Monday, November 27, 2017

THE PAUL NASCHY COLLECTION II (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)

5-Disc Blu-ray Set 
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Duration: 450 Minutes 
Rating: Unrated
Audio: Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, English  DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles  
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1), Full Frame (1.33:1) 
Directors: León Klimovsky, Juan Bosch, Javier Aguirre 
Cast: Paul Naschy, Maria Perschy, Norma Sebre, Rosanna Yanni, María Kosty, Guillermo Bredeston

Synopsis: Paul Naschy (born Jacinto Molina Álvarez) was Spain's answer to Lon Chaney. He has portrayed many classic monsters – the Wolfman, Frankenstein's monster, Count Dracula, the Mummy and more. He was not only a terrific actor, but an accomplished writer, producer and director. This Blu-ray box set includes five stellar films from his long and distinguished career.


Rating: Unrated 

Duration: 82 Minutes 
Audio: Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, English  DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles  
Video: 1080p HD Full Frame (1.851) 
Director: Javier Aguirre
Cast: Paul Naschy, Rossana Yanni, Vic winner, Alberto Dalbes, Maria Perschy

In writer/director Javier Aguirre's (Count Dracula's Great Loves) Hunchback of the Morgue (1973) Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy plays Gotho, a hunchback who lives in a small German village working in the local hospital morgue for Dr. Orla (Alberto Dalbes, Cut-Throats Nine). The simpleton hunchback is tormented by the locals and obsessed with his beautiful friend Ilse (María Elena Arpón, Tombs of the Blind Dead), the two have been friends since childhood but she suffers from a respiratory illness that is killing her. While at a local pub Gotho is mercilessly picked on, afterward he follows one of the drunk tormentors home, witnessing the man fall down drunk and apparently die, but I thought it was sort of ambiguous if the man dies or was just dead-drunk, regardless Gotho carts his corpse back to the morgue and delights in severing the mans feet and hands, reveling in the thought of the man being dissected by medical students. 

Sadly Ilsa passes on and Gotho goes a bit mad when a pair of coroner desecrate her body, forcing the hunchback to murder both men and hide his beloved's body away in a catacomb of tunnels located beneath the hospital. Eventually Dr. Orla figures out that Gotho is behind the recent spate of murders/missing people in the area, but is willing to turn a blind eye to it if Gotho assists him with his own mad science project which requires fresh corpses, promising the hunchback he will re-animate his dead beloved. Meanwhile Gotho becomes infatuated with Orla's attractive assistant Elke (Rosanna Yanni, Sadist Erotica) who for some reason seems to fall for the disfigured murder, fully aware of his distasteful penchant for murder.

This Gothic slice of Spanish horror features a good turn from Naschy as the sympathetically loathsome Gotho, he's not all that unattractive here, more sad than ugly, but he does what's necessary to make you feel for him to a degree. However, why these Hammer-esque gorgeous women are falling for him is less successfully conveyed, must be that winning personality that makes him so desirable. There's some nice moments of bloody carnage here, we have some severed heads and appendages, flesh melting in a vat of acid, and an unfortunate real-life rat being set on fire, which was completely unnecessary. There's also a scene of Gotho throwing one of the coroners into an iron-maiden, which is an odd piece of lab equipment to have at a morgue, but there it is!  There's also a hideous single-celled monstrosity that Dr. Orla grows in his lab which becomes a flesh-eating monster which out anti-hero hunchback most contend with.

The movie is a fun watch, fans of Gothic horror with a Spanish flavor will love this early and bloody tale of obsessive/deformed love and mad science, it has plenty of atmosphere and a surprising amount of gore-gags. 
Audio/Video: Hunchback of the Morgue arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory from a master provided by Spanish licencor Victory who would not allow Scream access to the original elements, which is sad, but what can you do. what we get is sourced from the available HD master framed in 1.85:1 widescreen looking attractive, but perhaps not Blu-ray defining. There's some minor speckling and scratches evident throughout, but overall it's pleasing to the eye, fine details look good, it's not the most crisp image, but never having seen it before on any other format I was very pleased with it. There are two audio options, we have the original Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, plus the option to watch with the English dub via a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track with optional English subtitles. Audio sounds good for both tracks, though there is some slight hiss but otherwise the mix is decent and the English dub is not awful, though Paul Naschy is dubbed as he is on all the English dubs on this set. 

