The Mondo-Esoterica Guide to

Paul Naschy


Jacinto Molina Alvarez was born in Madrid in 1934 growing up in the dark years of the Spanish Civil War and the Fascist rule of General Franco which followed. From a young age he was enamoured with the cinema and his first films were the classic American serials with heros like Zorro and Robin Hood. Heavy censorship under Franco limited the availability of horror films and he discovered a love of gothic horror instead through a compendium of short stories by classic writers like Bram Stoker and Edgar Allan Poe which he would stay up all night to read. Inspired by the books, he sought out rare showings of the Universal Horror films which were highly popular at the time and although too young to buy a ticket he was able to sneak in to El Cine Rex in Madrid to watch Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), a film that proved highly influencial on his future cinema career.

A career in cinema however was not the first choice of Jacinto's industrialist parents and instead he was encouraged to study agriculture and later architecture in Barcelona where he earned acclaim for his drawing talents which would later secure him a job designing album covers. While studying he developed a love of sports and would go on to compete in javelin, weightlifting and wrestling events with some success. His sporting physique was enough to earn him a small unspeaking role in the Spanish lensed American epic King of Kings (1961) and a few more parts as an extra followed, with Jacinto also learning the ropes behind the scenes as assistant director on a number of small Spanish productions. He finally had a chance to meet his childhood hero Boris Karloff when he was hired as an extra for an episode of the American television series I Spy (1965-68) filmed in Spain which featured Karloff as a mad scientist who thinks himself Don Quixote. He was moved to see the veteran British actor looking very unwell, unable to walk without leg braces and at the end of the day's work breaking down into tears.

Jacinto expanded his continuing love of cinema into writing during the boom of the American Western craze in the 1950s when he wrote a series of Old West novels which were published under the name 'Jack Mills'. He wrote his first film script in the 1960s for a werewolf picture but found little interest among Spanish producers to fund it. Although imported horror films had been somewhat successful, Spain had little heritage of horror stories and its horror cinema was very limited, only Jess Franco's Dr Orloff films had come close but they were still more horror themed crime and mystery stories than pure horror films. Eventually a German production company agreed to put up the money for what would become La Marca del Hombre Lobo (1968).

Production of Mark of the Werewolf was a problematic affair. Spanish censors took an immediate dislike to the script and although allowing it to be filmed, they were insistant that the monster could not be Spanish. The original lead character of the script was called Luis Huidobro, a Spaniard from the very rural Asturias region of Northern Spain, from where Jacinto's mother had come - an area rich in its own werewolf legends. Instead the lead character was changed to reflect the classic Mittle-European settings of the Universal and Hammer horror films and became the Polish Waldemar Daninsky. This however was only a minor problem compared to the issue of trying to find an actor to play this character.

The original plan to use the original Wolf Man, Lon Chaney Jr., was scuppered when the now sixty year-old actor turned the part down for being too demanding. The producers searched extensively for an actor to play the role, eventually asking Jacinto himself to screentest as the human and werewolf - they were pleased with the results and gave the go-ahead to started filming, but even this was complicated when the German financiers insisted on using a new 70mm 3-D process which required the use of heavy and cumbersome cameras. Finally, in post-production and with the film being hurredly prepared for its Munich debut, it was decided that billing the unknown Jacinto Molina in the title role would not do the film any favours and he was asked to come up with a suitably Anglo-Germanic screenname. Taking the name Paul from the current Pope, he adapted the surname of his Hungarian weightlifting friend Imre Nagy into his credited name: Paul Naschy.

The film proved a success in several markets including the USA, despite being cut of several minutes and burdened with the title Frankenstein's Bloody Terror after distributor Sam Sherman retitled the film to fill a promised booking slot for a Frankenstein film (an added opening narration explained how the curse of the werewolf has corrupted the Frankenstein name to Wolfstein and Frankenstein is never mentioned again). In France where the film was also released successfully, Naschy was hired to work on a quick sequel entitled Las noches del Hombre Lobo (1968) in which he played Daninsky under the control of a mad scientist, on location in Paris. Or at least that is what Naschy himself has stated, as apparently due to production issues the film was never released and no real trace of its existence has ever been found (even the reported director René Govar is unknown) leading some to suggest that the film might never have existed or at least never moved beyond pre-production.

Naschy's next film certainly does exist, although this was far from likely when again financial difficulties stuck during production forcing major cuts to the script and special effects budget - problems were further compounded when the director was replaced part way though filming. Los monstruos del terror (1970) was an elaborate monster-mash that would put even Universal's House of Dracula (1945) to shame - with a mummy, vampire, Frankensteinian monster and a werewolf (Waldemar Daninsky) being raised by an alien scientist (played by veteran British actor Michael Rennie of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)) in an attempt to take over the world. Similar problems would crop up during filming of La Furia del Hombre Lobo (1972) with Naschy in later interviews describing director José María Zabalza as an alcholic who all but destroyed the film, which gained only a limited release when a distributor proved hard to find.

Everything changed with Daninsky's fifth lycanthropic outing in La noche de Walpurgis (1971). Naschy again wrote the script and director León Klimovsky was attached to the picture, an Argentian director who looked to make art-house films, he had instead ended up working on Spaghetti Westerns and Macaroni War films with a rather workman-like style, but importantly he was a reliable director and was happy to accept Naschy's filming suggestions for the picture so the two worked together well. The film proved an enourmous success, both in Spain and overseas and his name was firmly attached to the horror genre although Naschy himself has admitted in later interviews that he still has no idea why this particular film would be his breakthrough as he never considered it to be his best production.

