Paul Naschy Collection II, The (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Nov 14, 2017
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Paul Naschy Collection II, The (Blu-ray Review)

Director

Javier Aguirre, León Klimovsky, Juan Bosch, Miguel Iglesias

Release Date(s)

1972-1975 (November 14, 2017)

Studio(s)

Cinemation Industries/Profilmes S.A./Hispano Mexicana Films S.A./Profilmes S.A./Mariano Sanz Sanz/Victory Films (Shout!/Scream Factory)
  • Film/Program Grade: See Below
  • Video Grade: See Below
  • Audio Grade: See Below
  • Extras Grade: C+
  • Overall Grade: B+

The Paul Naschy Collection II (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

Earlier in 2017, Scream Factory’s The Paul Naschy Collection was a real treat for fans both old and new of the Spanish horror cult figure, whose status amongst the horror community in the United States is minimal at best. Returning for another bite at the Spanish jugular, The Paul Naschy Collection II features five more of his films, all of which haven’t been released on Blu-ray before. All are presented with the best available elements and their original Castilian soundtracks, as well as their English overdub counterparts. The latter are considered notoriously bad though as unintentional laughs are usually all that come out of them. If you want to experience these films in a purer and less cynical way, sticking with the original audio is your best bet.

Beginning on Disc One is The Hunchback of the Morgue (El jorobado de la Morgue) from 1972. Directed by Javier Guierre and co-written under a pseudonym by Paul Naschy, it features him as Gotho, a lowly hunchback in love with a dying young woman. Upon her passing, he takes a job kidnapping young women for a local mad scientist, but when he realizes that his reward of bringing his beloved back to life is nothing but an empty promise, the results are disastrous. Not really the most complicated plot in the world, Hunchback is less of a film and more of a collection of moments, particularly in the second half when it is literally scene after scene of Gotho capturing people at the mad scientists’ whim. The gore is memorable, but outside of one nude scene, it’s fairly humdrum territory without much story development. Disc Two features A Dragonfly for Each Corpse (Una libélula para cada muerto) from 1973. Directed by León Klimovsky and co-written again by Naschy, it features a plot about a hard-nosed detective (Naschy) investigating a series of murders which involve an unknown killer leaving small plastic dragonflies on random victims. An obvious and interesting take on the giallo, specifically those with animals or insects in their titles (which were popular at the time), it’s a surprisingly decent film with good plot progression and a great performance from Naschy.

Continuing on Disc Three is The Devil’s Possessed (El mariscal del infierno) from 1974. Also directed by León Klimovsky and written by Naschy, it’s more or less a Robin Hood-esque tale about an evil tyrant (Naschy) who is challenged by a war hero returning from the battlefield and finding his homeland in chaos. He joins a ragtag mob of resisters who wish to overthrow the malevolent ruler and put an end to his torturous ways. Unfortunately, this one didn’t work as well as it should have due to Naschy’s character flipflopping between being someone who’s having moral dilemmas to being an outright villain. The film is also a bit long in the tooth, going on far longer than it needs to. Disc Four features Exorcism (Exorcismo) from 1974, which was directed by Juan Bosch and co-written by Naschy yet again. Clearly inspired by The Exorcist, the plot details a young woman who is possessed by Satan. Paul Naschy portrays a priest who must ultimately confront her and perform the titular activity. One of the better Exorcist-inspired films, it’s also one of the slowest, attempting to recreate some of the same characters and moments without blatantly ripping them off. The anti-climactic ending is also not very satisfying, but the make-up on the would-be possessed girl, particularly the contact lenses employed, is all fairly effective. Last but not least on Disc Five is The Werewolf and the Yeti (La maldición de la bestia) from 1975, the eighth film in the Hombre Lobo werewolf series. Directed by Miguel Iglesias and written under a pseudonym by Naschy, Waldemar Daninsky (Naschy) travels across the world looking for proof of the Yeti’s existence, only to himself become a werewolf along the way. It isn’t long before both he and Yeti must come face to face and battle to the death. The weakest and least interesting film in this set, only flourishes of intrigue appear throughout, most assuredly the werewolf attack scenes, and of course, the Yeti encounter, which feels more tacked than integral.

