Directors: Carlos Aured, Leon Klimovsky, Jacinto Molina (Paul Naschy)
Scream Factory/Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory’s ever-impressive Scream Factory arm honors Spain’s King of Horror—Paul Naschy—in a fabulous new Blu-ray set of titles licensed from Victory Films that hopefully is the first of more. The five films (on five separate discs) presented here were previously available on DVD in the United States from BCI (two of them were on Blu-ray), and although they had some extras not present here (Naschy introductions and several commentaries by the man along with director Carlos Aured), this set boasts some terrific, definitive HD transfers as well as new supplements, and is an absolute must-have for fans of one of the greatest stars in all Euro horror!

Disc 1—HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB: By 1972, Spain's king of horror Paul Naschy (aka Jacinto Molina) was starring in and scripting vehicles that were becoming more and more offbeat, and I mean that as a compliment. HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB was the first of many films that Naschy did with first-time director Carlos Aured (one-time assistant to Leon Klimovsky) for the newly formed Profilmes, a company Naschy would be associated with for years. Naschy's outrageous script allowed him to toss in a number of elements that seemed to be culled from other movies, but they still help this outing succeed in over-the-top fashion!

Starting off with a pre-credit sequence in Medieval France, Warlock Alaric de Marnac (Naschy) and his wickedly seductive cohort Mabille de Lancre (Helga Line, HORROR EXPRESS) are accused of a number of nasty things, including drinking blood an feasting on human flesh. He is beheaded and she is hung naked upside down while shouting and promising revenge (Naschy also plays the brother/accuser as a knight with a disfigured eye). Centuries later (early 1970s) a descendant of Alaric named Hugo (Naschy) and pal Maurice (Vic Winner, A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL), also a descendant of a man who sent the evil duo to their death, are experiencing very strange occurrences having to do with the curse put upon their bloodline. After a wild séance, they decide to put their minds at ease by taking their gals and driving to the old family château to search for the buried bodies of Alaric and Mabille.

On their way there, a run-in with some highway robbers causes their car to crash, but Hugo is cool enough to buy a new one with the wad of cash stuffed in the pocket of his leather jacket. Once at the chateau, Hugo and Maurice are able to dig up a chest containing the immortal head of Alaric, but the damn thing has the power to force the locals and the houseguests into doing his bidding, eventually reattaching himself with his body and reviving his beloved Mabille. The deadly duo goes on a satanic spree much to the dismay of the remaining cast.

HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB is an entertaining late-night mishmash made up of the kind of thrills that make Naschy's films what they are. In its strongest version (seen here), it's packed pretty well with gore, sexuality and nudity – chiefly from the lovely Helga Line, one of the most underrated celluloid scream sirens, and sexy Emma Cohen (as Naschy's romantic interest) who was never too shy to shed her threads in front of the cameras. Nothing groundbreaking genre-wise (a sacred religious emblem is used to fight off the evil doers, a visit from the walking dead is strictly inspired by George Romero, etc.), but this has Naschy (in multiple roles, no less!) at his best, bloody gut-extracting effects that pre-date Tom Savini's by years, and more beautiful woman on display (in various states of undress) than you could possibly ask for.

HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB is offered here in its preferred non-clothed version (meaning nudity on hand) in 1080p HD in its original 1.85:1 hard-matted aspect ratio. The film looks absolutely terrific, with strong colors, sharp levels of detail, deep black levels and no print blemishes to speak of. The titles are in English, and the familiar English-dubbed track (which appears to be synced perfectly) is present with a superior DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, as well as the Spanish language (Castilian) DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. Optional English subtitles are included. An audio commentary is included with Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn of the NaschyCast podcast, and they do the same for two more titles on this set. Barnett and Guinn are obviously passionate Naschy/Spanish horror fans, and their commentaries here are a pleasure to listen to; never condescending (a few welcomed touches of humor), never stuffy and no filler. They share a wealth of information, observations and personal views on HORROR RISES and Naschy’s “kitchen sink” approach to its screenplay. Other extras include a section of alternate “clothed” scenes an alternate ending, the Spanish credit sequence, a Spanish trailer and an international trailer in English (not a U.S. theatrical trailer as it was released straight to TV here by Avco Embassy) and an extensive still and poster gallery.

