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I remember stumbling upon this film a couple of years ago on a cheap
looking DVD edition under the appealing title "The Man with the Severed
Head", but without any type of additional info like cast members, year
of release or plot synopsis. Since I couldn't trace the film around
here on this website, or any other website for that matter, I didn't
want to risk a blind purchase. Now I found this film with the exact
same cover image, released under the acclaimed "Euroshock Collection"
label and with the box proudly exclaiming Paul Naschy's name as the
lead star, so this time there weren't any more excuses not to watch it!
I consider myself to be a big fan of Paul Naschy, in spite of his
gigantic ego and his often terribly inept and gratuitously sleazy
Spanish film productions. In case you are just even slightly familiar
with Naschy's usual repertoire, you will notice straight away that
"Crimson" is an extremely atypical film for him. Naschy literally loves
himself and he's always profiled as a powerful, strong and womanizing
type of anti-hero. Here in this film "Naschy" hardly has anything to do
or say, as his character lies half-dead in bed most of the time because
most of his brains were blown out by the police during a failed
jewelery theft. I honestly wonder why Naschy even accepted this type of
inferior role in a movie he didn't even co-wrote or directed himself.
"Crimson" isn't necessarily a bad film, but horror and Euro-sleaze fans should definitely beware as there are hardly any gore elements and absolutely no nudity. Yeah, I have no idea what that's all about neither. This was mid 70's and European exploitation production, right? Instead of all this, writer/director Juan Fortuny attempts to come up with an ambitious and extremely convoluted mixture of heist movie, revenge thriller and mad scientist shlock. Following the heist gone wrong mentioned here above, Jack Surnett's gang members don't want their leader to die and force a drunken doctor to come up with a solution. He brings the whole posse to a secluded place in the countryside, where a brilliant scientist and his wife are on the verge of accomplishing a breakthrough in their brain transplant experiments. As the involuntary brain donor, the gangsters select Surnett's arch enemy a guy named "The Sadist" and acting like one too and hope that a happy ending will ensue. Needless to say the operation doesn't go as planned and Surnett doesn't wake up as the man he once was. "Crimson" is an odd and difficult to categorize exploitation effort. It's reasonably fast-paced and mildly compelling, but still there's a lot of redundant footage and unnecessary dull sub plots (like the love history between the scientist and his wife, the distrust and hostility between the gang members mutually, etc ). The absence of actual horror aspect and bloody killing sequences is a huge disappointment, especially since the DVD cover showcases some promisingly bloody tableaux. The delirious jazzy soundtrack is great and some of the supportive cast members deliver splendid performances, like The Sadist and the double-crossing dude with the sleazy mustache. Worth a look if you're into curious and offbeat European exploitation cinema, but nothing really special.
This is the finest bizarro Euro-exploitation piece that I have seen in
a long time.
Certainly, Quentin Tarantino is a fan of this wild 1973 Franco-Spanish co-production starring horror legend Paul Naschy. Few films can successfully combine a botched jewel heist, a brain transplant and a mysterious character known only as "The Sadist." Naschy's role, though pivotal, is actually minimal, with few lines and only a few key scenes. The real story is played out by a gang of motley character types, of which the females are especially malicious and memorable.
Crimson has the right combination of impossibly contrived storyline and dazzling color visuals that one looks for in this kind of movie.
The Image Entertainment DVD (for sale on Amazon, though not linked to this page) is a sharp widescreen print, with a few nifty extras, including the alternate "erotic scenes" (not featuring Naschy, but the switch over to the bad body double is hilarious!).
What we have here is an example of what happens when a crime film meets
horror - it's a bungled heist, and the result is not jail time or dead
gang members, but a transplanted head! Yep, that's the premise of Juan
Fortuny's weird little horror film that features the talents of the
ever-popular Paul Naschy as the lucky recipient of a radical new
operation. Obviously the major inspiration for this film is Mary
Shelly's all-time classic horror story 'Frankenstein' as we've got a
mad scientist, a 'monster' and some new medical breakthrough. The main
story focuses on the fortune of Jack Surnett, played by Paul Naschy. He
and his gang decide to pull a jewel heist, but when one of them cocks
up, the alarms start ringing and the cops turn up. This is bad news for
Jack as he gets shot in the head and it looks like his time may be up.
