Horror Rises from the Tomb (US - DVD R1)
Senior Naschy's severed head is back from the dead to possess Gabe Powers
An evil warlock is be-headed in Medieval France, and his witch wife hung for crimes against humanity. Hundreds of years later the warlock’s distant relative, along with a group of treasure seekers, discover the head. Soon the evil head is possessing people into doing its bidding, which includes reuniting it with its long lost body. Sacrifices, zombies, and vampirism abound.
A good Paul Naschy movie is entertaining despite its obvious shortcomings. Very few fans will ever confuse their favourite Spanish horror-meister’s silly and broad terror shows with high art, and non-fans are often confused as to the supposed charms of such clunky features, but there is a spark that keeps us coming back, hoping that the next one we see will be the good one we were waiting for. I’m eternally grateful for BCI Eclipse’s new Spanish horror releases, but I’ve been a little disappointed with the entertainment value of their Naschy releases so far. Horror Rises from the Tomb is new to me, and I’m happy to say that I enjoyed every awkward frame.
A bad Naschy flick is a boring Naschy flick. Wonky dialogue, stiff acting, cardboard sets, and flimsy special effects can only be so amusing without an entertaining plot and speedy pace. Horror Rises from the Tomb is one of the briskest Naschy flicks I’ve ever seen; it’s almost too fast. The editing is so jarring at points it’s hard to believe half reels aren’t missing. Coherent storytelling was never Naschy’s strongest asset (he wrote the script for this film under his given name, Jacinto Molina), but the random nature of this particular tale is downright befuddling at times—which is, of course, half the charm.
Director Carlos Aured can put together a shot, but like so many European horror directors he depends too much on awkward zooms and focus pulls during the films more dramatic scenes. His work is more interesting during the films many brief murder set pieces, which are often much more disturbing then they have any right to be. Aured doesn’t go for the all out gothic expressionism some of his Italian counterparts practised in the era, or the true grit that was common to his fellow Spaniards, but manages to find a somewhat satisfying middle ground, which also covers up some of the film’s less than impressive production values. There’s a slight hint of Bava and Hammer here and there, but nothing as tactile as Javier Aguirre’s work on Hunchback of Rue Morgue.
Though not as absurdly gory as Hunchback of Rue Morgue, Horror Rises from the Tomb is likely one of Naschy’s more violent films, especially for 1972 when graphic bloodshed was still pretty novel. The make-up effects aren’t very good by modern standards, but stand up well considering the era and budget, especially Naschy’s severed head, which leaks liquid smoke when reattached to his body. The nudity quotient is also pretty high, though not absurdly so for a Naschy picture. Fans of absurd sex and violence for the sake of sex and violence will probably find themselves entertained, though there are a few pulled punches here and there.
I can’t express how happy I am to never have to deal with another pan-and-scan, grainy and dark as all hell VHS transfer of an obscure Euro horror film again. Even when a movie sucks flat out I at the very least have the pleasure of being able to tell what’s going on. BCI does another good job here, preserving the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and keeping things clean enough to discern without squinting. There’s quite a bit of fine grain, which is heaviest in naturally lit outdoor shots, but nothing too messy, and dirt and artefacts are quite minimal overall. Details are sharp enough, though edge enhancement is a constant problem, especially in darker scenes. Colours appear slightly diluted, but warm colours pop with relative regularity, though sometimes they take the blacks with them. The overall image is a little on the dark side, but one suspects this is how the film was intended to look.
“I assure you you’ll change your mind if you went, you can be assured of that.”
You can write comedy this sharp on purpose, and that is why I almost always prefer the English dubbed tracks of low budget Euro-sploitation. Both the English dub and original Spanish tracks are presented in their original Mono, and are clean overall. High and shrill sounds, like the film’s organ based soundtrack or the screams of the film’s many frightened actresses, distort to a small extent, but the relative clarity of the dialogue and sound effects is pretty impressive. The Spanish track is much harsher than the English track, and the English track has more definition, but if you can’t take the awful dubbing you’ll have to make do by turning down the sound system.
After three BCI releases Naschy finally graces us with a commentary track. Here he is joined by director Carlos Aured and a moderator. The track sounds like it has been recorded with an old fashion tape recorder, and is in Spanish with English subtitles. The commentators spend a little too much time explaining specifically what happens on screen, but there’s also a fair share of important behind the scenes information and a couple entertaining anecdotes. There’s a whole lot of commentary time devoted to the beauty of the film’s various femme fatales, but we shouldn’t expect any less from this particular movie star or director.
Before we can watch the film, with or without the commentary track, we have to watch another spirited Paul Naschy introduction, filmed against the same pseudo-gothic backdrop seen in previous releases (I’m going to pretend it’s Paul’s basement). After the movie we’re privy to the original Spanish language credits, a whole bunch of alternate, clothed versions of the film’s many nude scenes, an original US trailer, and a very cool selection of stills, posters, and video boxes. In the box are more of those great Mirek Lipinski liner notes.
Vampires, witches, sorcerers, zombies, blood and boobs ensure a fine Saturday evening viewing, assuming the viewer is ready to suspend a little disbelief. Horror Rises from the Tomb is now possibly my second favourite Naschy feature behind Hunchback of Rue Morgue, though hopefully I’ll be privy to several more before BCI Eclipse is done running through the man’s filmography. This one comes recommended, with a few reservations.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 13th November 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Castilian
Extras: Paul Naschy Introduction, Director/Actor Commentary, Alternate Clothed Scenes, Spanish Credits, Trailer, Stills, Liner Notes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Carlos Aured
Cast: Emma Cohen, Helga Liné, Cristina Suriani, Vic Winner, Jacinto Molina
Length: 89 minutes
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