Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Querido Paul

I'm away from home this week, so it is difficult to write something lengthy that would be appropriate for this one year remembrance of Paul Naschy's passing. And I don't even have my webmaster's access to the Naschy website. So for my tribute, I've dusted off something that really has almost no dust on it, for it seems fairly recent and still remains in my heart the way I wrote it after Naschy's death. Some of you may have read this before on Latarnia or elsewhere, but for those who have not or who wish to reread it, I offer it up here.

In his correspondence to me, Paul Naschy would frequently address me as "Querido amigo"--"Dear friend." To me he was more than that, however. He was part father-figure, part screen legend, part hero. I could never approach him with the familiar equalizing term of "friend." Yes, he was much more than that to me, and always will be. I believe this holds true for all of us, his fans. And it will hold true for the new fans that are coming in the years and decades ahead.

Who was Paul Naschy? He was born Jacinto Molina Alvarez in 1934, two years before the start of the devastating and brutal Spanish Civil War. He was a family man, for sure, who loved his wife, Elvira, and his sons, Sergio and Bruno. He was a graphic artist (he illustrated Elvis Presley album covers in Spain), a writer of Western paperbacks, a champion weightlifter. Regarding his cinematic career, he was most certainly a fighter. In his correspondence and conversations he would refer to attempts at setting up film deals and generating sales as battles, and would gather his troops (film people, fans, anyone possible) to join him in the war.

An admirer of Napoleon and Cortez, with the fire of a competitive sportsman, Naschy was driven by a need to express himself artistically and overcome whatever challenges stood in his way. He fought for a Spanish monster movie when Spain did not have a tradition of them; he fought to make more and more monster movies, writing dozens of scripts himself, as no one else had the knack and verve for creating something similar. When producers stopped backing Spanish horror after its golden age in the early 1970s was over, he became a producer himself, investing his own money and accruing financial risks and hardships because of that. When directors couldn't quite get his vision across the way he wanted, he became a director himself. Take away Paul Naschy from Spanish fantastique and your take away its strength and sinew. Take away Paul Naschy from international fantastique and you are left with a significant emptiness in soul and sincerity.

Except for the two times he was in Los Angeles, I would get together with Naschy whenever he would come to the United States to be a special guest at a convention. Each of those times was in a grouping of three days each. His immediate family was usually with him--Elvira, his wife, and Sergio, his son--and once, Bruno, his other son. Though my time with him was probably only nine days in total, after the first meeting in New York for a Fangoria convention I already considered the Molina family "my Spanish family." All of them were intelligent, down-to-earth people, with open arms and hearts. Treasures to meet and talk with. How I wish I could have spent more time with them, how I wished I could have visited them in Spain.

My memories of Paul Naschy were warmest in the context with his family, and the breakfasts, lunches and dinners we had together. There are a few special memories, though….

I had been invited to meet him in his hotel room on the first night he arrived in New York for the Fangoria Convention in 1998. He wasn't in his room, so I waited in the lobby, and then he showed up, with his interpreter, Angel, by his side. He was attired in a simple jacket, sweater, a hat over his head. Not richly dressed or in any vain, showy artistic way, but as an ordinary man, a "regular Joe." A short man, too, but big-boned wide with power and determination.

I approached him and, putting out my hand, said, "I'm delighted to meet Waldemar Danisky." After Angel translated this to Naschy, Naschy added immediately: "Y Alaric de Marnac." ("And Alaric de Marnac.") It was then I realized how important that wicked demonic character was as an alter-ego to Jacinto Molina. Here's an interesting man, I thought!

Another memory is one that causes me some embarrassment. We were eating lunch or dinner (I forget which) at a Chiller convention in New Jersey, and Naschy inquired which film of his I had seen the most. I knew what he was ready to hear me say--certainly one of his best films would be a splendid choice to tell the man and make him happy--but not being someone who is comfortable with lying, I quickly decided to answer truthfully, even though I knew Naschy hated this film: "La furia del hombre lobo" ("The Fury of the Wolfman"). Naschy almost choked on his food, turning a beet red. I hastily told Sergio to tell Naschy in Spanish that I could watch Furia any time because it was like fast food, but that a superior film like El Retorno del hombre lobo or El caminante, one had to savor, for it was like a main meal, full, robust, memorable. Sergio translated, but when Naschy still remained a bursting red color and appeared to have lost the ability to swallow or speak, I asked Sergio to repeat my explanation, which I thought quite good and deft under the circumstances. I think a couple of glasses of water saved the occasion, but my explanation didn't.

