, and Paul one-ups him by walking into a cafe, ordering a dish of soup (or "soap"--it's hard to tell), and then strangling a Debbie Harry lookalike before his meal can even be served! A fellow diner, sitting literally the next table over, does nothing to help...though he may well have simply been paralyzed by Paul's mesmerizing manliness.

With no clues to go on (except presumably the DOZENS of eyewitnesses to every single murder!), the chieftess is forced to accept the help of an also-elderly Interpol agent, apparently sent over from their Department of International Standing Around with Hands in Pockets. (He's the best there is at what he does!) The agent fills them in on the killers' backstories, which include the fact that Paul has murdered 22 people, and his apprentice a respectable 19--not counting the latest additions. Together the crack task force investigate several tabacs, bars, and hotel bars, finding nothing but a series of suspicious-looking cocktails that must be immediately eliminated.

"Nope, no killers under the crumpets! Maybe at the bottom of this glass, then?"

From there on out, it's a series of curious events. Fleming strangles more random passersby. Paul throttles a few too--including one fat video editor (?), whom he takes out while wearing a Venetian plague doctor mask!--but later diversifies into stabbings and power-drillings. Things take a strange turn when Fleming starts courting a hollow-eyed local woman, who is not put off by his goblin-like face and penchant for killing people during lulls in the conversational courtship. Meanwhile Paul has an odd interlude wherein he meets an elderly Dutch serial killer to talk shop with, and later has his humanity reawakened by the not-so-skillful warblings of a homeless flautist. Seriously.

Fun fact: Naschy spent a good portion of the 80s touring with Jethro Tull
Things come to a head when Fleming senselessly murders the old flute-blower, which causes a rift in his friendship with Paul--a rift that's only exacerbated when Paul garottes Fleming's girlfriend before his eyes! Somehow the cops FINALLY catch up with the younger killer, leading to a foot chase and a showdown in which Fleming laughs like Dwight Frye on nitrous oxide and rips off his hitherto-unmentioned toupee! The police are powerless against such insanity, so it's up to Paul to put Fleming down like the rabid dog he is. As the chief of police stands by completely inactive--saying nonsensically via voice-over that "Perhaps it's better he gets away!" (wha?)--we get a flashback montage with strange video effects of blood-colored hands over the footage, grasping at the old killer while he offs victim after victim. Perhaps these are the "shadows of blood" that haunt him and inspire his murderousness? Director Ling leaves us to ponder this mystery as the end credits roll, and treats us to one of the most infectiously awful title songs I've ever heard in a Naschy flick.

Shadows of Blood is a terrible, terrible movie, and one that I'm sure Paul was not sorry to have left off most of his filmographies. Apart from a short write-up on the indispensible, there's little information in English about this flick, and many fans would probably say that's for the better. It definitely seems beneath Paul's considerable talents, and even the man himself seems to be uncharacteristically phoning in much of the performance, his eyes only on the paycheck waiting at the end. (Apart from those few lines alluded to earlier, most of Paul's acting here is done via broad gestures and pantomime.) Bad script, bad acting, a terrible Casio-fart score, and bad cinematography abound; it's little wonder that few if any of the other people involved have any further discernible film credits.

Your guess is as good as mine
Still, whether because of my own unique mental malformations, or because I'm always under the sway the Magic of the Mighty Molina, I admit to enjoying Shadows of Blood more than a little. The plot device of the competing serial killers isn't a bad idea, and the outlandish brazenness of their killings was a source of laugh-out-loud entertainment to me. Though I couldn't argue that it's anything other than one of the worst films in Naschy's long career, I nonetheless ended the flick with my trademark Naschy-induced grin on full beam. I was never bored by it, which is of course the gold standard for trash cinema in my opinion.