Disc 2—VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES: Naschy starred as a number of maniacal monsters during his most prolific period (1968-1973). He'd appear as a mummy, Count Dracula, a deranged hunchback, and his most famous role of Waldemar Daninsky, the doomed werewolf. After directing several successful "El Hombre Lobo" romps for Naschy, León Klimovsky was back on hand for this undead entry, known in Spain as LA REBELION DE LAS MUERTAS and in English-speaking territories as VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES (and later WALK OF THE DEAD). Naschy takes on two roles; an East Indian guru named Krishna and his scarred brother Kantaka, who uses some kind of voodoo to bring back the dead and haunt a redheaded British woman (former model Romy, who looks great in a pink nightgown) after her father gets a hatchet in the head.

Like Klimovsky's DR. JEKYLL AND THE WOLFMAN, some of this film was shot on location in London, the city where it takes place in. Anyone expecting George Romero-inspired antics should look elsewhere. Klimovsky's zombies are mainly female actresses in black cloaks and very creepy blue face make-up who stroll around and grin a lot (they look something like the vamps in Andy Milligan's ultra-cheap THE BODY BENEATH). One haunting scene in which they attack a morgue attendant is somewhat reminiscent of Klimovsky's own WEREWOLF'S SHADOW (as well as a scene in the first "Blind Dead" film), with the bizarre visage of the pasty-faced gals mutilating his neck with the rim a beer can! There's some gore abound, including a great money shot where an old woman's severed head falls to the ground when her still-standing corpse is shaken. You also get a dose of nudity from Naschy regulars Mirta Miller (COUNT DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE) and Aurora de Alba (the vampire countess in FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR), who strips down to nothing but a pair of black panties to meet her lover in secret before being done in. There's also a rubber-masked killer playing with little voodoo dolls, Vic Winner as the macho professor hero, Spanish horror regular Maria Kosti (THE NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS) as a sexy blonde temptress, and an idiot servant (Pierre Besari, CARPET OF HORROR) who resembles a demented Yaphet Kotto with a nasty birthmark on his face. And let's not forget the incredibly upbeat 1970s score by Juan Carlos Calderón, complete with a froggy-voiced vocalist chanting, "Ba, ba, ba, ba...!"

Though less inspired than most of Klimovsky's other horrors, the film is still entertaining. Dream sequences that include Naschy as a goat-horned devil in full body paint and Mirta Miller painted gold, as well as the ghoulish female zombies make it game, and the film does not take itself too seriously. Naschy’s screenplay (penned under his real name as always) tends to go all over the place, only adding to the groovy delirium on display.

The fully uncut 1080p HD transfer of VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES is quite stunning and looks almost too good, if that’s possible (a noticeable improvement over BCI’s previous Blu-ray, released in the early days of the format). Apparently shot open matte, it’s presented here full frame with compositions always looking pretty accurate. Colors are very bold, with excellent picture detail, and the source for the transfer is in impeccable shape. The audio contains two audio tracks Spanish (Castilian) DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Both are strong tracks with clean and clear dialogue, and English subtitles are included. Extras for VENGEANCE include several minutes of alternate “clothed” scenes lensed (for the Spanish version) to replace nudity present in the feature presentation, the original Spanish beginning and end credits, a Spanish language trailer, an international trailer in English and a very extensive still gallery.

Disc 3—BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL: Naschy’s four collaborations with young director Carlos Aured (a former assistant to Leon Klimovsky) were all made during the peak of his career, with 1974’s BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL (Los Ojos azules de la muñeca rota) being a favorite among diehard Naschy fans. An obvious homage to the Italian giallos of the period, the film was released in the U.S. in 1975 by Independent International Pictures as HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN, a title which certainly stood out on marquees and movie posters.

