CRIMSON (1973)
Director: Juan Fortuny
Image Entertainment

By 1973, Spanish horror great Paul Naschy (aka Jacinto Molina) had played Dracula, a mummy, and of course half a dozen or so appearances as werewolf Waldemar Daninsky. During this prosperous career period, Naschy also found time to star in less-demanding roles such as in this awkward mix of sci-fi, horror and crime thriller themes. Best known internationally under the title that translates to "The Rats Come Out at Night," the film was released here on home video in the 80s as CRIMSON, the rather bland moniker that's stuck ever since.

Naschy stars as the leader of a gang of thugs who attempt to break into the safe of a jewelry store. When one of his members (Spanish character great Victor Israel) botches the heist, the police chase after them and Naschy gets a shot in the head. The gang goes to a washed-up, alcoholic doctor who suggests taking Naschy to a brilliant surgeon who is adept at performing advanced experiments. When they arrive, the surgeon tells them they need to find a brain donor in order for him to perform a life-saving operation.

The unwilling donor is a rival gangster known as "The Sadist" (Roberto Mauri from SLAUGHTER OF THE VAMPIRES). The Sadist gets caught with his pants down (literally) and is shot to death. In one of the film's most memorable scenes, two of the thugs remove his head by laying his body on the railroad track, allowing the train to sever it and roll down a hill. The operation is performed, Naschy lives, but as these types of movies dictate, everything goes wrong and he becomes a lunatic, taking on the deranged traits of said Sadist.

This French/Spanish effort was produced by Eurociné, the company that churned out many Jess Franco films in the 70s and 80s. CRIMSON is a partially successful film that tries to throw in lots of different ingredients, but doesn't have enough of them to be fully satisfying. Lots of Frankenstein motifs run through the picture, and Naschy spends most of the time in bed or on the operating table with white bandages wrapped around his head. It's still more entertaining than most Eurociné films of the period and the plot can be interesting if you let yourself get involved in it.

Image has presented CRIMSON on DVD with an Anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks excellent. The picture is always crisp and detailed, and colors are solid with fleshtones looking especially well-balanced. The source material is in very good shape except for some light lines that appear periodically. Mono English and French audio tracks are included and are acceptable despite the blandest English-dubbing you'll ever listen to. There are also optional English subtitles.

A great extra included here is over ten minutes of erotic alternative footage and outtakes from the saucier French version. These scenes were once thought of as legend, but have finally surfaced from he vaults of Eurociné. These sequences (in French language, what little dialog there is) have most of the cast members in simulated sex scenes that border on hardcore. Even Naschy gets into the action, but he has a double in some rear view shots and later claimed that he never knew that the extra sexual fluff was shot.

Also included is the original French title sequence (under the title L' Homme à la tête coupée) and the French trailer. (George R. Reis)

 

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