Paul Naschy (Jacinto Molina) - Legend of a Werewolf

by Classic Camp

<!-- -- begin story --> Whenever someone says “Euro-horror”, who comes immediately to mind? Bava? Argento? Fulci? Unfortunately, only a few people think of Spanish legendary actor, writer, producer and director Paul Naschy (real name Jacinto Molina), and perhaps that is with some good reason. That’s because Naschy’s films run the gamut of every type of horror film that has ever existed, from well developed psychological thrillers, to giallos, to slashers, to atmospheric monster movies, to dark comedies, to so bad they’re good, to just so awful it’s painful to watch, and anything else imaginable.

Naschy is most often compared to Lon Chaney, Jr., very likely because his most famous character is werewolf Waldemar Daninsky. He appeared in no less than 13 films playing the character, which is certainly appropriate for the horror genre. However, his films also include elements of James Bond, Bruce Lee, and perhaps even a little Ed Wood.

He was born Jacinto Molina in Madrid, Spain on September 6, 1934. As a young boy he saw Chaney play werewolf Larry Talbot in several Universal classics in the 1940s.In the 1950s, he actually wrote a number of dime store western novels.Despite this, he only made one European spaghetti western, The Fury of Johnny Kid (1967). As a young man he decided to become an actor and traveled to Hollywood. He landed a few bit parts, most notably, one as an extra in the Bible epic King of Kings (1961). Like Bruce Lee, he followed up his limited success by returning to his home country where he was seen as a star, although Lee had far more success at this point in their respective careers.

But Molina needed a regular job to help pay his bills, and eventually he found one as, of all things, a weightlifter.During this time he also wrote a screenplay titled La Marca Del Hombre Lobo (Mark of the Wolf Man) (1968), but he had a hard time finding anyone to finance his project.Finally, he found the right partner in Maxper Productions, but still couldn’t find the right actor to play the lead character, Count Waldemar Daninsky. The studio executives eventually suggested Molina play the part himself, and it’s doubtful they had to twist his arm very much to convince him to do so. The only catch was that Molina decided to play the part with the acting name of Paul Naschy, even though he was still credited as the writer under his real name, Jacinto Molina.

However, when the movie finally made its way to the United States, there were issues with its U.S. distributor Independent International.The studio was in the process of financing another monster epic to be directed by Al Adamson, titled Dracula vs. Frankenstein, and they already promised the title to several theaters. So when Molina’s movie came to them they decided to retitle it, Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror and it was released in the U.S. in 1972. This was very deceptive to anyone who viewed the film, since they would no doubt have been expecting to see a Frankenstein film, but would see a werewolf film instead. The problem of renaming Naschy’s films would plague his entire career. Even so, the film also featured vampires, loads of action, terrific atmosphere, and wound up being enjoyed by audiences despite the deceptive title. Naschy also showed such enthusiasm in the title role that he would continue to cast himself in all the rest of the films he would pen during his career.

And there would be many more films.During the same year Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror was released, 1968, Naschy would release another werewolf film, Nights of the Werewolf. Today it is considered a lost film. Some say it was never even completed, but this is doubtful. Most likely it never made its way to the United States, or if it did, it was so limited that it was soon forgotten and lost.

The next year Naschy would release the third installment of the Waldemar Daninsky werewolf series, Los Monstruos del Terror (The Monsters of Terror) (1969), which was obviously inspired by Universal’s House of Frankenstein (1944), since it also features a vampire (Count de Mierhoff), the Franksollen monster (not to be confused with Frankenstein monster), and a mummy (Tao-Tet). Despite this entourage of monsters, the real story of this film is its cast. It features the final appearance of science fiction legend Michael Rennie, playing yet another incarnation of Klatuu from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Craig Hill who appeared in over 75 films, including the 1950s version of Cheaper by the Dozen and countless spaghetti westerns, and Patty Shepard who Naschy aficionados usually refer to as the most famous Naschy-girl (similar to the Bond-girls of the James Bond series). Even with all that, Karin Dor is the most intriguing member of the cast since she is best remembered as the Bond-girl from You Only Live Twice (1967) and also the femme fatal for Hitchcock’s Topaz the same year as this turkey, and she appeared in a large number of European genre flicks including The Face of Fu Manchu (1965) starring Christopher Lee, a few Edgar Wallace adaptations and at least one Dr. Mabuse flick. And you’ve gotta love a hot chick who’s into genre.