In France, ex convict Gilles (Naschy) is thumbing along the countryside roads, looking for work. After stopping in a café for a cheese sandwich and a glass of wine (of which he takes one sip), he is picked up by beautiful redhead Claude (Diana Lorys, THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF) who has a horribly mutilated hand in which she wears an awkward prosthetic device over. Residing in a large house on a hill, Claude agrees to give the hitchhiker a job as the replacement handyman, and he is then introduced to two other attractive sisters: Yvette (Maria Perschy, THE GHOST GALLEON), a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, and Nicole (Eva León, VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST), whose only handicap is that she’s a confirmed nymphomaniac.

With a houseful of disturbed individuals, the barrel-chested Gilles has sexual relations with at least two of the women, while fighting off the demons which represent his violent past (this materializes in surreal visions of him strangling a former lover), though he seems to fall for Claude in spite of her physical disfigurement. In the interim, there is a killer on the loose who has a penchant for blonde-haired blue-eyed victims; his calling card is confiscating the eyeballs from their sockets. Naturally, when the authorities learn of Gilles’ criminal background, he is the prime suspect, but there are plenty of other possibilities, including a pretty blonde nurse (Inés Morales, FEAST OF SATAN), a friendly doctor (Eduardo Calvo, THE MUMMY’S REVENGE), a police captain (Antonio Pica, HUNCHBACK OF THE RUE MORGUE), a perverted busy body (Luis Ciges, also present in VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES) and a nosy barmaid (Pilar Bardem, mother of recent “Best Actor” Oscar winner Javier Bardem).

BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL is one of Naschy’s best efforts, a worthy Spanish imitation of thrillers like THE BIRD WITH CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, with all the usual sensational ingredients and occurrences that only happen in Naschy films, all present and accounted for. Giving himself another interesting character to portray, screenwriter Naschy’s Gilles has obvious psychological problems and uses women like meat, but somehow his good qualities level him out into a kind of antihero. The killings are more sleazy than stylish, but fits the film’s overall grindhouse-like texture, and as a giallo, its multi-leveled with the right amount of suspense and enough quirky characters to keep most Euro trash fans smirking. The majority of the film's nudity is courtesy of the shapely Eva León, in her love scenes with Naschy and an amusing scene where she peels her top to tease an unaccommodating doctor in his office. Although some find the mostly jazzy, upbeat score by Juan Carlos Calderón as unfitting, it certainly is lively and unforgettable, and the nursery rhyme hymn of “Frère Jacques,” played before several murders and during the tense final moments, is a clever ingredient and a haunting one at that.

On Blu-ray, BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL is presented in 1080p HD and full frame. From Diana Lorys’ bright blue dress to Inés Morales’ candy red plastic mack, the colors are bold and detail is excellent, and being that the original negative was used for the transfer, there’s not a blemish in sight. Apparently, the film was shot open matte and meant for 1.85:1 framing, and even though matting would have been nice, the compositions don’t look compromised too badly here as presented. Both English-dubbed and Spanish (Castilian) tracks are included in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, with optional English subtitles for the latter, and both tracks are strong with no noticeable hiss or distortion. The version presented on this disc is fully uncut, restoring a real pig slaughter as well as extra gore applied to most of the murders which was never seen in the U.S. theatrical cut. Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn do another commentary which is fun, friendly and informative not only with background information on the film but also as they give their assessments of the characters as well as the themes and symbolism running throughout it. Their analyzing of the music score is very accurate (and they also confirm that Famous Monsters artist Basil Gogos created the art for the U.S. poster). Other extras are a Spanish trailer, an international trailer in English, the Spanish beginning and end credit sequences, and a nice still gallery (look for a pic from THE LORELEY'S GRASP which ended up in here by accident).

