Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BCI's Spanish Horror: An Evaluation

The last of my vintage pieces on the Spanish horror line from BCI/Deimos:

Mon., 7 July, 2008

It looks like BCI/Deimos is closing the tomb on its Spanish horror line. That's too bad, because it's been a hell of a run. Their most recent pair of films were, admittedly, botched--CURSE OF THE DEVIL (1973) has an horrendous authoring error that renders it unwatchable, while WEREWOLF SHADOW (1971) lacks the advertised American version (including, instead, some butchered monstrosity no one recognizes). One suspects these, issued after it was apparent the line was ending, may have fallen victim to a shove-it-out-the-door-before-the-house-burns-down attitude, with accompanying minimal quality control. Aside from these, all of the releases in this line have been first-rate discs indeed, even when the movies themselves were less than stellar (EXORCISM and VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES, I'm callin' you out). Beautiful transfers and frequently solid extras.

I made some real discoveries through those releases. HUMAN BEASTS (1980), a Paul Naschy flick that seems to have been almost entirely overlooked by everyone, turned out to be a wonderful discovery. Ditto with Amando de Ossorio's LORELEY'S GRASP (1974), a very ambitious monster movie that, in spite of budgetary shortcomings, mostly succeeds. Another discovery: Ossorio's NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS (1974), much heralded in some quarters but difficult to find for many years, turned out to be a ludicrously overhyped turd, a film whose good reputation over the years seemed to be entirely based on youthful--and, one suspects, quite foggy--half-memories of old late-night cable airings. Still another: Leon Klimovsky's DRACULA SAGA (1972)--not very well known--was a good, crazy little movie.

My pick of the litter, though, was Paul Naschy's NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF (1981), a movie that showcased exactly why Naschy has such a devoted cult following. Plotwise, the movie is a virtual remake of WEREWOLF SHADOW. Naschy is, once again, Waldemar Daninsky, the Polish nobleman afflicted with lycanthropy, battling a resurrected vampiress who once claimed him as a slave. In addition to starring in the film, Naschy took up directing chores on this one and in a time in which slasher films virtually consumed the horror market, the movie was full-blown, unapologetic old-school gothic horror--foreboding castles, dark, cobweb-bedecked tombs, ancient curses. This was Naschy peaking, hitting his prime and the result is the film all those earlier Naschy werewolf sagas were trying to become. It perhaps runs a little too long for its own good but that's a very minor quibble.

The series also gave us a pair of commentaries by Naschy and Carlos Aured on HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (their best collaboration and a fantastic piece of inspired madness) and BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL (not a great movie but worth a look, if one is in the mood). Aured died very soon after those commentaries were recorded, making them much more significant--a pioneer of Spanish dark fantasy offering some of his final recorded comments on his own career.

As wonderful as they are as a group, I have been critical of some of BCI's decisions with regard to these releases. They have to run their business as they see fit, of course, but as a consumer, one who belongs firmly within the target audience of such movies, a lot of their decisions didn't make a great deal of sense to me and these decisions, I suspect, did some of the harm that led to their eventual decision to abandon the line. The very fact that COUNT DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE (1972), one of the most anticipated Naschy releases by fans, is now going to be released as part of some other BCI line, having been left gathering dust since BCI acquired the rights to it and all of these other films as a group, seems rather astonishing. I also suspect BCI's decision to release in Blu-ray proved, as I anticipated, a costly misfire (while Blu-ray is a marginal format, at best, Sony presently demands enormous fees for releasing anything on it). Still another: Both of the two most recent films released--the botched ones--were merely retreads of relatively recent, readily available and already-acceptable releases from Anchor Bay. And instead of being broken up or just put on the back burner for a while, they went out together (to be fair though, even these included the superior Spanish language tracks absent from those earlier Anchor Bay versions). And so on.

Still, what's done is done and maybe the folks at BCI/Deimos had what they thought were good reasons for all of those things. They still managed a solid series of releases and I raise a glass to their efforts and wish they were going to continue.

--j.

1 comment:

  1. Robert Monell said...
    My disc is now displaying all kinds of motion issues which I didn't notice before. I tried to watch it again and noted that all camera moves seem staggered and plagued with the curse of the first COTD disc and the WS BCI discs. It's also in fullscreen, which I don't appreciate. The video quality is very good but these issues are a huge problem for me.

    But even with all the glitches I am grateful to have these all in mostly superior quality on DVD with language options. They all play much better for me in Spanish.

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