Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Horror Rises From The Tomb

Horror Rises From the Tomb
Original Title: El espanto surge de la tumba
Directed by: Carlos Aured
EuroGoth/Horror, 1973
Spain, 89min
Distributed by: Midnight Video (OOP)

Carlos Aured’s Horror Rises From the Tomb, the last of the four movies, not counting The Werewolf's Shadow (La noche de Walpurgis) 1971 which he worked as second unit on, that Aured directed starring the late Paul Naschy who passed away last week. It should come as no surprise that I'd go back and watch a few Naschy flicks after his passing, as I have many fond memories of the few of his many movies I have seen over the years. Horror Rises From the Tomb, is one of the better ones in my opinion, and it’s a fine example of the great pieces theses two could come up with when the circumstances where righ. As I mentioned last week, Naschy often wrote the scripts for many of the movies he starred in, Horror Rises From the Tomb being one of them. So let’s jump right in and take a look at what makes it’s such an enjoyable little piece of EuroGoth.

With it’s opening set in medieval France, Alaric de Marnac (a character Naschy later played once again in Cries of Terror (Latidos de pánico) which he directed himself in 1983) is taken to his quick and dirty trial and execution as we are treated to a basic set up - De Marnac is accused of vampirism, lycanthropy, cannibalism and being in league with the devil! He’s sentenced to death and have his head and body buried in separate places, but even as he stares death in the eye, he takes the time to shout out curses upon his prosecutors, his own brother Armand de Marnac (also played by Naschy) and Andre Roland [Victor Alcázar who starred in couple of movies with Naschy before he became an award winning director himself] before being brutally executed in a rather decent decapitation scene that grabs your attention, and if that didn’t the torture of de Marnac's mistress Mabille de Lancré [Helga Liné from who was Lorelei in Amando de Ossorio’s Grasp of the Lorelei 1974 and who apart from starring in several other EuroGoth/Sexploitation flicks starred in several Pedro Almovodar films.] will as she’s stripped, strung upside down from a tree and whipped. As she cries out in agony, the title sequence hits the screen. It certainly sets the tone and defines the main plot of the film, vengeance from beyond the grave.

Following the title sequence we are introduced to a modern (well seventies modern) Paris and the hefty playboy Hugo – Naschy in the third part he holds in he movie as he will be doing all three incarcerations of the de Marnac men. Hugo’s mate Maurice [Victor Alcázar once again] has problems finishing a painting he’s been working on for ages, as he just can’t get the face right… Anyhow, the lad's set of to their date with their girls, Sylvia [Betsabé Ruiz, also seen in León Klimovsky’s Shadow of the Werewolf against Naschy in 1971, de Ossorio’s Return of the Blind Dead 1973 and Grasp of the Lorelei 1974] and Paula [Christina Suriani – who actually only starred in five movies, among them León Klimovsky’s Dracula Saga against Betsabé Ruiz and Helga Liné in 1972] who surprise the guys with two more guests to their little evening. Discussions about a séance that the two new guests attended start to distrait the sceptic Hugo, who can’t possibly imagine why anyone would believe in that kind of nonsense, but when the girls want to go to the seance, Hugo sarcastically claims that he’s going to ask for Alaric De Marnac, who’s head is supposedly buried on his lands… Being the perfect sympathetic girlfriend, Sylvia claims that she’s going to summon up de Marnac’s mistress Mabille de Lancré. Maurice chickens out and says that he won’t be going with them under any circumstances.

Needless to say the séance has a terrible outcome, as the medium screams, the table levitates and when summoned the ghostly head of de Marnac appears next to the medium and as the entity flings a chandelier towards the group round the table the medium faints. At the same time Maurice finally has a vision of the face he has been trying to paint and rushes over to the canvas only to produce an image perfect portrait of Alaric de Marnac holding his own decapitated head, but it doesn’t stop there. As he gazes upon the painting blood starts to drip onto the canvas, Maurice backs in shock and sees the floating head of de Marnac levitating over the painting.

Back in the safety of Hugo’s apartment the girls are in shock and Maurice still stunned by his spooky vision, but Hugo just denies the happenings at the séance rejecting it as sheer trickery and tom foolery, and suggests that they all go out to his countryside house, find the supposed monastery ruins and see, or rather prove that there is no ghost and in that way clear all doubts.

