November 30, 2010

Paul Naschy Meets Frankenstein

The Paul Naschy Blogathon is underway at MadMadMadMadMovies and there are tons of links up already. Go look! It’s going to be a wild week celebrating The International Man of Monsters.

Here’s my own humble contribution…

It’s Dracula and the Werewolf vs. Frankenstein, illustrated comic book-style on this ad mat for the venerable Victory Theater in Brussels. Actually, the film also featured a mad scientist, aliens and a mummy, but perhaps the title already ran too long. Also missing from the ad is Paul Naschy’s name, despite double duty as screenwriter and lycanthrope.

The film played in English alternately as Dracula vs. Frankenstein and Assignment Terror. In its original, 1969 incarnation, it was called Los Monstruos del terror — The Monsters of Terror. Multiple title confusion was typical for Naschy’s films, made in Spain and bumped around various distributors until they landed, dubbed, as drive-in and grindhouse programmers on this side of the Atlantic.

I first encountered Naschy’s films in the 70s as French dubs playing Montreal as bottom of the bill filler in second-run houses. I remember seeing this one backed with Viva Maria! with Brigitte Bardot. Naschy’s films were at once utterly confusing and strangely fascinating. I didn’t really know anything about Naschy until later, with the advent of VHS, but I had grown fond of the barrel-chested actor.
I came to think of Naschy as a monster movie fan who’d been given the keys to the studio, gleefully recreating the old Universal classics in widescreen and saturated colors, only with more blood and added cleavage. I don’t think I was too far off target.

By his own account, Paul Naschy’s life-changing inspiration came at a screening of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, the highly entertaining 1943 monster combo movie starring Bela Lugosi as The Monster and Lon Chaney as the Wolf Man. Naschy would reincarnate Chaney’s Larry Talbot as the cursed Waldemar Daninsky, El Hombre Lobo, in eleven films — perhaps even twelve, one title having gone missing and apparently never shown.

Naschy paid homage to the film that had influenced him by staging a Frankenstein vs. Lobo rumble in Los Monstruos del Terror, but — despite a career playing most if not all of the cinema’s famous monsters — he otherwise steered clear of Frankenstein, save for a couple of indirect connections.

Naschy donned the classic boxhead makeup for a short scene, playing an actor in Frankenstein getup in El Aullido del diablo (The Howl of the Devil, 1988). Another reference is, well, accidental: Naschy’s first Lobo film, La Marca del Hombre Lobo (Mark of the Wolfman, 1968), was released in America as Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror. Thing is, there’s no Frankenstein in the movie.

Picked up by Sam Sherman’s discount distribution house, Independent-International, La Marca del Hombre Lobo was dubbed and recut for American consumption. The misleading title was slapped on to satisfy exhibitors who had been promised a Frankenstein film. The Frankenstein reference is dealt in a fleeting instant, even as the titles scroll, with a simple statement that the Frankenstein family had evolved into the lycanthropic Wolfsteins, and that’s it.

I doubt that any patrons were overly upset. Back in the day, you pretty much rolled with the ballyhoo. B-Movies never delivered everything promised on their lurid posters and, besides, the film itself turned out to be a lot better than you had expected, not to mention the extra blood and cleavage.

A final Frankenstein reference: A new documentary about Paul Naschy is called The Man Who Saw Frankenstein Cry (2010). See my previous post about it and find out what the title means.

Again, there’s lots to see and read about Paul Naschy, and great blogs to discover all this week on The Paul Naschy Blogathon. Kudos to Blogathon host The Vicar of VHS!


wich2 said...

Boy, the artist of that pen & ink sure looks to have seen Jack Davis' Monster at some point...

Happy Holidays,

The Vicar of VHS said...

Great write-up, Pierre! When Paul started jumping around the lab fighting the Frankenstein (Farancksollen?) Monster in ASSIGNMENT TERROR, I couldn't contain my glee--it was clearly the actor living out his childhood dream of re-creating the climactic battle in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN. You're right about his fandom--it shines through in every flick, particularly the monster mashes.

And thanks again for your help with the Naschy Blogathon! I really appreciate it. :)

Anonymous said...

Pierre do you know if any Naschy films were ever shown on Quebec Television? I remember watching Le Cinema De 5 Heures on TVA as a kid. I remember a quite a few Horror films being shown but I was too young to know the names of actors or directors. Thanks.


Pierre Fournier said...

Alex: I don't recall Naschy ever playing on TV in Montreal. I remember seeing LOS MONSTRUOS at the Crémazie on St-Denis and it was purely by accident. My gf wanted to see the Bardot film.