However, once again the fickle finger of fate turned its ugly head toward Naschy as this film disappeared until showing up on late night television as Assignment Terror, where it actually gained a cult following. Then when it was finally released on VHS, it was given the title from its United Kingdom release, Dracula Vs. Frankenstein, and the UK cut which shaved off about 10 minutes of mostly key plot segments. Some scenes are actually cut in mid-dialogue. Still in the full Assignment Terror version it is one long monster romp from beginning to end, even if some of the make-up and special effects are not the greatest.

Even with the overload of monsters and the addition of real stars, Naschy’s next film would prove to be his landmark and far surpass Assignment Terror in terms of quality. La Noche de Walpurgis (a.k.a. The Werewolf’s Shadow, but
better known as Werewolf Vs. the Vampire Woman) (1971) turned out to be a fun, action packed horror film without the overabundance of attempts at mainstream appeal. It fits very nicely and happily in its niche environment. In it, Naschy still plays his usual werewolf character, Waldemar Daninsky, with the usual zest his fans had become accustomed to. But because of a lack of other stars or the overabundance of monsters, his performance is allowed to shine with a better spotlight.

The next installment of the werewolf opus is unfortunately also one of his more famous films, mostly because it has received several DVD releases. I say unfortunately because this is also the worst of the werewolf films and one of the worst films Naschy ever made. Fury of the Werewolf (1972) uses stock footage from Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror, and reshot several scenes with the werewolf without using Naschy under the make-up. In the reshot scene, the werewolf casually saunters down a flight of steps as though he’s walking through a park, rather than with the usual wild ferocity Naschy portrays the character.

Over the course of the first few werewolf films, there was a certain amount of continuity from one film to the next. However, over the course of the next few films, this idea was relaxed, and eventually dropped altogether. In Dr. Jekyll Vs. the Werewolf (1972) Daninsky’s alter ego faces the famed mad scientist. In Return of the Werewolf (a.k.a. Curse of the Devil) (1973) there are no references to any of the previous werewolf films, yet it is probably the most polished and lavish of the series. The Werewolf Vs. the Yeti (a.k.a. Hall of the Mountain King) (1975) is far from the best in the series, but it too has no reference to any previous film in the series. Next, The Craving (1980) (a.k.a. Return of the Wolfman and Night of the Werewolf) actually serves as a prequel to the other werewolf films in the series.

The last several Daninsky werewolf films, The Beast and the Magic Sword (1983), Howl of the Devil (1987), Lycantropus: the Moonlight Murders (1996), and Tomb of the Werewolf (2004), have no apparent linkage to previous films. It is also important to note that The Beast and the Magic Sword was Naschy’s debut as a producer, and that film and Howl of the Devil are the only two where he served in all of his occupations of lead actor, writer, director, and producer, making him the virtual Spanish version of Ed Wood, with perhaps at least little higher quality of his final product. He also played a werewolf who was not Waldemar Daninsky in Buenos Noches, Senior Monstruo (1982).

Of course, not all Naschy’s films were werewolf films. In fact some would say that although Naschy is still most associated with his lycanthrope opus, his non-werewolf films are actually superior in quality. His first venture into non-werewolf celluloid was actually playing a character named Bruno in Jack the Ripper of London (1971). As with many of the future non-werewolf Naschy films, it features more nudity and violence than most of the werewolf films.

Vengeance of the Zombies (1972), Naschy’s second venture without lycanthropy, is just about as bad a film as those previously mentioned, which brings me to my point about Naschy’s non-werewolf films; I feel they are about the same overall quality as the werewolf films, there are some real gems, but there are also some real stinkers. In Vengeance, for instance, Naschy plays Krishna, a long-haired soothsayer in a laughably bad wig. The zombies look about as convincing as any Halloween costume, and the cinematography is almost non-existant, yet there is still a quaint so-bad-it’s-actually-quite-good quality to it. But as I said earlier, Naschy’s films run the gamut in quality from legitimately good to unbearably bad, and every possible combination in between.