Disc 4—HUMAN BEASTS: By 1980, Naschy was not only writing the screenplays for his starring vehicles, but directing them as well, always assuring himself an interesting character to play with at least several attractive leading ladies to shack up with. HUMAN BEASTS (aka “El Carnaval de las bestias”) is no exception, with Naschy this time out portraying a ruthless hitman who encounters many an oddball situation. HUMAN BEASTS marks a first in Naschy filmdom, as it's a co-production with Japan.

Mercenary Bruno Rivera (Naschy) plans to steal some valuable diamonds in an agreement made with his Japanese lover Meiko (Eiko Nagashima), who is involved with organized crime. After gunning down passengers of a car escorting the jewels along a deserted road, Bruno double crosses Meiko and her brother, who then vow to track him down and kill him, wherever he may be. The hunt for Bruno is unsuccessful, and he offs Meiko’s brother in the process. Badly wounded, Bruno ends up in the welcomed home of a rich doctor (Lautaro Murúa), who lives with his two beautiful daughters (Silvia Aguilar and Azucena Hernández). The family takes good care of him, but Bruno is victim to strange fever dreams, visits from a ghost-like entity, and he endures the almost “human” sound of pigs being slaughtered for an upcoming celebration.

HUMAN BEASTS is a really gonzo effort for Naschy, part action, part horror, and pretty sleazy all around. It’s not his best effort, but it’s certainly watchable, mainly because of his assuring presence. As Mirek Lipinski points out, it’s not unlike the earlier effort BLUES OF THE BROKEN DOLL, as Naschy again plays a loner criminal who ends up in a house (the same one used in the aforementioned film) inhabited by attractive females who vie for his attentions with their sexuality. The character of Bruno is an odd one, being a total bastard for most of the first act, and then becoming more agreeable and compassionate when it appears that the tables have been turned on him. It’s amusing to see the man donning a hairpiece which looks like it was stolen from a J.C. Penneys’ store mannequin, or briefly dressed as Napoleon to attend a fancy dress party. Naschy’s screenplay certainly evokes an overall impression that people are generally rotten and always stabbing each other in the back.

Among the hokum are gory slasher-like murders, an attack on a sleazy character by some very hungry pigs, a black maid who consents to some kinky shenanigans with the master of the house, and Naschy’s frequent co-star Julia Saly showing up as a mysterious family member who becomes initial to the film’s conclusion. With all this activity, the film could have been tighter, as several dialog scenes are nothing more than filler, and a subplot involving a young geisha girl carrying Bruno’s child goes nowhere. Even the climatic “carnival of beasts” comes off as a last-minute attempt to set up the film’s ghastly revelation, with a table full of silly characters garbed in Halloween costumes making fart jokes and using foul language to verify their eccentricity. Silvia Aguilar and Azucena Hernández (also Naschy’s co-stars in NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF, made the same year) are both stunning beauties, and Naschy has a few love scenes with both of them, thankfully putting their lovely figures on display.

The Blu-ray of HUMAN BEASTS is presented in 1080p HD in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The film seems to have been shot with low/diffused lighting and uninspired color schemes, so it looks as good as can be expected here. Grain is in check, and some of the images look softer than the other films presented here, but the image is still clean and consistent. Audio options include a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Spanish (Castilian) and an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track (an English track was not present on the previous BCI DVD). English subtitles are included. The English track is slightly problematic (the audio level fluctuates) towards the beginning, but then is perfectly presentable afterwards. The print source has some burned-on Spanish subtitles when several characters are speaking Japanese (only in the Spanish version), but the English subtitles are placed on the top of the screen for these few brief scenes. Extras for HUMAN BEASTS include a Spanish trailer and a still gallery. (NOTE: the back of the packaging lists the film at 84 minutes, but it actually runs a little over 90).