However, his gang aren't ready to just sit back and watch him die so
they take him to their own doctor and soon it transpires that the only
way to save him is a brain transplant, and the only brain available
used to belong to "The Sadist"...
It's probably obvious from the plot summary, but Crimson really is a bizarre film. Quite how anyone thought these elements could come together well is beyond me, but actually the result isn't as bad as thought it might be; although it's not really as fun either. It's clear that this film was never really meant to be taken seriously and it's a good job it doesn't take itself seriously. The best thing about most of Paul Naschy's films is Paul Naschy, although that's not really the case here as he spends most of the film lying in bed. However, when he finally does get up the film really takes a turn for the better as we get to watch Naschy with a bandage round his head running all over the countryside getting up to no good. The film isn't especially gory, but there's a fair bit of that cheap looking bright crimson blood to keep horror fans happy. It's clear that the film is never really going to go anywhere, and it really doesn't...but I only saw this for a fun time and it just about delivers that much. I wont call this brilliant or a must see, but its decent stuff and I can recommend it.
I am a Paul Naschy fan and he is always worth watching.
No, this will not garner any awards, but I bet it is on Quentin Tarantino's shelf. A perfect combination of crime and horror and a bit of Frankenstein thrown in, this is the perfect film to sit around and get drunk to with a group of friends.
Silvia Solar, Euro-trash veteran, and remembered for her role in at least one video nasty, is the wife of a mad scientist (Ricardo Palmerola), called upon to save Naschy, who was injured in a botched robbery.
They have to find a brain for a transplant. These hardened killers don't want to cut the head off the person they found, so they put him on train tracks to let the train do it. LOL Gilda Arancio (Zombie Lake) plays Naschy's girl, and plays a crucial part in getting the head they need, as she used to be the girlfriend of The Sadist (Roberto Mauri), the man who's brain they took.
Things don't turn out as planned - do they ever? The Sadist brain turns Naschy into a madman.
Just pure fun.
** (out of 4)
Paul Naschy would often borrow elements from the Universal monster movies and he does so again, although with this film it borrows from BLACK Friday. In the movie Naschy plays a gangster who is shot in the head during a heist. His crew manages to find a doctor that could save his life but he's going to need to brain from another human. The crew decide to get the brain of a rival gangster known as The Sadist and while this transplant saves their bosses life, it also causes him to be even more dangerous to those around him. CRIMSON is also known as several other titles including THE MAN WITH THE SEVERED HEAD as well as THE RATS COME OUT AT NIGHT. Those expecting a straight horror film are going to be disappointed as will those coming into the picture expecting to see a lot of Naschy. The Euro legend gets top billing but sadly he appears in very little of the actual picture and it almost seems like his scenes weren't a part of the original screenplay and were just added to try and cash-in on his appeal at the time. CRIMSON isn't a bad movie but it is a rather needless one that doesn't add up to much in the end. I think the biggest problem is the screenplay that just doesn't know what it wants to do. The Euro-Crime genre is certainly on full display here but all of the elements are rather weak here. The stuff dealing with the gangsters really isn't interesting and you certainly never fear these guys. The horror elements are also incredibly weak because very little is done with them. Naschy has a bandage on his head, screams about his brain not working right and every once in a while he briefly acts out. He certainly doesn't get much to work with performance wise and that's true for the rest of the cast. To be fair, the English dubbing certainly doesn't help because it makes all of these tough gangsters sound like school girls. When the film was released in France it contained some more graphic sex scenes but this wasn't the version I watched but I'm going to guess that these scenes certainly livened up the picture a bit, which is something it certainly needed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Fans of actor/screenwriter/director Paul Naschy who rent out the 1973
film "Crimson" hoping to get a good solid dose of "the Boris Karloff of
Spain" may be a tad disappointed at how things turn out. By necessity,
Naschy's role in this picture is severely limited, he doesn't make much
of an appearance until the film is 2/3 done, and even in the final 1/3,
his thesping abilities are only minimally utilized. In this
French/Spanish coproduction, Naschy plays a jewel thief named Surnett,
who flees from the police, along with his gang, after a botched robbery
attempt near the French city of Nancy. Surnett is shot in the head two
minutes after the film begins, and spends the next hour of the picture
in a virtual coma, while his gang scrambles to find a doctor to help
him. Ultimately, it is decided that Surnett needs nothing less than a
brain transplant (!); any volunteers to be the donor? Fortunately, the
(literal) head of the rival gang, a very disagreeable sort who sports
the nickname Sadist, has the same blood type as Surnett, so he is
killed off by Surnett's gang, and his head lopped off by the simple
expedient of placing his body on a railroad track and allowing a
passing train to do the dirty work. Thus, with a team of doctors forced
into compliance and a matching brain for their leader at hand,
Surnett's gang feels that everything is in order. But things don't go
QUITE according to plan, and escalating violence leads to a rapidly
rising rate of attrition, in this wacky yet highly entertaining fun
house of a movie....