Like Naschy’s idol, Lon Chaney, Naschy was determined to play every possible monster filmdom has ever created. So it should be no surprise that he would also tackle playing a vampire in Count Dracula’s Greatest Love (1972). This film does boast a very unique and famous ending, which I will not divulge here, not only because I don’t wish to leave any spoilers, but also because it sometimes receives such a build-up that finally watching it can leave a terrible let-down.I will say that of all the Naschy films I’ve seen, this one actually has more sex and nudity than any other. In fact, I think I would classify it as nearly being soft-core porn in the same vein as what one could see on Skinemax, er, Cinemax.

In Horror Rises From the Tomb (1973), Naschy plays no less than three characters. A sorcerer possesses the body of his twin brother before being put to death so that his spirit may live on centuries later and possess the body of a descendant and commit unexplained murders. While most of Naschy’s films have a retro feel to them, this film is actually a favorite of many fans of more modern horror because it resembles an 80s slasher, and has probably more blood than any of his other films. Whether that’s for better or worse, this is also one of his best efforts in terms of plot, character development, and atmosphere.

Naschy’s next non-werewolf film however, is one of the best films he ever accomplished. Hunchback of the Morgue (1973) is the story of Gotho, a sympathetic hunchback (hence the title) who falls for a beautiful lady who dies of tuberculosis. Gotho then steals bodies for a mad-scientist’s experiments in exchange for the promise that he will eventually bring the girl back to life. However, it is doubtful that this film will ever receive the corporate video release or mainstream popularity it deserves because of a scene where Gotho is attacked by rats, which are then set on fire without the trickery of special effects (i.e. real rats attack him, and the rats are then set on fire...for real...without trickery...ick).

The next two non-werewolf Naschy flicks are somewhat forgettable. He returns to once again playing a title monster
once portrayed by his idol Lon Chaney for The Mummy’s Revenge (1973). This film mimics the original Universal Mummy series combining the plots of the first installment with Boris Karloff, and The Mummy’s Ghost (1944) which co-starred John Carradine. That’s the one where The Mummy searches for the reincarnation of his Princess Ananka. This was followed by the very hard to find, Tarzan in King Soloman’s Mines (1973).

Naschy’s next film, Crimson (1973), is another one of those so-bad-it’s-good flicks. Naschy plays a thug who’s injured by the police and falls into the hands of a mad-scientist couple who transplant his head onto the body of a nightclub owner called “The Sadist.” This of course turns Naschy into a sex-crazed maniac who then goes on a rampage until being thwarted. I would say this is your basic late-60s/early 70s head transplant movie which seems to have had its own subgenre during that timeframe, except for the unique idea that they actually extract Naschy’s head by having him run over by a train. I defy anyone to find that in their medical journals. And of course if the movie were remade today, the rest of the plot would be replaced with a series of malpractice lawsuits. Still, the usual funky, kitschy jazz music found in many Naschy flicks is the highlight here.

1973’s Orgy of the Dead (a.k.a. Beyond the Living Dead) is another lame zombie flick similar to Vengeance, only here Naschy plays a character named Igor. This was followed by Naschy’s first attempt at something much closer to a thriller, or Italian giallo, than ever before, and actually it proved Naschy has some talent for this genre. Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll (a.k.a. House of Psychotic Women) (1973), is the story of an ex-con who winds up in the mansion of an exotic family with three lovely ladies vying for Naschy’s affections. Meanwhile, there’s a killer on the loose who likes to cut out the eyes of his blonde female victims.