So for me and other Naschy completists, I would rate the film at 2 thumbs, something you need to see and might even enjoy. But for the average moviegoer, that rating would have to drop considerably, maybe even to the 1 thumb range. I freely admit to my bias--but what can I say? Naschy always makes me happy. Rest in peace, you wonderful madman. You are missed.

More images from Shadows of Blood (1988):





"Waiter, there's a Fly Girl in my soup!"

"Yeah, everyone keeps telling me Alcohol Niet Ils Ik Ru, but I don't believe it!"

That's right! KNEEL, PEASANT!

The Ghost Hand goes for Paul's Booty. Can you blame it?

Even Paul doesn't know what he was thinking


Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The Man
It hardly seems like two years have passed since Jacinto Molina, known to his still-growing legions of fans as the Lon Chaney of Spain, Paul Naschy, shuffled off this mortal coil and took his final bow. Followers of this blog know what Naschy's legacy means to the Duke and me: he was quite literally the impetus of this project of ours, and the subject of its first-ever review post. He left behind a legacy of joy, terror, and madness matched by few, and (in our humbles) surpassed by none.

He is sorely missed. We shall not see his like again.

It may seem incredible to some, but here, two years after the day I woke to discover that my icon and hero had succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 75, I still get tears in my eyes just thinking about it. At some point between that first giddy discovery of Naschy's work, through countless visits to his monster-choked realm, from the dizzying heights of his Waldemar Daninsky saga to the saddening lows of his bitter, fallow years, Naschy stopped being just an image on the screen, just an old man from a foreign land whose interests and passions neatly dovetailed with mine; he became, in a sense, one of my dearest friends. And his loss was hard to take. It still is.

The Myth

Though I have delved deeply into the legacy Naschy left behind, I still have much to discover. Later today I will be posting one of these until-now-untapped discoveries. But in the meantime, as my tribute and monument to my much admired and even-more missed old friend, I collect here all the Naschyness of the blog for your reference and enjoyment.

Rest in peace, Paul. Gracias.

The Legend

And remember last year, the glorious outpouring of love that was the Paul Naschy Blogathon? You can still visit all those links too! And well you should!

EDIT: It appears I've jumped the gun with my grief, as Naschy's official date of death is November 30. :( I'm letting this stand, though--expect my review of my latest Naschy viewing tomorrow.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Birthday to The Duke of DVD!

"Getting old ain't for pussies, verily."
 Two thousand years ago, in the Australian bush near what is now Bumbang, Victoria, an Aborigine shaman fell into a Dreaming in which he saw a huge, flesh-puddled mass, barely human, surrounded by heaps of gold, piles of roasted wallabies, and the twisted limbs of a thousand writhing damned. The poor man never fully recovered, and spent the rest of his days with a severe form of involuntary sweating lalalogia accompanied by explosive incontinence. Though his people had no written language, for years the oral history recorded his bizarre utterances, collected by Swedish anthropologist Høyt Møøsewørryer in the mid-19th Century. The strange locutions--"Noshee!", "Fool-chee!", "Bah Vah!", "Arrh Ghent Oh!" and "Ooh, Dat's a Bollocky Bumtikler!" have never been satisfactorily explained, but many occult authorities point to this nameless seer as the first to glimpse the coming of the Great Destroyer of Glazed Hams and Devourer of Insanity, whose nativity today is celebrated by some, mourned by others, and feared by all.

Yes, parishioners, today is the birthday of His Flatulence, The Duke of DVD!

As is our custom on this most blessed and cursed of all calendar days, let us take a moment to review some of the lore and legend surrounding everyone's favorite aristocrat:
  • In addition to his expertise in all things related to Madness in Cinema, the Duke is also an accomplished (some might say "cunning") linguist, being fluent in Cantonese, Hindi, Creole, and Sasquatchian.
  • In 1935, up-and-coming Burlesque star-turned-actress Fifi "Bang Bang" La Desh penned a series of tell-all articles about the Duke, drawn from her experience giving command performances at his chalet in Cunter, Switzerland. Among the startling revelations in La Desh's memoirs, readers learned that after a particularly intense bout of drinking, the Duke once expelled three cysts in the shape of an Eye of Horus, a Pentacle, and Teddy Roosevelt's moustache. It was later learned that the latter was in fact the actual moustache of the ex-president, though heaven knows how it got there.