Basically a gangster picture tricked out with Frankensteinian elements,"Crimson" presented two outstanding problems for this viewer; one of the problems crops up before Surnett's operation and the other after. The first is that, despite the doctors' claim that the dying gangster needs a brain transplant, once that operation begins, it is discovered that the bullet did NOT, after all, pierce Surnett's gray matter. So why proceed with the transplant?!?! But my larger problem has to do with the fact that everyone seems stunned and amazed that Surnett seems different after his procedure. Well, what would they expect? The man has just had a different brain--the brain of a criminal madman--inserted in his noggin! How could he NOT be any different?!?! Perhaps I should add here that I am also a bit mystified as to this film's title. If "Crimson" refers to the color of blood...well, the film is not that gory at all, and the many killings highlighted are virtually bloodless affairs. Indeed, the only blood we ever see is some smeared red stuff on the face of a beat-up doctor; hardly enough to justify such a sanguine title. Still, quibbles aside, "Crimson," cheaply made and shlockily cobbled together as it is, remains a fun, fast-moving experience. The Image DVD that I recently watched features, as an "extra," some soft-core sex scenes that were only included in the French version of the film. I for one am happy to have NOT seen the film with these many extra scenes, as they would only have served to slow things down; the film's brisk pace is one of its chief assets (despite a few instances of padding, via musical numbers and dancing girls in a cabaret). The film is decently acted by its game cast, features a score by Daniel White (IF that is his real name; all the principals' names seem to have been Anglicized in the credits, for reasons that I will never understand; Naschy's name, for example, appears as "Paul Nash") that will skip around in YOUR brain for days, and showcases some interesting directorial choices by Juan Fortuny (here listed, of course, as "John Fortuny"). The film grows wilder and loopier as it proceeds, to the point where hardly any of the characters remain standing by the film's conclusion; a truly flabbergasting experience, although surely more of a gangster film, as I mentioned earlier, than a horror outing. Still, it is a shame that the opportunity to explore the emotional and philosophical ramifications of having a new brain put in one's body has been squandered here. In addition to seeing Surnett turn into a raving sex fiend, it might have been interesting to allow Naschy's character to tell us what's going on inside that new head of his. What's going on inside his old body is pretty obvious!
I have been a great fan of the late Spanish Horror/Exploitation legend
Paul Naschy for a long time now. While not all of his films can be
described as great (though some can), they are entirely entertaining.
Juan Fortuny's "Las Ratas No Duermen De Noche" aka. "Crimson, the Color
of Blood" (I bought it under the title "The Man With The Severed Head")
of 1976 is doubtlessly one of the cheesier and more confused flicks in
Naschy's wide repertoire, and yet it is an amusing little film that my
fellow fans of the man might enjoy.
During a heist, a gangster (Naschy) is shot in the head. In order to safe the man's life, the members of his gang force an obsessed doctor to perform an operation which requires parts of another human being's brain. Not so cleverly, they choose to take the brain of their biggest rival, a criminal aptly named 'The Sadist'...