Disc 5—NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF: Naschy’s most famous screen character is that of the tormented werewolf Waldemar Daninsky, and this film actually marks the umpteenth time he’s portrayed him. As Jacinto Molina, Naschy always scribed the screenplay for the Daninsky outings, but by this stage of the game, he was directing as well. With this effort, he brings the character into the 1980s, reinventing him somewhat. In a pre-credit sequence set in the Middle Ages, Countess Elisabeth Bathory (Julia Saly, NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS) is condemned to death along with her manservant Waldemar Daninsky (Naschy), a being known to transform into a werewolf. In the late 20th Century, two greedy grave robbers remove the dagger from Daninsky’s chest, therefore releasing him from his sleep and once again unleashing a monster among the villagers. Meanwhile, three lovely students—Erika (Silvia Aguilar, RINGS OF FEAR), Karen (Azucena Hernández, THE NATIONAL MUMMY) and Barbara (Pilar Alcón, THE SEA SERPENT)—trek out to Bathory’s castle where the strangely-dressed Daninsky greets them after saving their lives from some highway scoundrels. Erika is actually a heinous Satanist set on reviving the Countess, while innocent Karen is the one who can give Daninsky the love he needs to end his infernal curse.

Known in Spain as EL RETURNO DEL HOMBRE LOBO and released in the U.S. in the mid 1980s as THE CRAVING, NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF incorporates elements from past Daninsky glories (especially WEREWOLF SHADOW), but despite the familiar territory and a sometimes patchy script, it culminates into an enjoyable movie and a respectable, stylish directorial effort from its star. Although there are doses of blood and female flesh to satiate modern audiences, this is basically an old fashioned monster movie, and Naschy injects plenty of gothic trappings (namely the immense ruined castle) while the candelabras are always lit and the fog machines are on full blast. There are no ground-breaking werewolf transformations here, just the traditional lap photography method, and Naschy fans would probably wouldn't have it any other way. Naschy’s werewolf make-up is different than it had been in the past and is quite effective, especially in close-ups, even if the headpiece part is quite obvious.

The werewolf sequences are also some of the best in any Naschy film, as he is seen attacking various villagers, including a couple of lovemaking travelers; he carries off with the topless female, a key image in the Spanish advertising publicity. Other ghoulish individuals include Daninsky’s disfigured female servant (Beatriz Elorrieta, THE CURSE OF THE VAMPIRE), Countess Bathory’s mummified brother (who bursts out of his crypt centuries after his death) and of course the vampire women themselves. As Elizabeth Bathory, Julia Saly comes closer to real-life portraits of the notorious murderous than any other actress in cinematic history. Silvia Aguilar, a stunning Jacqueline Bisset look-alike, is a most fetching vampiress, and takes a crucifix to the head ala Carol Marsh in Hammer's HORROR OF DRACULA. Narciso Ibáñez Menta—who played Count Dracula in León Klimovsky’s SAGA OF THE DRACULA—guest stars as a professor who gets knocked off early in the film. The eerily appropriate music score, provided by the CAM library, contains bits used in various other films. If the main title theme seems familiar, that’s because it was also used in Stelvio Cipriani's score for TENTACLES (1977).

NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF is presented here in 1080p HD in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The image is very clean, with sharp detail, good colors and a healthy grain structure. The audio is presented in both Spanish (Castilian) and English and both are DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 tracks (the English track is noticeably cleaner than the one on the previous BCI release). English subtitles are included. This version of the film is also fully uncut, restoring several minutes of dialogue not found in the U.S. release version. Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn are back with another fun and informative audio commentary, and they are obviously very fond of the film, calling it one of Naschy’s best and most beautiful to look at (and a “classic monster mash”), yet they’re not afraid to point out its flaws. They discuss the various cast members extensively, make comparisons to the film Naschy chose to remake here (WEREWOLF SHADOW), and point out some of the homages it made to other European and Hollywood horror films (they definitely have a good handle on Naschy’s Waldemar Daninsky/werewolf movies). Other extras include original Spanish beginning and end credits, a Spanish trailer, an international trailer in English, a few minutes of Spanish-language-only deleted scenes (mainly comprised of dialogue between two thieves out to rob Daninksy) and a sizable still gallery.

The package is rounded out with a glossy booklet featuring terrific liner notes by Mirek Lipinski. (George R. Reis)