For each film’s Blu-ray presentation, masters were made available to Scream Factory yet again by Victory Films out of Spain. Unfortunately, they were (again) not allowed access to the original elements, so this is as good as it gets for now. Some of the films have the option of watching them in their uncensored form, but there are occasionally standard definition inserts to achieve this. For The Hunchback of the Morgue, there’s a generally pleasant picture on display with adequate textures and detail, as well as mild grain. Everything is a tad bit soft with obvious speckling and scratches, which are more pronounced in certain scenes than others. Color and skin tones are good, with greens and reds coming through well, while blacks are deep with decent shadow detail. Brightness and contrast levels are desirable and the overall image is fairly stable throughout. For A Dragonfly for Each Corpse, it exhibits much of the same qualities, but is slightly better overall with good texturing and detail in foreground elements, but with obvious grain filtering. The Devil’s Possessed is also of the same type: pleasant but not perfect. However, I would also say that it’s the best-looking film in the set, appearing more natural with slightly more pronounced grain, better stabilization, and stronger texturing and detail. Exorcism exhibits some of the worst qualities, including heavy grain filtering, appearing far too soft and clean. Colors are fine and brightness and contrast levels are reproduced well, but the master’s poorest traits shine through more than its good. The Werewolf and the Yeti features occasionally bold primaries, but also the same heavy clean up, although not as overwhelming.

As previously mentioned, the audio for each film is presented with two options: Castilian 2.0 DTS-HD or English 2.0 DTS-HD. All of the tracks are similar to each other, with some having more obvious deficiencies. Both options are fairly clean with mild ambience and decent score reproduction. Hiss and occasional pops and crackle are definitely evident. The English overdubbing is obvious with more presence and higher treble than its Spanish counterpart. The Spanish tracks are also noticeably quieter by comparison. The soundtrack for Exorcism is easily the worst of the bunch. It’s evident that it’s been aggressively digitally scrubbed as the sound quality is quite poor. Each of the 10 available tracks go part and parcel with the picture quality, but for the most part, there isn’t an enormous difference between them (outside of Exorcism, that is). Optional subtitles are also provided for each film in English if needed, although they are selected automatically, regardless of which audio track you choose.

THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C/C+/B-
A DRAGONFLY FOR EACH CORPSE (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B-/B-/B-
THE DEVIL’S POSSESSED (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C/B/C+
EXORCISM (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C+/C-/D+
THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C/C/B-

The extras for each film consist of many of the same options, but all of which are worth a look. For The Hunchback of the Morgue, there’s an audio commentary with Naschycast podcast hosts Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn; both the Spanish and English theatrical trailers; the Spanish title sequence; the Spanish credit sequence; Spanish intertitles; and an animated still gallery. For A Dragonfly for Each Corpse, there’s an audio commentary by author Troy Howarth; the Spanish theatrical trailer only (which unfortunately is missing its audio); the Spanish title sequence; the Spanish credit sequence; and an animated still gallery. For The Devil’s Possessed, there’s both the Spanish and English theatrical trailers; the Spanish title sequence; and a Spanish credit sequence. For Exorcism, there’s another audio commentary by Troy Howarth; a set of alternate clothed sequences from the censored version of the film; and an animated still gallery. For The Werewolf and the Yeti, there’s only an animated still gallery. Also included is a 24-page insert booklet with essays on each film, as well as Paul Naschy, by Mirek Lipinski. Not included from the previous BCI Eclipse DVD release of Exorcism is an introduction to the film by Naschy, an interview with him, and the film’s U.S. theatrical trailer.

As I said of the previous set, The Paul Naschy Collection II only scratches the surface of his long career with numerous films to his credit, both behind and in front of the camera. If you were a fan of that boxed set, you’ll definitely want to pick this one up as well. It’s a little more varied in terms of both the material presented and the quality of each film, but everything here is worth your time.

- Tim Salmons

 

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