The film, which starts like a heist-flick, is, more or less, a Spanish 70s take on a concept popular in the classic Horror era. Films such as Karl Freund's fantastic "Mad Love" of 1935 (starring Peter Lorre) or "Black Friday" of 1940 (starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi) had topics about body parts being replaced with those of brutal criminals, which inevitably lead to fatal results. Unfortunately, "Crimson" is an overall rather messy, yet very predictable film that features no surprises and a regrettably short screen-time for its star Paul Naschy. The film still guarantees a fun time, however. There are some moments of gore as well as some sleaze and female nudity (depending on which version you see). Naschy is cool as always, though his screen time is limited. One should try and get hold of the Spanish version, since the English dubbing is one of the most horrendous I have ever heard (which, then again, contributes to the 'camp' factor of the film). Overall, "Las Ratas No Duermen De Noche" is cheesy fun that is mildly recommended to my fellow Naschy-fans.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite its obscure status, CRIMSON is actually a fairly tight little
crime thriller with touches of science fiction (the brain-transferral
plot harks back to '40s B-movies) and horror to make it watchable for
the genre fan, and a gem of a film in my opinion. There's plenty of
interest going on in this movie and the machinations of a small, but
well-drawn cast mainly located in one location make for a pretty
gripping movie. It's also a rather sleazy one, especially with one
leading character's reputation for being a sexual pervert.
Sadly the British release has been cut by 13 seconds which I can only assume may be scenes of open brain surgery or alternatively some of the sexual moments - and rumours also abound of a "harder" version of the film existing somewhere in France. Thankfully these cuts don't affect what is a suspenseful little movie, one of those films where every character is on the verge of having a nervous breakdown, and you can feel the violence simmering and ready to erupt at any moment. That's what gives CRIMSON its own hard edge.
The film puts us right into the middle of the action as Spanish genre icon Paul Naschy attempts to break into a safe. Unfortunately, his fellow accomplice, Karl, is a bit of a goon and decides to take a pearl necklace for himself. Uh-oh, the necklace was a decoy and the alarms go off, forcing the gang to escape by car. Along the way, Naschy is somehow shot in the head, the bullet lodging into his brain. The commanding Henry - a tough but honourable gangster - takes over and immediately enlists the help of Doctor Ritter, a washed-up alcoholic who in turn takes the gang to the country retreat owned by an eminent Professor and his family. After blackmailing the Professor and his wife (in a twist somewhat reminiscent of FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL, the Professor's hands have been destroyed, so his wife must perform all the surgery herself under his instruction), a fresh brain is needed for a brain transplant, and a rival gangster - known only as "The Sadist" - is decided up as being the ideal, if unwilling, donor.
What follows is a blackly comic scene of Karl and a fellow thug laying the deceased Sadist's body on a train track and waiting for a train to come past, which it does, and watching as the severed head bounces down a dirt bank towards them - there's something you don't see every day. After a tense brain transplant, which is totally successful, Henry - the eminent joker - sends the Sadist's head to his girlfriend, wrapped in wrapping paper. From then on, the Sadist's men, demanding revenge, surround the house in which the gang are hiding and the body count gradually rises until just about the entire cast has been decimated by the end of the movie!
The film's main strength is in its well-drawn characters, most of them acting believably which gives a high level of realism. Paul Naschy (or Jacinto Molina, whichever you prefer) is as great as ever as the recipient of the Sadist's brain, with a fairly static first half - he spends most of it in bed or on an operating table - leading to a dramatic conclusion, Once again he has a distinct, bandage-wrapped appearance which makes him look like one of Hammer's Frankenstein creatures. The supporting cast are all pretty good too, with glamour from Silvia Solar and Gilda Arancio as the women involved, and especially Carlos Otero as the sympathetic drunken doctor who gets caught up in the crimes. However, acting honours must go to Olivier Mathot (THE DEVIL'S KISS), who is frankly excellent as the gang leader, creating a truly ruthless and tough bad guy you wouldn't want to mess with.
Despite a minor amount of blood and violence, CRIMSON isn't really a horror film, although it was advertised that way. Instead it's an extremely tense hostage drama with a volatile atmosphere and good camera-work done on a low budget - the scene in which Karl finds his friend hanging in the air is superbly shot and done in a really creepy fashion. With a budget this low, the editing is pretty poor and the dubbing unbelievable, but these are minor niggles for the genre fan - I'm just glad it made its way into the English-speaking world, unlike a number of Naschy's other minor thrillers and non-horror productions. This is thrilling, sometimes sleazy, grimly comic stuff and recommended to all.
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