Thursday, December 02, 2010

NASCHY BLOG-A-THON: The Reluctant Naschyphile

Editor's Note: When the guys at Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies first announced the Naschy Blogathon I wanted in but wasn't sure what I should write about. "Surely," I thought, "there are far more knowledgeable Naschy scholars out there." So while we've written Naschy reviews and even waxed nostalgic about the man after his death last year, I decided to look my own relationship with Naschy in the face and ask the question, "What took ya so long?!"...

It's hard to admit now, but during my formative years as a trash fan I was a bit of a film snob. Oh sure, I wallowed in gore and depravity, saw CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST in the theater, bought VHS dubs of uncut Japanese laser discs of Italian splatter flicks, watched anything with Wings Hauser in it, and stayed up nights dreaming about a big-budget remake of BLOODSUCKING FREAKS. But there was an unspoken prejudice lurking deep in my cinematic heart.

I didn't respect Paul Naschy.

I'm not even sure I realized it at the time. I certainly saw the boxes for flicks like NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST and HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN as I spent hours in the video store, bypassing them time after time for return visits to the Fulci, Franco and Romero buffets. I even devoured zines which heaped praise on the man.

None of it had an impact. I had my 15th viewing of ASYLUM EROTICA to enjoy. And I wasn't even that crazy about ASYLUM EROTICA!

Looking back I'm not sure what made me so resistant to Naschy's charms. Was it the over-the-top titles like the aforementioned HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN? Sure, it was great as the joke name for the West Philly house where some of my ex-girlfriends lived but the movie couldn't possibly live up to the title. Could it?

Was it the way Naschy looked? Could I not get past his resemblance to a trash-compacted splicing of John Saxon and John Belushi?

Maybe I was just tired of werewolf, vampire and Frankenstein flicks, an oeuvre that I deemed Naschy's stomping ground, complete with the dusty clich├ęs of the Universal horrors that I wanted so desperately to distance myself from.

Whatever it was, it stuck. While my trash universe expanded, Naschy stayed stuck on the periphery, like an uncharted planet waiting to be discovered at the right time.

The right time for Naschy to enter my reel life came as my real life was dramatically changing for the better. An e-mail from an old friend had sparked a new phase in my romantic and professional lives, why shouldn't another e-mail spark a new phase in my endless pursuit of the best in junk culture and fringe media?

And so, I found myself joining a group of Eurotrash savants, men who will forget more about the world of Franco and Rollin as they sleep tonight than you or I will ever know. They embraced my love of all things Klaus Kinski, nodded knowingly when I argued that NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES was one of the five best undead flicks ever made and understood the joke when I said "Bad chop suey, so long!".

Soon the conversation turned to the career of Naschy and I admitted that my knowledge of the man and his work was limited at best. And with that my mailbox began overflowing with tapes and DVRs. Werewolf flicks, crazy crime movies, Euroboosh-filled 70s exorcisms, and something called NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST.

Admittedly, I've seen thousands of movies in my lifetime. To say that few have had as dramatic an effect on me as BEAST is an understatement. Within minutes of its yeti-attacks-ski-troop opening I knew that whatever I thought I knew about Naschy was wrong. Forget the seemingly non-existent budget and occasionally inexplicable plotting. This was a horror flick made for horror fans by horror fans and the screen practically pulsated with the star's enthusiasm for the genre.

Some might suggest that starting what I call my "Naschyfication" with NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST was a doomed idea. How could a trip through his nearly 100 films result in anything but disappointment when I started off on such an admittedly high note?

Au contraire mon fraire! Nearly ten years after that initial introduction, I find myself as fascinated as ever by Naschy and his work. I've enjoyed everything from the most threadbare werewolf update (TOMB OF THE WEREWOLF) and outrageous crime-flick-gone-haywire (HUMAN BEASTS) to reanimated sorcerers on the sexy prowl (HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB) and what may be my favorite Eurotrash film ever made, the mind-boggling but endearing HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE.

Though he departed this mortal and cinematic coil a year ago, it's refreshing and encouraging to see that his spirit still lives on, whether it's in a statue capturing his famous interpretation of the cursed werewolf, a comic retelling of his most beloved tales, or this Blog-A-Thon in which people who have never met can share their love for a man and his monsters.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Great article! I didn't see any of his movies until May of this year so I am kind of in the same boat. Would have loved to have met the man and gave him my thanks for his films that will now be in my library forever. All of the years I could have been a Naschy fan gone. :-(