VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES (Leon Klimovsky, 1973) **
This is the tenth film featuring Spanish horror star Paul Naschy that I’ve watched; though best-known for his series of “Waldemar Daninsky” werewolf movies, he made all kinds of genre efforts – even scripting many of them himself under real name Jacinto Molina.
Given the film’s title, this one obviously highlights the living dead – but, thankfully, it doesn’t follow the then-prevalent flesh-eating pattern cemented by George A. Romero; the plot, in fact, is pretty complex and also involves transcendental, voodoo and occult rituals as well as a masked assassin! Naschy, by the way, plays three roles here (though one of them, a horned demon, is only featured in a sequence depicting the heroine’s nightmare) – another finds the star at his most Brando-like (albeit inspired by the Method actor’s variable stint in the psychedelic star-studded concoction CANDY !) as a mystic and the last is the latter's evil brother, the disfigured man behind the mask who masterminded the titular plot.
The gory bits include a harmless old man getting a hatchet implanted in his face, a woman being memorably beheaded, a morgue attendant hilariously killed by having a soda can(!) viciously pressed against his neck, while the impalement of a pair of oblivious lovers clearly rips off Mario Bava’s far superior A BAY OF BLOOD (1971). As for the zombies, their attacks are rendered a bit more effective than would have otherwise been the case by the use of slow-motion. Typically, the lounge score (curiously highlighted by some otherworldly chanting!) is notable, as are the Swinging London settings; incidentally, the hero is a Spanish actor appearing under the name of Vic Winner – similarly, his character is hilariously named Laurence Redgrave, while that of the Scotland Yard Inspector is Hawkins who has an assistant that goes by the name of Basehart! Naschy...er...Molina presumably intended these as a tribute to their Hollywood namesakes, but they came off as unintentionally amusing instead (as is the film's very opening scene in which a couple who are hard up for cash decide to have a go at grave-robbing, to their eternal chagrin!).
The film has been released on DVD by BCI Eclipse but, since I can’t say that I’ve been all that impressed by the star’s outings so far, I don’t own any of them in this format: in fact, VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES itself came via a full-frame English-dubbed edition sourced from a damaged VHS and accompanied by forced Finnish subtitles!
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