Extras for this one includes a brand new audio commentary from the guys at the Naschycast podcast, Spanish title/credit sequences, theatrical trailers and an image gallery.   

Special Features: 

- NEW Audio Commentary By Rod Barnett And Troy Guinn Of The Podcast, NaschyCast
- Spanish Title Sequence (2 min) HD 
- Spanish Credit Sequence (1 min) HD 
- Spanish Intertitles (1 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailers (Spanish And English) (6 min) HD 
- Still Gallery (4 min) HD 


Duration: 89 Minutes  
Audio: Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0, English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0  with Optional English Subtitles  
Video:  1080p HD Wiescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Leon Klimovsky 
Cast: Paul Naschy, Norma Sebre, Guillermo Bredeston, Vidal Molina, Graciela Nilson  

This medieval film set in France is directed by Leon Klimovsky and scripted by Naschy, based on the true life story of 14th century knight and Lord Gilles de Rais, a notorious child serial killer who was also said to dabble in black magic, before being hung. Here we have Naschy portraying a similar character Gilles de Lancre, a Baron who once fought bravely for the French crown against England, but when he falls out of favor with the crown he turns his eye toward alchemy and mysticism, encouraged by his witchy wife Georgelle (Norma Sebre)and a sorcerer named Simon de Braqueville (Eduardo Calvo) to seek out The Philosopher's Stone, requiring blood drinking and ritual sacrifices. 

A french soldier named Captain Gaston de Malebranche (Guillermo Bredeston) learns firsthand of the Baron's madness and puts together a small ensemble of men to storm the castle and rid the realm of his evil ways. This one is slightly out of sync with the horror-theme of this set, a medieval tale of evil, sorcery and swordsmanship that is light on gore and nudity, but filled with plenty of action-adventure, including an eye-gouging joust, with some well choreographed swordplay and decent moments of dungeon torture, including setting a red-hot crown on the former King's head, ouch.

Naschy is in full beard mode here, which is always a good thing, looking badass with a patch over his eye, like a demented Snake Plisken from past, he does the role justice, his descent into madness and mysticism well played, there's a lot here to love, but it might be a hard sell for the hardcore horror fan who might be looking for some Spanish sleaze and gore, it's here in small amounts, but not enough to get a lot of love from the horror crowd, but if you love swashbuckling adventures this is a top-notch watch.  

Audio/Video: The Devil's Possessed (1975) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, again licensed from Victory who offer only the existing HD masters with no option to create a new master from the existing elements. Framed in 1.85:1 widescreen the image looks good, colors are nicely reproduced, fine detail is adequately resolved, black levels are decent, but not great. Grain is a more pronounced with this one, but there's not much to complain about in the way of artifacting or print damage other than some white speckling. There are two audio options, we have the original Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, plus the option to watch with the English dub via a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track with optional English subtitles. Audio sounds decent for both tracks, though the English dub is anemic, seemingly missing effects sounds and score hear in the Spanish track, and the Spanish track has a repetitive thrum that shows up in the final third I found annoying, the the dialogue and mix is more nuanced with it, . The score from composer Carlos Viziello fairs well in the mix, which has some oddball electronic excursions for a Medieval set film. 

Onto the extras we get no commentary on this one, what we do get is the Spanish credit/title sequences, and a selection of trailers, pretty bare-bones, was hoping we would get something from the Naschycast crew or Troy Howarth, a missed opportunity. 