Now you see Paul Naschy writing as his birth name, Jacinto Molina, knows damned well how to keep the plot moving along and how to keep it interesting. Because there’s nothing better than a sceptic protagonist to softly cradle the audience into the story before all hell breaks loose. The sceptic is the one that we identify with as we usually don't believe in ghosts and goblins, just like the protagonist, and as he leads us on from the ordinary world into the fantastic world he's a perfect guide to help us transcend into the horrors. We gain the same insights as he does.

The four of them set out to the countryside only to fall victims of a gang of rouges who try to rob them and smash up their car in an attempt to steal their valuables. The local vigilante marshal comes to their aid, killing all the rouges to the horror of the city dwellers. Then Naschy shows further trait of his Hugo character as he produces a large wad of cash and buys the vigilantes car so that they can continue their journey to his estate… it not only shows the difference between the city folks and the rural locals wealth, but also sets Hugo’s character. There’s no problem he can’t buy his way out of… so far.

Later that night at the estate, Hugo’s janitor, Gastone [Juan Cazalila] tells him that they should stay away from the tunnels under the presumed monastery ruins as people have mysteriously gone missing down there. Hugo ever the sceptic laughs it off and says that they just got themselves lost in the labyrinths underground. Then he orders Gastone to get some guys who can go with them tomorrow to search the grounds, but Gastone objects that people will be too afraid of the rumoured demon living there. Hugo once again shows his character when he says “pay them how ever much they want”.

The next day’s excavations give results and the locked chest they find is placed in the shed to be opened tomorrow. Now remember that Maurice had that terrifying vision previously, well now he wants’ Hugo to put the chest back because he’s afraid of what it may contain, once again Hugo laughs it off. But at the same time two of the guys who helped to find it break into the shed, as they are convinced it contains a treasure. Boy are they in for a surprise. Opening the box kick starts the horror theme of the movie. One of the thieves goes into a trancelike state and murders his cohorts and steals the chest, taking it to an even stranger tomb underground. The gang are now stuck with two bodies to dispose of, no way of calling for help as the telephone lines have blown down, and to top things off the care is out of gas, so they aunt going nowhere, and the trance like thief is still stalking them.

From here on it’s pretty entertaining EuroGoth by the book, creepy moods, lurking villains, possessed characters attacking each other, vampiric seductions, sporadic nudity and quite a fair amount of delicious seventies pre-gore special effects.

Considering that this movie is made in 1973, there are fair amounts of effective and gory special effects in there to make it stand out. These special effects where supplied by Antonio Molina, a young effects guy with an impressive track record. After a long stint in the EuroHorror/Exploitation genres working on movies like Vicente Aranda’s The Blood Spattered Bride 1972 Jesus Franco’s unforgettable The Devil Hunter from 1980, and even Luis Buñuels Tristana 1970 and Luciano Ercoli’s Death Walks on High Heels 1971 he started getting work in the mainstream and has often worked with Pedro Almovodar, Álex de la Iglesia and on the award winning Lovers of the Arctic Circle by Julio Medem in 1998. Molina still works on movies with the special effects and his work is always entertaining.

But does it all come full circle? Where all these character presentations worth the effort? Well yes they where, Maurice continues to have visions, moments of doubt and fear and eventually get’s possessed by de Marnac. His girlfriend Paula is also hypnotised by the freaky thief and also becomes a minion of de Marnac.

The content of the box is revealed, as if you hadn’t already guessed, it’s Alaric de Marnac’s decapitated head that commands his small legion of hypnotised ghouls. The head commands Maurice (ancestor of Andre Roland, the judge from the pre-title sequence) to free his body and finally he is restored to his full glory after several hundred years. Obviously he resurrects his mistress Mabille de Lancré [Liné back in all he glory] and now the entire primary cast are either dead or possessed apart from Elvira [Emma Cohen] the daughter of the janitor and Hugo. Hugo the sceptic that is.