By the mid-1970s Naschy began making more and more non-werewolf films as his next three films indicate. Devil’s Possessed (1974) was followed soon after by another giallo/thriller A Dragonfly for Each Corpse (1974). And the next film, Exorcism (1975), is an obvious knock-off of the more famous American film. This was followed by Kilma, Queen of the Jungle which shows that Naschy was also interested in jungle action flicks, especially when paired with the earlier mentioned Tarzan film. Then in The People Who Own the Dark (1976), Naschy tackles the topic of a post apocalyptic world due to nuclear holocaust.

Inquisition (1976) marked Naschy’s directorial debut, and is certainly an appropriate topic for a Spaniard to tackle. In Naschy’s version, the Spanish purification is filled with much nudity and violence, more so than most of his other pictures, and this could also rival his Dracula movie for his film with the most nudity. Of course, it also features plenty of atmospheric scenes with medieval torture devices one would expect to accompany its title.

By the time 1980 rolled around, it becomes apparent that Naschy began running out of ideas because he began rehashing plots and storylines from previous films. The Craving, for example, was a combination of Curse of the Devil and Horror Rises From the Tomb, and his next film, Human Beasts, steals a lot from House of Psychotic Women. However, Human Beasts is a brutally violent film that takes many unexpected twists, so to call it a mere rip-off of his previous work would a gross misunderstanding. It opens as a thriller, with Naschy helping to organize a diamond heist, but he double crosses his partners, and they shoot it out in a violent machine-gun battle. After almost dying in the gun fight, Naschy, billed as simply The Spaniard, is taken in by an eccentric but elite household with several daughters again vying for his attention. This becomes perhaps Naschy’s darkest film, complete with a rich landowner having an affair with his black maidservant, diamond thieves turning on one another, an element of cannibalism, a series of mysterious murders and even a farting priest who cheats at cards. Like a season of "Survivor", there are no alliances left unbroken. Yet, Human Beasts adds an element of humor that turns the whole movie into a dark comedy.

In 1981 Naschy appeared in Mystery on Monster Island, which is taken from a Jules Verne novel. This is not one of the films Naschy usually takes complete creative control over, but instead features him in a supporting role. It is one of the few features where Naschy gets to work with another horror legend, Peter Cushing in this case. The plot is rather juvenile with a boy’s desire to see the world before marrying his sweetheart then getting trapped on a dangerous island, but it’s still worth a look.

Panic Beats (1983) sees Naschy’s return behind the camera as director, and the return of the de Marnac family from Horror Rises From the Tomb. While this is not an outright sequel to Horror Rises, it does feature about as much nudity and violence, so it should cover the same appeal. In 1990, Naschy took on a role that has been donned by such legends as Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee. In Hija de Fu Manchu he plays the famous title role. Unfortunately, this film has yet to find its way stateside. Naschy wrote and appeared in another horror film in 1992 titled Night of the Executioner, but this is also impossible to find in the U.S.

That covers most Naschy’s horror films, or at least all of his important horror films. It is important to note that a number of his films have not yet come to the U.S., and therefore very little information is available on this side of the ocean. This is particularly true of his more recent films such as School Killer (2001), and the previously mentioned Night of the Executioner. It is equally important to note that the films that have a good deal information on them have often been re-edited and re-titled by U.S. companies. This has caused much confusion over many of his films, and has been yet another detriment to his popularity. The Mark of the Wolfman, for example, is not only known as the aforementioned Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror, but also as Hell’s Creatures, The Vampire of Dr. Dracula, and The Wolfman of Count Dracula, while Assignment Terror is also known as Dracula Vs. Frankenstein, Operation Terror, and The Man Who Came From Ummo. Many of the other films listed in this article are also known under other titles, but I left these a.k.a.’s off for special issues. The main titles for each film, however, has been listed.

Even so, Paul Naschy’s career has spanned six decades, he has appeared in over 90 films, wrote 38, directed 14, and produced two. Such a prolific career should not be ignored by anyone who claims to be a fan of European horror films. He carries the same elements fans adore from their Euro icons, including atmosphere, gore, and a touch of sleaze. Again, I’m not saying anyone who is a fan of Euro-horror has to like Paul Naschy/Jacinto Molina movies, but I think those fans need to at least experience a number of them before deciding whether they like him or not.