The great Spanish horror movie icon Paul Naschy unfortunately passed away just a few days ago from that dreaded illness, cancer. This brief article isn’t even closely going to be a complete biographical history of the man who’s real name was Jacinto Molina (there are books and websites out there far better equipped, knowledge-wise, to do so), rather my own tiny tribute to someone who has provided more than his fair share of viewing pleasure to myself and many other genre fans over the last forty years or so.
Born in Madrid in 1934 the versatile actor, director, producer and writer successfully traversed from designing to weight lifting before managing to manifest his childhood love of movies with his own celluloid interpretation of Lon Chaney’s doomed Larry Talbot/Wolfman character, launching a series of films that would span several decades. Famously most inspired by Universal’s lovely clash of titans Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman these movies depicted the somewhat discontinuous exploits and sufferings of Waldemar Daninsky, a man eternally cursed with monthly transformations into a lamented werewolf. Highlights of this series have included El Retorno del Hombre-Lobo (Night of the Werewolf), Dr. Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo (Dr Jekyll versus The Werewolf) and the first entry in the series La Marca del Hombre Lobo (The Mark of the Wolfman, or more crudely known as Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror). Quality might have varied from film to film but there was something fascinating about this character, as Naschy injected his own spin on lycanthropic lore. These projects almost seem to be a deliberate mix of the old-fashioned B&W classics that inspired them, and a rebellious dash of blood and gore given birth by Spain’s religious and political constraints.
One of the pinnacles of his career was undoubtedly the bloody and sexy El Espanto Surge de la Tumba (Horror Rises From The Tomb) though it remains quite sad that much of his output has remained absent in home video. Some DVD companies have executed stellar jobs remastering and releasing his material to scare-hungry fans, notably BCI Eclipse/Deimos, Anchor Bay, Media Blasters/Shriek Show and Mondo Macabro, plus Euro-specialists Mya Communication are soon to be gracing us with Hunchback of the Morgue. However, one title I’d really like to see is the mid-seventies apocalypse chiller The People Who Own The Dark, one of those elusive and mysterious titles that I‘ve only read about hitherto.
Evident from his DVD introductions and many interviews, Naschy remained enthusiastic about his cinematic fright-fests right up to his dying day, and this enthusiasm is one of the qualities that I find most endearing about him - a man who dearly loved his art despite it continuing to be a fairly underground phenomenon. Let’s face it, flicks like Curse of the Devil are never going to appeal to today’s mainstream audiences, but that’s not something that I’m concerned with. Whilst not always a participant in polished products (er, Vengeance of the Zombies?), he nevertheless left behind him a legacy of terror in the best possible way. And whilst we may have uncovered many of his gems in digital glory already, there are still more to be exhumed no doubt. I’m sure his cult popularity will continue indefinitely and, thanks to the companies out there who do his work respect, for years may we enjoy the entertainment that he always fought so hard to deliver.