Sunday, May 18, 2008


HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB remains one of Paul Naschy's best-known films, perhaps because of its accessibility: this 1973 release from director Carlos Aured was one of the few of the actor's movies to receive a US video release (albeit in a heavily-edited form), but the film's emphasis on atmosphere and mood, along with a relative minimum of dialogue, made the uncut Spanish-language version a popular one on the bootleg circuit. It's also quintessential Naschy, a strange marriage of traditional Gothic elements and exploitation that works just enough to make it worthwhile viewing.

In a flashback to fifteenth-century France, Naschy (as sorceror Aleric du Marnac) and his mistress Helga Line are sentenced to death for practicing the black arts (and what a laundry list of offenses: drinking human blood, consuming human flesh, consorting with the Great Horned One, etc.). Before their deaths, Naschy places a curse on the descendants of his executioners. And then gets his head lopped off. Du Marnac's body and severed head, which is inexplicably still alive, are discovered in the modern day--well, the early '70s, anyway--by the attendees of a seance (including Naschy as the great-great-great-great-etc.-nephew of his earlier incarnation, along with frequent co-star Vic Winner). It isn't long until du Marnac's head is unearthed and it begins wreaking havoc on the cast.

TOMB strolls along at a fairly leisurely pace, but makes plenty of pit stops for crude gore (torn throats and ripped-out hearts seem to be a favorite here) and not-so-crude nudity (most notably in the bewitching form of Ms. Line). These baser elements, coupled with the lush European backdrop makes the movie feel like some sort of depraved comic book come to life. The half-hearted dubbing obscures some of the acting, but I doubt there's any Oscar-caliber performances here, even in its native Spanish (Naschy, who also scripted, was obviously looking out for number one here: he's either sitting behind an altar as a severed head or stripping his duds to get down with the females in the cast).

Far from a great film, TOMB is still a lot of fun, and would be worth checking out solely for the gloriously cheesy pipe-organ score (which Rob Zombie sampled for his HELLBILLY DELUXE album).

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