  • The Duke has one of the greatest collections of false limbs ever assembled. His prize exhibit is the false arm of Admiral Horatio Nelson, which he employs to open stubborn jars and retrieve hard-to-reach items from high shelves. He also owns the peg leg of privateer François le Clerc, which he habitually puts to more unspeakable uses.
  • On his last trip to the Amazon, the Duke and his party discovered a hitherto unknown species of beetle, Ducalias Dvdius Vulgaris, which as a defense mechanism excretes a pheromone that causes uncontrollable orgasms in its attacker. Shortly thereafter, the Duke single-handedly hunted the bug to extinction.
  • After receiving a pre-festival tasting pass to the 1979 Munich Oktoberfest, the Duke consumed every vat of ale earmarked for the celebration. As a result, a Novemberfest was held that year, the only such festival in the city's history. The Duke has since been banned from attending, but still sneaks in occasionally in the costume of a Gypsy prostitute.
  • The above is also how the Duke covers his airfare and lodging expenses for the trip.
"I find his eminence the Duke...disarming!"
"Also, a right cad. *sob!*"

  • The Duke is the 3-time world champion in the Vertical Luge, and the first to be inducted in that sport's hall of fame, by virtue of his being the only person to compete in a VLA meet and survive.
  • Among his many hobbies, the Duke enjoys Underwater Sculptural BB-stacking, and being tossed by dwarfs.
  • The Duke's middle name is Eunice.
Many happy returns to my friend, my confidant, my blackmailer and fashion consultant, and one of the MADDEST men I know--parishioners and subjects, raise your glasses to the Duke!

Don't Hate Him Because He's Beautiful

The Vicar


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Night of the Living Dead (1968): or, Slow and Steady Wins the Race

October Horror Movie Challenge, Day 31!

I probably don't have to summarize this one for any of my parishioners, but in the interest of keeping good form, here goes: after laying a wreath on their father's grave, siblings Barbara (Judith O'Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner) are attacked by a shambling, murderous lunatic. Johnny is killed in the struggle, and Barbara flees to a nearby farmhouse, whose sole occupant is a partially devoured corpse. Soon she is joined by Ben (Duane Jones), a take-charge kinda guy who is fleeing from a horde of similarly murderous shamblers. They discover another group of refugees in the cellar of the house--lovebirds Tom and Judy (Keith Wayne and Judith Ridley), bickering married couple Helen and Harry Cooper (Marilyn Eastman and Karl Hardman), and the Coopers' injured daughter Karen (Kyra Schon). News reports inform them that what's outside are worse than murderers--incredibly, the unburied dead are coming back to life to kill and eat the living! As the group of would-be survivors tries to find a way out, tensions mount between them and the zombie horde grows larger and hungrier...

Rewatching Night of the Living Dead (1968) for the who-knows-what-numberth time, I was struck as I always am by how near-perfectly paced the film is. There's little to no drag, and from the opening scene in the cemetery to the well-known shock ending, the movie hums along like clockwork--with a very tightly wound spring. Every scene has a purpose and pushes the film forward, gaining momentum as it goes. The characters behave believably, doing what anyone would do in a similar apocalyptic situation; even Barbara's paralytic shock and Harry's angry assholery are understandable and relatable. And Romero's zombies are slow, implacable, and overwhelming, setting the standard for flesh-eating ghouls that continues to hold today.

Suspenseful, thrilling, and still scary after all these years, Night of the Living Dead is the perfect Halloween rewatch, and a great way to cap off my 31 days of horror movies. 3+ thumbs, of course.

They're all messed up.


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