THE DEVIL'S POSSESSED (Leon Klimovksy, 1974) **1/2
This misleadingly-titled film should not even really be classified as horror, despite the myriad diabolic invocations and torture scenes. It is a good-looking medieval epic with a plot which basically amalgamates Shakespeare's "Macbeth" (spurned nobleman Paul Naschy being egged on by his ambitious wife to seize power from the current ruler) with the legendary exploits of Robin Hood (opposition to the tyrant being provided by a band of outlaws) cue numerous athletic action scenes, and there is even a jousting tournament in an effort to catch their leader (who happens to be the tyrant's former ally) but, rather than hide his identity, he smiles defiantly at Naschy's wife before taking on her husband in mortal combat!!
As usual, the star also penned the script attempting to lend sympathy to his character by making him gullible rather than truly evil (he is also shown feeling remorse and being, economically but effectively, haunted by his victims) though he still gets to lose an eye and, eventually, expires from a hail of arrows in clear imitation of Akira Kurosawa's own definitive "Macbeth" adaptation THRONE OF BLOOD (1957). Still, Klimovsky being no more than a journeyman director, the result is too often heavy-handed (if undeniably enjoyable) and, in any case, the countless references to the villain's lust for power as "The Great Work" is not a little silly (especially since he only sends for the man he himself dubs "the world's greatest sorcerer" to this end only after several other alchemists had failed WTF?!). To add insult to injury, the latter is just another quack who even performs the "Wizard of Oz" routine of enlightening the hero through a dead man's skull (when, in reality, he is hiding behind some rocks nearby and talking through a primitive microphone)! Equally anachronistic is the fact that, while generally appropriately robust, the music score is marred by intermittent and completely incongruous electronic passages!
While Naschy's "Waldemar Daninsky" Werewolf effort CURSE OF THE DEVIL (1973) similarly adopted a medieval setting (as did the opening scene of his best outing in that popular series i.e. THE CRAVING ), THE DEVIL'S POSSESSED whose original Spanish title translates to HELL'S MARSHALL was the first of a loose trilogy, to be followed by two the star directed himself (which he actually considered his own personal favorites and that I will be checking out in quick succession): INQUISITION (1976) and THE TRAVELER (1979).
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