Naschy certainly was most proud of his later, more mature period in his work and rightfully so: El Caminante and El huerto del Frances stood out, with films like El retorno del hombre lobo, La bestia y la espada magica and El carnaval de las bestias, following behind. This is actually an amazing period in Naschy's life that deserves attention and study. Anyone who sees El Caminante and El huerto del Frances will understand immediately the significance of Paul Naschy and how his disparaging critics got it all wrong.

Naschy's sincerity in the horror genre was searing and inspirational. Everyone I have interviewed who worked with Naschy has remarked on how seriously he took the proceedings, how much he put himself into whatever role he was playing. Making horror films was not frivolous for him. It was life. This was man who would privately weep when the filming of his script was not turning out the way he had written, who could slug someone who toyed with him by dangling the creation of a Naschy film studio in Paris (using Naschy's money), a dream fell apart through that person's tall-talk but no action.

Few know that when Naschy would start a Waldemar Daninsky script, he would preface the entirety with that legendary quote from Universal's 1941 The Wolf Man, in its shortened Spanish dubbing:

"Hasta un hombre de alma serena puede volverse lobo si el acónito florece y brilla la luna llena." (The full English text: "Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.")

This was Naschy's personal invocation to the cinematic legend of the werewolf, his respect and honor for the tradition. Always in his work is respect to the source, either the cinematic history of horror or real history with its angels and demons, its heroes and villains. He was also true to himself, for as his filmography grew, those attuned would pick up on special Naschy traits and repeated motifs. Naschy was revealing himself through his work. Even in those supposedly "simple" monster films, he was exposing his character and worldview.

Throughout most his cinematic life, one of Naschy's biggest regrets was that Spain did not value him as he should have been valued. He had more recognition and more fans, it seemed, in countries like the United Sates and Germany. This began to change in recent years, as younger Spaniards began to notice, appreciate and honor Naschy, even addressing him as "Maestro."

This was one of the most significant battles of his life, and he won it before he left us. Thank you, my Spanish friends (and those special ones who fought to make this happen) for honoring him in this way. It meant a lot to him to feel your love and your respect.

So here we have a man who created, fought, struggled, and won many battles and lost a few, too. That is a perpetual challenge in life, to make something out of nothing, to create and witness the realization of your dreams through will power and plain guts. Naschy didn't turn away from this challenge, almost embracing the struggle, though at low points he surrendered to despair and depression.

He was passionate about cinema, passionate about the horror genre (its traditions and history), passionate about his work. We will probably never see anyone like him again because he was of a unique disposition, born in a unique time, and someone who produced unique, personal works, generally hidden by the patina of being "monster" or "horror" films.

Obviously, his work, and in a sense "Paul Naschy"--the greatest alter-ego of Jacinto Molina--live on. I am confident that this work and his name will become better known and more respected throughout the world in the future. To those who loved him--his family, friends and numerous fans--this should give a measure of comfort and even happiness.

When I corresponded with Naschy, either in letter or e-mail form, I would always begin, "Querido Paul." ("Dear Paul.") I will never write those words to him again, but they will always be in my heart.


The Last Time Naschy Played a Werewolf

2005. In Brazil. Shooting for two months. For Ivan Cardoso's WEREWOLF IN THE AMAZON (UM LOBISOMEM NA AMAZONIA). The last time Paul Naschy played a werewolf.

RIP. 1934-2009.

Monday, November 29, 2010


During this Naschy Blogathon week (Nov. 29 - Dec. 3), I will be posting some Naschy rarities. Here is the first one:

Walton, a British 8mm/Super 8mm company, released a very condensed version of Naschy's LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS (English titles: WEREWOLF SHADOW, THE WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMAN). In Super 8, with sound and in widescreen! (But a murky black-and-white). I'm guessing this release occurred somewhere in the 1970s.