Special Features: 

- Theatrical Trailers (Spanish And English) (7 min) HD 
- Spanish Title Sequence (1 min) HD 
- Spanish Credit Sequence (1 min) 


Rating: Unrated 

Duration:  94 Minutes
Audio: Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, English  DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles  
Video: 1080p HD Full Frame (1.33:1) 
Director: M.I. Bonns  
Cast: Paul Naschy, Grace Mills, Sylvia Solar, Luis Induni, Gil Vidal

In the wild and furry The Werewolf and the Yeti (1975) Naschy returns as Waldemar Daninsky, an anthropologist working alongside Professor Lacombe (Josep Castillo Escalona) and his lovely daughter Sylvia (Grace Mills) in Tibet on the trail of the mythical Yeti creature.  Against the advice of Lacombe, Waldemar hooks up with a mountain guide Joel (Víctor Israel) who says he'll take him through the mountains to the last known whereabouts of a colleague lost in the treacherous snowbound terrain the two become lost and Joel runs off on his own after hearing the howls of the mysthical devil's said to inhabit the area. Lost and alone Waldemar wanders until he comes upon a cave, inside he finds  a strange temple, he also meets a pair of sisters who live in the cave, the two gorgeous women seduce him, but it tuns out that these women are the fabled devils, and he glimpses them eating human remains, possibly those of Joel. As he attempts to escape the cave he is overrun by them women who reveal themselves to be werewolves. he manages to kill them but not before he is bitten, this being cursed by lycanthropy. 

Seeking a cure for himself Waldemar finds a monk who tells him how to rid himself of the curse, but he is then captured by a local warlord Sekkar Khan (Luis Induni) who has also captured the professor and Sylvia, intended for us by the warlord and the witchy  Wandessa (Silvia Solar), the pan is to peel their skin and use t for a bizarre skin treatment for the warlord. 

This is a crazy watch, it has werewolves, a yeti, blood rituals, skin-peeling, warlords, and cannibalism - there's a little bit of everything here for everyone, all mixed up in a goody stew of action and horror that never gets boring. Naschy is clean-shaven here for those keeping rack, in his eight film as the werewolf, and I love the look of the werewolf, Naschy's lycan is one of my favorites, I love the dark hair and enormous teeth, and he's very acrobatic in this one, leaping quite a bit as he stalks his human (and yeti) prey, especially great is the scene of him leaping from a large boulder onto a victim riding a horse.

Now onto the bad, for a film with yeti in the title the big-footed action is anemic at best, we get a scene of the hairy creature attacking the explorers and it ends with the titular fight, but the costuming looks horrendous and the creature is kept out of sight and understandably obscured for most of it, it's a real let down, but even that couldn't diminish the fun I had with this mythical mayhem.   

Audio/Video: The Werewolf and the Yeti arrives on Blu-ray in what I believe to be the full frame (1.33:1) open matte format, the image looks decent, the image quality fluctuates quite a bit, and there are what look to be some standard definition inserts from an inferior source that pop up very noticeably. Again, this is sourced from an existing HD master from the licensor with no option for a new scan from the original element.

There are two audio options, we have the original Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, plus the option to watch with the English dub via a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track with optional English subtitles. Audio sounds good for both tracks, some slight hiss and pops are definitely audible, and the English dub has a stronger music cues, but otherwise the mix is decent. 

Onto the extras we get hardly anything for this intriguing film,  not even a commentary track. This title was a bonafide video nasty, it has a little bit of everything thrown into it and I would have loved a commentary from Troy Howarth or the Naschycast guys to walk me through it, surely there are some interesting facts I need to know about this crazy film. As it is we only get an image gallery for the movie, but there's a booklet with this release with notes on the film.  

Special Features: 

- Still Gallery (3 min) HD 


Rating: Unrated 

Duration: 91 Minutes  
Audio: Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, English  DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles  
Video: 1080p HD Full Frame (1.33:1)
Director: Juan Bosch 
Cast: Paul Naschy, Maria Perschy, Maria Kosti, Grace Mills 

Written by Paul Naschy and directed by Juan Boesch (The Killer Wore Gloves)this Spanish Exorcist knock-off finds Paul Naschy in unfamiliar territory - as the good guy! Naschy plays Father Adrian Dunning, a priest called in by the family of a young woman named Leila (Grace Mills, Night of the Howling Beast) who at the start of the film is partaking in a satanic blood-drinking ritual, it's a fun beach-side scene with 70's hipsters gathered around a fire sharing a joint, drinking blood and dropping their clothes. Afterward she and her boyfriend are involved in a car accident that sends them plummeting down a steep embankment, while in the hospital recuperating Leila begins acting strangely aggressive towards mother and family, apparently having been possessed by the spirit of her dead father who was sent to the asylum years earlier, where he died. Arriving home she gets worse, this is when Naschy's priest character is called in by the family.

