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The Paul Naschy Collection II (Blu-ray Review)

While I didn’t get to review it earlier in the year (I’m not sure if any official copies were sent out for review), Scream Factory released a box set dedicated to legendary Spanish horror actor/writer/director Paul Naschy.  That set was built and constructed in the vein of their previous three Vincent Price Collection efforts. Luckily, like those sets, they are continuing on with a second Collection of Naschy films from his rather lengthy and dedicated career in the horror genre.  Personally, I’m not familiar with him, so I’m excited to dig into this set after all I’ve heard. He’s billed as Spain’s answer to Lon Chaney, having played many of the classic monsters (Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, Count Dracula, The Mummy and others) as well as his own. Coming in just in time for the holidays, this set from Scream factory will release on November 14th. Pre-order below to own this unique Collector’s item.

The Hunchback of the Morgue 

A hunchback working in a morgue falls in love with a sick woman. He goes berserk when she dies and seeks help from a scientist to bring her back from the dead.

When it comes to tales of the monster known as the “hunchback” my familiarity only really resides on the one from Notre Dame and the various lab assistants (Which, we kinda sorta find out he is in this one, too) from Universal horror classics. I’ve never really found him to be a “monster”, though if you look at the monster rally film posters hunchback is one of the added elements. Its a monster that has never been very scary to me or not seemed villainous.

Enter this Paul Naschy iteration. This characters is actually a pretty well rounded character, that while not completely on the side of a righteous do-gooder, you do feel sort of bad for him. He does want to do the right thing and seems to have a kind heart in certain areas. Though, don’t cross this Hunchback as he’ll probably brutally murder you to take you out.

What I really enjoyed about this film were the cavernous sets and some the Spanish hills as setting for the scenes. I found myself surprised at the brutality in the film and the gore that I actually got to see. I watched the “uncensored version” but I’m pretty certain the only difference is a scene where an actress is topless (There’s an obvious dip in video quality). For 1972 (I think it was shot then), its pretty damn good and those who love some old practical effects like yours truly are in for a treat. There are a lot of really terrific horror elements at play as well as some good monster-character work surrounding the horror that make this one a rock solid endeavor.

A Dragonfly For Each Corpse 

A killer is cleaning up the streets of Milan by murdering those considered as deviant. An ornamental dragonfly, soaked in the blood of the victim, is left on each body.

This was a fun little endeavor. Naschy doesn’t play a monster in this one, its a more straight role. He’s a detective trying to hunt down and track murderer. I mean, lets call this one what it is; a Spanish giallo film. Naschy has this line between being a slightly cartoonish character while also being able to harness in the real drama when it needs to be.

When it comes to the “horror” aspect of this giallo, it feels as if the balance is off here. When the movie opens up, it gives us a bit of a blood bath. But, when the next couple of murder arrive, they are bloodless, off screen or staged so you can’t see anything kind of affairs. Randomly we’ll get to see  a limb hacked off and a severed head delivered in a box. I’d get excited which each kill in its set up, only to be let down by a lot of them because I didn’t see anything. Oh, and the blood is definitely close to the Italian style, though maybe a little more deeper.

Overall, if you enjoy giallo films, this one will be just fine. Its not high art for one and nowhere near the best the Italians can offer, but it argues that they can have a spot in the sandbox, too.  Naschy gives a fun performance as the lead detective and at times this one does deliver the good sin the nudity and gore departments.

The Devil’s Possessed 

When the campesinos of a medieval overlord can stand his tyrannical rule no longer, the people of his town and kingdom revolt.

While not the first film in this set to be a period set film, this one is a little more akin to that sort of rich, medieval feeling than the Hunchback one was.  That was classic horror in a more Gothic, old school Universal monster sense of the genre.  Here we have Paul Naschy basically getting a sort of Shakespearean angle with a more American International Pictures / Edgar Allan Poe-Roger Corman kind of vibe. Within seconds of seeing this film you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Naschy here is the overall villain of this film, but it struggles to really get you to gravitate toward even liking the hero in it.    We know Naschy, he’s our icon and star, so when he’s devious and doing the bad things, you’re happy and relaizing that’s what you came to see.  Our “hero”  does really little to get you on board with him and isn’t the world’s most likable actor to begin with.  Its and odd, but interesting watch because of this factor.