The catalog number was A.821. The description:

"A young detective is shocked by the sudden disappearance of his fiancee but due to many sinister rumours he decides to visit the owner of a certain lonely house."

The short film contains a dialogue scene between Waldemar Daninsky (Naschy) and Marcel (Andres Resino) and ends with the climatic battle between Daninsky as a werewolf and the vampire countess Wandesa (Patty Shepard).

Monday, November 15, 2010

Intervision Blarney

There's a new DVD company that while it may be new is not above using old ballyhoo to promote its releases. Founded by Larry Gold Sr, "one of the few true legends of the video industry," according to Jay Douglas, the Vice President of Product Development at CAV, Intervision promises the DVD release in January, 2011 of two Jess Franco titles: THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF paired with PAULA PAULA. The appearance of the latter is curious, as a DVD was released not too long ago, but the promo on SINISTER EYES is, well, if not misleading--potentially an outright lie.

"THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF, a long-thought-lost classic from 1971, was finally unearthed in a Budapest vault following an exhaustive international search," states the press release on cinesploitation.com.

On Gold's own Intervision website, we get this: "A legendary lost film in the Franco canon, it had long been feared that no element simply existed. That's when Jess stepped up with a rare 1-inch master, culled from his personal vault in Malaga. It comes equipped with a cracking little featurette on the origins of Orloff, one of the great villains in 20th century horror. And I must say, William Berger just might be my favorite Orloff of all time. You owe it to yourself to check this beauty out."

Hm, aside from the curiosity of Franco having his own personal vault in Malaga but the film being found in Budapest (a long way from Malaga)--well, fine, but I have an official Spanish video of THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF laying around in my apartment--and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has this video--or a bootleg of it.

And there's even a Spanish DVD from the Vellavision label....

So who is this Gold person? I never heard of him, but I've never been involved in the behind-the-scenes movers and shakers of the video business. Gold himself informs us of his connection with Uncle Jess:

"Over the decades, Jess and I have worked together too many times to count. We've had our share of dust-ups, break-ups, and make-ups. I proudly count Jess as one of my best friends still living."

Okay, but I still haven't heard of him. But, then again, I couldn't remotely claim to know the persons who have been in and out of Uncle Jess' life.

If you check Gold's supposed old London-based distribution company--Solid Gold Films Ltd--on the IMDB, you will find it MIA.

According to the Intervision site, Gold now lives in Thailand. (!) But he has an LA address. He also states on one page that his "old compatriot," Jess Franco, made 1000 films, while on another that he made 200 films.

If one checks the video promo for the company on its Facebook page, one sees that the SINISTER EYES clips are full screen, which makes me suspect that the DVD will be sourced from...that "lost" video/DVD Spanish element.

BTW, this lost baby has already been through the torrent mill:

Now, in the beginning I said that the "lost" claim was potentially a lie. The only thing that would make it not so is if we see a version we've never seen before, either with nudity or in English dubbing. Otherwise, buyer beware as far as the claims for this release are concerned.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Night of the Open Coffins

This German trailer for Franco's DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN, with its film stills and screams in the background, reminds me of "spook show" trailers shown in American theaters in the 1950s and early 1960s. As Francesco Cesari notes on the Latarnia Forums, a still is included that shows Antonio de Cabo in Frankenstein's laboratory--a scene missing from the more widely disseminated non-nude version of the film.

As the trailer reveals, one title of the film in Germany was DIE NACHT DER OFFENEN SARGE. English translation: THE NIGHT OF THE OPEN COFFINS.

Hat tip: Francesco Cesari

Friday, November 12, 2010

Naschy Blogathon Nov. 29 - Dec. 3

In commemoration of Naschy's passing last year, the blog MAD MAD MAD MAD MOVIES is coordinating a "Naschy Blogathon" that will begin November 29 and end December 3. Fantaterror: Horror from Spain is sure to participate, as will many other blogs. Paul Naschy shall not die!

Find out more and how to participate by clicking here.