Adding to the intrigue is a series of neck-snapping killings around
the home which may or may not be attributed to the young possessed woman, I'll leave that kernel of intrigue for you readers to watch for yourselves. Naschy appears here in full-on beard-mode, damn that man could grow some sweet facial hair! as the subdued, pipe-smoking priest he is reluctant to declare the  troubled girl possessed, attributing her derangement to a psychiatric persuasion, not demonic possession, but once the girl begins speaking in her father's voice he changes his attitude, and a proper exorcism finally gets underway. 

Naschy is good in the role of melancholic priest, smoking away thoughtfully on his pipe, but the role is perhaps a bit too subdued, particularly when the priest begins having hallucinations of a snake coming out of the water faucet, he doesn't seem too unnerved by it. Another shade against it is that the gore and special effects are toned down, we don't get much in the way of supernatural action till over an hour in, though the final twenty minutes are electrifying. Leila doesn't go full-on Linda Blair till late in the game but the transformation is well-done, discolored and torn skin, with unnerving marble colored contacts in her eyes, predating in similar visual in Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (1981). Despite Naschy claiming the script was written before The Exorcist hit the cinema it's hard to deny the final film bares a few knock-offs of the popular film, including the vomit-spewing (okay, maybe vomit-dribbling is more precise) and a tumble down the stairs in the final act, though there's a nice man's best friend spin at the end and an ambiguous ending that could go several ways.

The movie has some pacing issues, it hints at some sordid goings on, some psychic/incestuous sexuality, and we get some minor nudity and gore, but this one doesn't have broad appeal, even for a Naschy film, but it's a good watch, those final 20-minutes make-up for it's previous shortcomings I think. 
Audio/Video: Exorcism arrives on Blu-ray in what I believe to be the full frame (1.33:1) open matte format, despite being advertised on the box as 1.78:1 widescreen. It looks good, colors are solid, print damage is minimal and contrast is decent throughout, it's not reference quality by any means, and it looks slightly waxy to my eyes. For the two full frame presentations on this set think it would have been cool if Scream Factory could have offered a matted widescreen presentation in addition to keeping the open matte format, if that's indeed what we're seeing here. Audio comes by way of both Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0, and an English dub via a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track with optional English subtitles. Audio sounds good for both tracks, some slight hiss discernible, and I noticed some additional music cues on the English track not heard on the Castilian version otherwise the mix is decent and the English dub is not awful. 

Extras on this one include a good commentary track from Try Howarth, it's scene specific in addition to offering up some scholarly insight into he film and Naschy's career, also pointing out that the English dub versions of Naschy's film's were done by actor Jack Taylor (Pieces). If you're looking for an additional commentary I would point you in the direction of the Naschycast podcast, the guys over there offer up one for this one and Hunchback of the Morgue on their feed.  The disc is finished up with alternate clothed versions of the racier scenes intended for release in span during the oppressive Franco regime, theatrical trailers, and English credit sequence, and an image gallery. 

Special Features: 
- NEW Audio Commentary By Author Troy Howarth
- Alternate “Clothed” Versions Of The Nude Scenes For The Original Spanish Release (6 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailers (Spanish And English)(5 min) HD 
- English Credit Sequence
- Still Gallery (4 min) HD 


Rating: Unrated 

Duration: 89 Minutes  
Audio: Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, English  DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles  
Video:  1080p HD Full Frame (1.85:1) 
Director: Leon Klimovsy
Cast: Paul Naschy, Erika Blanc, Angel Aranda, Maria Kosti, Ricardo Merin

The Spanish/Italian co-production A Dragonfly for Each Corpse (1975) was again written by star Paul Naschy and directed by Leon Klimovsy (The Devil's Possessed), a stylish Spanish giallo with a nicely evocative insect themed title, which was par for the course in the early 70's, along the line of Argento's Four Flies on Grey Velvet. This time around Naschy (once again playing against type as a good guy) is the superbly mustached Paolo Scaporella, a cigar-chomping detective with a tarnished reputation assigned to investigate a string of recent murders. A killer is cleaning up the streets of Milan, murdering a counter-culture dropout scum, beginning with a dope fiend before moving on to a hooker and then a trio of swinging hippies who are doped-up after some apparently strenuous group-sex! 