As far as “the goods” are concern, the film features its fair share of gore and torture to go along with some sexy ladies in the mix.  While this one does have its pluses, at this point in the set, while one of the more lavish productions, its easily the weak link. Though, it does show Naschy in a completely different light and a more Vincent Price type of role rather than a typical monster.

Exorcism 

A young woman participates (unknowingly) in a satanic ceremony and winds up getting herself possessed by the spirit of her late father.

Quite simply here, William Friedkin’s film adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist was a cinematic and cultural phenomenon.  This is one of those 1970s exploitation films that try to capitalize on the success of that film.  But, what comes with it is less of a budget, talent or script that made the Linda Blair classic so memorable. Instead, they try to ramp up the gruesome deaths and throw some boobies and sex in there to titillate and at least deliver in some form of visceral reaction.

In this film, Naschy has the role of the main priest.  Its his most standard, calm and natural role in the entire set.  However, while it is the least flashy of all the roles here, the film is probably the most watchable. I don’t know where the “fans” stand on this film, but for me, I’m always down for some other country’s cash in/knock off of a super popular property.  While I think something like Hunchback at this point is overall an objectively better film, this might be the one I had the most fun with so far.

There really isn’t a whole lot to say about this movie aside from spoiling the crap out of it. The fun is in seeing the gore, sex and exploitative factors while keeping a running tally of all the nods and “borrowed” elements from The Exorcist which it so desperately wants to be. While people may yawn at how he’s the straight man here, Naschy proves to be a surprisingly very strong dramatic actor, giving a great normal performance instead of a campy or heightened one. The man shows his range of talents every step of the way in this set.

The Werewolf and the Yeti 

An expedition to the Himalayas leads to frightening encounters with the likes of werewolves, a sorceress and the legendary yeti.

Well, this one was pretty fun and likely one of the best in the set. The Werewolf and the Yeti definitely delivers in its title by bringing on both monsters but also in having a really good weird factor to it as well. As you read in that description, there is a sorceress as well. Oddly, while it does features some red, drippy drooling, this one is a cleaner affair in terms of gore and guts shown in it (Though, no I am not forgetting the dude impaled on that stake which is badass).

When it comes to the overall look of the film, it has a different feel than the rest of them. Its less fantastical in its aesthetic, though this does contain underground tunnels, enchantresses and other odd people along the way. This does return on actress from a previous film in the set. The film has a rather large cast, but they are all pretty good and rather fun to watch, especially the more eccentric roles in the underground caverns.

Naschy plays a man heading the expedition only to be bitten by a werewolf and transforming into the film’s titular character. Now, I’ve done some reading and I guess this is not one of his famed Daninsky werewolf movies.  So, overall, none of them appear on this set. You do get to see him giving a Lon Chaney Jr. type of old school Universal character and performance in this film which is quite fun.  This one sticks out from the pack and argues to maybe be my favorite of the bunch.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: Hunchback of the Morge/A Dragonfly for Each Corpse/The Devil’s Possessed 1.85:1, Exorcism/The Werewolf and the Yet 1.33:1 (The packaging lists Exorcism as 1.78:1, but it is presented here at 1:33.1)

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: I feel comfortable with saying these all contain rather similar looking images in their Scream Factory US Blu-ray debut transfers.  And quite honestly, these look of some of the most impressive images of vintage titles that I’ve seen from them.  There is a really surprising clarity, rampant with detail and texture that you will be pretty surprised with upon first putting the disc in. With the grain and dirt/specs and the like left in (Though far from having any sort of overabundance), these looks like they aren’t tampered with much at all, if any. Colors on them all are strong and the source materials seem like they were in very good shape. Of note, Hunchback and Dragonfly do contain 1 brief insert that look to be from a VHS-esque source. The Werewolf and the Yeti contains a note that they pretty much had to deal with what they were sent as the masters of the film could not leave Spain. It results in a lesser, but watchable picture that has some noise and also looks in need of some restoration (It too features some poorer quality inserts). You can’t knock Scream Factory for what they were given and I’m gonna let my score be mainly reflecting the condition of the other films.