The two resurrected fiends stalk the villagers, claiming further victims to settle their blood lust, but every good monster has it’s Achilles’ heel, and every hero has his tools of conquest. Here it’s a talisman called Thor’s Hammer that the Elvira is given after Hugo finds them hidden in a well. I find it amusing and odd that a Norse artefact plays such a big part in a Spanish horror flick, but it at least proves that Naschy/Molina was a learned man, as you'd expect a country with so much Catholicism and even Islam in it's history to go for something more domestic. The Thor's Hammer talisman proves to be valuable as she wards of the sinister Alaric de Marnac later that night...

...but nothing can prepare them for the zombies that resurface from the swamp, Elvira’s father Gastone among them. It’s a great scene full of eeriness, despair and shock, as the movie adds yet another notch to its belt ranging from demonic possession, vampirism, and now zombies. It’s an effective and suspenseful sequence that surprises me every time I watch the movie.

What about Hugo? Does he rise to the occasion? Does he become a believer? Well yes of course he does, otherwise all that establishing him, as the sceptic would have been a waste of time. As Maurice, apparently out of the trance we last saw him in, returns to the mansion, Hugo tells him of the last few night’s events, proving that he now is a believer. The medium was right. And at the time of his acceptance of the supernatural he ironically meets his death… See now the baton has been passed over to Elvira, she is now our single protagonist, and I’m sure that not to many viewers where expecting the leading man and star of the movie to be killed off twenty minutes before the climax. But then again half the charm of the film is watching Naschy in full makeup as the demonic Alaric de Marnac.

In the USA the movie was given the moniker Mark Of the Devil part4, although it doesn’t have much in common with Adrian Hoven’s original Hexploitation classic Mark of the Devil from 1970. Horror Rises From the Tomb is a very entertaining movie that definitely stands firm on it’s own feet without cashing in on previous movies. The bad rant that movies like this usually get is quite uncalled for as you can’t compare these movies that where shot on a fraction of the budgets that mainstream horror’s in America where being made for. These movies are obviously going to suffer from various flaws, poor acting and plot holes (I’d have loved to see the reveal of Hugo as Alaric’s descendant clearer and more effective, but you can’t get everything can you), but you have to keep several things in mind when watching films like this, especially Spanish ones. First it’s the seventies, Spain was still in the last years of dictator Francisco Franco’s grasp and censorship was a real deal inhibiting directors to do exactly what they wanted so they wouldn't be accused of being dissidents, so it’s actually a marvel that so many of these films where made. It's also a possible explanation to why the Spanish EuroGoth flicks of the time are somewhat lesser than say the Italian stuff or even the Hammer movies coming out of the UK. Two years after Franco’s death, 1977 Naschy starred in Carlos Puerto’s El Francotirador (approximately The Franco Sniper) where he played an assassin trying to assassinate the Dictator - there's a political statement for you! Secondly, horror in the seventies was completely different from horror of today, it was escapism for the blue collar audiences, who wanted a few decent thrills, some scares, a few glimpses of nudity and a couple of gruesome deaths. They couldn't care less about logic, narrative, subplots and perfect storylines as all they wanted was to forget all about the grind of everyday trouble and work, and simply have a good time out at the cinema. And that’s what these movies served up over and over again.

Finally I have to point out that I love the fact that Horror Rises From the Tomb blends several other genres in with the main occult theme, and it’s a testament to the writing skills of Naschy as you rarely see successful combos of varied genre niches manage to pull it off. But this one does and it’s a great starting point for a journey into the world of Paul Naschy.

There are a few versions of this movie available on DVD now with a varied assortment of extras, but I’m not going into that now, as I chose to rewatch my old Midnight Video release, which was the only way to see this film when it first resurfaced in the age of DVD.

4:3 full screen and that may be one reason to pick up one of the remastered letterboxed versions available now.

2.0 Stereo, English Dubbed dialogue.

For those you will have to pick up the later releases, here there are nothing as the movies themselves where the reason for buying Midnight Video releases, but this DVD-r has the trailer for Carlos Gil’s slasher horror School Killer 2001 featuring Paul Naschy.

1 comment:

Jocke Andersson said...

Get the BCI dvd. It's a good print and has tons of nice extras. Awesome movie, probably my Naschy favorite

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