Assisting Paolo is the pre-requisite amateur sleuth we so often see in these Italian-style whodunits, this time embodied by red-haired Italian cult-icon Erika Blanc (The Devil's Nightmare) as the detective's wife Sylvia, a woman unafraid to drop her clothes whenever called upon, and there's a great scene here of her laying in bed looking through crime scene pics with a magnifying glass, completely nude of course.

The killer is black-gloved and features a face obscured by fabric, not unlike that of the killer in Mario Bava's seminal giallo Blood and Black Lace (1964), using an arsenal randing from a long bladed knife, to a small hatchet and a secretly-bladed umbrella! In standard giallo fashion there are numerous red-herrings, a veritable smorgasborg of suspects spanning the spectrum from lowlifers to high-society types, and in a very Argento-esque way it also features a stereotypically gay character, though treated with a bit more care than Argento normally did, but still just as flamboyantly, and we get not one but two transvestite characters. The clues include a missing button and a birthmark, but can out murder-solving power couple put the pieces together before it too late? 

I have not watched too many Spanish giallo films, so this was a notable entry, very stylish and with many of the hallmarks of a true Italian whodunit, including some well staged cinematography, a groovy score and black-gloved tropes, including some perverse sexuality and twisted psychology. It's clear that Naschy had a firm understanding of the genre, I'm curious to seek out more of his films and see if there are other giallo-flavored whodunits, this was pretty great.        

Audio/Video: This Spanish-Italian Giallo arrives on Blu-ray from an existing HD master framed in 1.85:1 and looking very nice, this is perhaps the most stylish of films on the set, attractively shot by cinematographer Miguel Fernández Mila (The Return of the Evil Dead), colors are robust, fine detail is decent, but there is a brief insert from an inferior source that mars it  a bit, but overall this is a very pleasing image that looks clean. Audio comes by way of both Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0, and an English dub via a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track with optional English subtitles. The score is pretty swanky, too, with loads of fuzzed-out guitar and a good groove, not on par with Argento's Goblin or Morricone scores but pretty great just the same. 

Again we have another fine commentary from author Troy Howarth, who does a great job filling in some details about Naschy and the film, how it relates to the Italian giallo films, and humorously apologizing for his admiration of Erika Blanc's nude scenes. We also get the Spanish title/credit sequences and an image gallery.

Special Features: 
- NEW Audio Commentary By Author Troy Howarth
- Still Gallery (2 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (No Audio)(3 min) HD 
- Spanish title Sequence (1 min) HD 
- Spanish Credit Sequence (1 min) HD 
- 24-Page Collector's Booklet by author Mirek Lipinski.

This 5-disc Blu-ray set comes housed in an flipper-style Blu-ray keepcase, each film presented on it's own disc, with a sleeve of artwork by illustrator Joel Robinson who's been ding some great work for Scream Factory. The reverse side features cast and crew info. The discs themselves do not feature any notable artwork, and there's a 24-page booklet with extensive writing on each film from author Mark Lipinski, making up in part for a lack of extras on the discs, particularly for The Devil's Possessed and The Werewolf and the Yeti. The booklet also contains stills, lobby cards, and poster artwork for each film. This release also includes a slipcase featuring the same artwork. 

The Paul Naschy Collection II 5-disc set from Scream Factory is fantastic stuff, it's great to see Naschy getting more love in HD from a another U.S. distributor. The Spanish horror icon has quite a legion of cult-followers, hopefully that will only grow with this release. I myself have only had a cursory introduction to the icon's body of work, so I appreciate this five-film deep dive into his filmography. While I do wish it had been possible to strike new HD transfers fir these and that we had more extras from fans and the surviving cast and crew I'm actually very content with what we get here. Here's hoping there's a third volume of Naschy goodness coming our way!