Depth:  I was very surprised at the more three dimensional appeal of these films, especially the ones in the widescreen aspect. There is a good distance between the foreground and background images, with a loose and free feel to them. Movements are smooth and cinematic and no jitter/blurring distortion was witnessed during and sudden or sporadic/rapid movements.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and actually pretty well saturated here in the picture of all of the films. Details and textures are maintained in shadows, darkness and on clothing and hair that have darker colors. Aside from obvious poor source elements in areas of some of the films (That Scream Factory has acknowledged and noted), there was no crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty bold an natural ones have a nice rustic appeal. Reds, of course, when blood starts flowing richly, has a nice strong appeal. Greens, browns and very autumn colors are some of the stronger ones seen in the picture.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistent appearance in each of the movies from beginning to end.  Impressively, facial details reveal everything; sweat beads, stubble, make-up, lip texture, dried blood, wrinkles, scars, prosthetic effects and more. Its a very clean image.

Noise/Artifacts: There are some film deficiencies left in, like a spec/dirt her and there, a scratch and some grain. It all really works for the overall imae.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): Spanish (Castilian) Mono DTS-HD MA, English Dub Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  All the movies carry a pretty similar sounding audio track. Both Spanish and English carry a consistent hiss throughout due to their analog sourcing. With the exception of Exorcism, they are pretty loose, clear and well balanced.  All of these tracks get the job done quite well, give you the appropriate feel for the material, with a genuine presentation akin to its original era. Exorcism, however, sounds like its all digitally warbled and very muffled like its being played with something blocking its clarity (That’s the case for both the Spanish and English dub). Its pretty damn terrible and drags our score here down.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are loud and pretty crisp.  Sometimes S’s can hang pretty sharp, but due to the origin of the recordings, that’s to be expected.

Extras 

The Paul Naschy Collection II is a 5 Blu-ray Disc set that comes with a 24-page booklet that features an essay about each film in the set.

Disc 1: The Hunchback of the Morgue

This features both the censored and uncensored versions of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • By Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn of the podcast NaschyCast

Theatrical Trailers (HD, 6:11)

Spanish Title Sequence (HD, 2:11)

Spanish Credit Sequence (HD, :30)

Spanish Intertitles (HD, :19)

Still Gallery (HD, 3:44)

Disc 2: A Dragonfly for Each Corpse

Audio Commentary

  • By Author Troy Howarth

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:56) – Audio for this trailer has been lost. Included on this disc for archival purposes.

Spanish Title Sequence (HD, :54)

Spanish Credit Sequence (HD, 1:17)

Still Gallery (HD, 2:05)

Disc 3: The Devil’s Possessed

Theatrical Trailers (HD, 6:57)

Spanish Title Sequence (HD, 1:10)

Spanish Credit Sequence (HD, 1:46)

Disc 4: Exorcism

Audio Commentary

  • By Author Troy Howarth

Theatrical Trailers (HD, 5:11)

Alternate “Clothed” Versions of the Nude Scenes for the Original Spanish Release (HD, 5:58)

Still Gallery (HD, 3:45)

Disc 5: The Werewolf and the Yeti

Still Gallery (HD, 2:41)

Summary 

Consider me a new fan of Mr. Paul Naschy. This set was a very nice assortment of different offerings from him, I’m definitely going to go back and purchase the first set now and hope they come out with a third one. All the film feature some impressive video transfers with audio that definitely is of its time but is enough to get the job done or provide some novelty. Extras are light, but you gotta remember where these films are coming from, so whatever can be supplied is welcome. Just getting these films restored and on Blu-ray in the US is bonus alone. This will make a great present for any horror history aficionado.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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