Viva Naschy!

According to my calendar, September is Hispanic Heritage Month and I feel there’s no better way to celebrate this occasion than to profile Spain’s Sultan of Scare, Paul Naschy. Mr. Naschy is often referred to as the Spanish Lon Chaney, presumably since both Lon Chaney Jr. and he portrayed men tormented by their lycanthropic transformations (Naschy played Waldemar Daninsky and Chaney played Larry Talbot). Another potential source of this comparison is that Naschy, like Lon Chaney Sr., has portrayed numerous horror characters throughout his body of work.

Despite being born as Jacinto Molina in 1934, Naschy adopted his stage name after transitioning from the world of bodybuilding to the world of acting. Although he appeared in several non-horror films prior to making La Marca del Hombre Lobo (which translates as “Mark of the Wolf Man”) in 1968, the film is considered by many to have been when he had truly “arrived” in the industry. The film was also the first of Naschy’s horror films to be shown in America, where it was retitled as Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror. The reason for this was due to the American distributor having promised a film called Blood of Frankenstein to theaters and not being able to produce it due to financial difficulties. In a desperate attempt to keep their promise, an animated prologue was added to the film. This sequence quickly explained how the Frankenstein clan eventually turned into a family of werwolves known as “Wolfstein.” A little more on the matter can be found in an interview with Sam Sherman in Brian Albright’s Wild Beyond Belief!

Speaking of editing, some modern horror fans might forget that Spain was still under the dictatorship of Franciso Franco during the time in which several of Naschy’s horror films were created. As a result of this, many horror films were subject to hastily-made edits and use of alternate takes for the Spanish release in order to comply with censorship laws. Although the uncut nudity and violence were offered in the “international” prints of the films offered to foreign distributors, their removal from the original negatives (and the differing quality of the footage from other prints) has made of mess of modern efforts to release the definitive versions of those films onto DVD. In fact, it is not unheard of for hardcore Naschy devotees to import old VHS tapes (and DVDs) from other countries in order to see every last frame of film missing from their domestic versions. I cannot help but wonder if that censorship is the reason why the portrait of Naschy villain Alaric de Marnac in 1982’s Latidos de Panicos(aka Panic Beats) bears an uncanny resemblence to a painting of Franco’s ancestor, Pedro Fernández de Castro, VII Count of Lemos. You can see a screenshot of the Marnac picture here (some images there are NSFW).

I am happy to report that Paul Naschy is still doing horror films today. In fact, he was given the Spanish Gold Medal in Fine Arts in 2001 and his IMDB profile indicates that there are two new Naschy films on the way. To learn more about Señor Naschy, please visit his Wikipedia entry and the Mark of Naschy fansite.

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