No matter what the reason, Naschy now had producers competing to back his pictures as well as looking to cast him in their own and in a wonderful four year boom, Naschy appeared in over twenty films, most of which he also co-wrote. Of course he continued to develop his Waldemar Daninsky character, taking him to London for another inventive monster-mash in Dr. Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo (1972) before stepping back in time for the 1800s setting of El retorno de Walpurgis (1973) and travelling into the high Himalayas in La Maldicion de la Bestia (1975).

Spanish production company Profilmes saw that any horror film with a Naschy credit was going to make money and allowed him to script some creative new films to star himself (often in multiple parts), moving away from the wolfman typecasting. These ranged from the voodoo zombie film La Rebelion de las Muertas (1972) and period horror El Mariscal del Infierno (1974), to creepy Exorcismo (1975) and perhaps Naschy's best film from the period El Espanto Surge de la Tumba (1973). Working with director Javier Aguirre, Naschy co-wrote two more iconic monster roles - as the legendary vampire in El Gran Amor del Conde Dracula (1972) and making the classic hunchbacked assistant the leading part in El jorobado de la Morgue (1973) for which he would win a Méliès award. As though to complete the entire horror cycle he appeared as a Pharoah and resulting mummy in La venganza de la momia (1973).

As well as straight horror pictures, Naschy appeared in a few murder mystery pictures inspired by the Italian Giallo films - director Jose-Luis Madrid was first, casting Naschy in his self-produced Jack el destripador de Londres (1971) and he would go on to appear in Los ojos azules de la muñeca rota (1973) and Una libélula para cada muerto (1974). Outside of horror, he starred in a few crime films including Disco rojo (1973), Los crímenes de Petiot (1973) and Muerte de un quinqui (1975) as well as playing the white hunter in the unlicensed Tarzan film, Tarzán en las minas del rey Salomón (1973) and appearing in comic book action flick Docteur Justice (1975).

Amongst this series of films there is another "lost" curio, lost because Naschy never got to play the leading role that he wrote for himself. He penned a screenplay for the film which would become La cruz del diablo (1975), incorporating the Templar Nights of the popular Blind Dead series. He asked British director John Gilling (best known for his Hammer film work) to direct the film, which he did, but fired Naschy in the process and refused to work with the Spanish film unions. The film was made and remains the only film that Naschy was to script but not appear in or direct.

By 1976, the great Euro-cult boom was in decline - even with increasing exploitation elements, the Spanish and Italian horror films were not able to compete with big budgeted productions coming out of Hollywood (films like The Exorcist (1973) and Jaws (1975) are often cited), but rather than fade quietly into the background, Naschy took the opportunity to cut costs by directing his own films as well as starring and scripting them. Already an experienced assistant director and often an able contributor to the direction of his earlier films, Naschy gained his first credit on Inquisición (1976), a brutal witch-hunter film and would go on to direct most of his own films throughout the 1970s and 80s.

The death of General Franco in 1975 saw a lot of changes to Spain as it began a slow process towards democracy. With the easily obtainable funding of the 1970s now drying up, Naschy found himself the victim of financiers and even close friends who were willing to double-cross and cheat their way to make a quick profit in the film business. While his films had previously presented the darkness of demonic and Satanic evil, he now had a dim view of humanity as a whole and his late 1970s productions reflected these attitudes, as well as building up an artistically recognised, if less commerically successful, reputation. His second directoral effort, the serial-killer film El huerto del Francés (1978) downplayed the expected horror aspects and is considered by many to be his very best film. Madrid al desnudo (1979) was a rich satire on the Spanish upper classes, while El transexual (1977) stands as the most unexpected film in Naschy's entire oeuvre - a documentary-style study of the Spanish transexual community that would be banned in Spain for several years. El caminante (1979) saw Naschy once again playing the devil, although this time in an elaborate exemplification of the depths to which man has fallen Satan himself is impressed and even shocked by what he sees on the earth.

A major change in direction came at the beginning of the 1980s when Naschy was unexpectedly contacted by the Japanese production company Hori Kikaku who wanted Naschy to helm a television documentary about Madrid's Prado Museum and its legendary collection of art-works. The documentary proved a major artistic and financial success and Naschy would direct several more documentary pieces for the Japanese market. At the same time, he managed to establish a pair of co-productions under the Dálmata Films label, bringing his dark humanity films to a climax with the uniquely bizarre El carnaval de las bestias (1980). For his second production he decided to finally brush the dust from the fur of his most famous creation, Waldemar Daninsky, for the first time both playing and directing the wolf. El retorno del Hombre-Lobo (1981) was an elaborate (and expensive) return to the 1960s gothic horror films that while artistically stunning, was simply a decade too late for audiences growing up on American slasher and Italian gore films and its lack of commercial success saw the end of Dálmata.

Outside of his own directoral work, Naschy appeared in children's comedy Buenas noches, señor monstruo (1982) as a werewolf, although he felt the irreverence of the film would be harmful to his beloved Daninsky and so chose to play an unnamed lycanthrope. At the same time, an unsatisfyingly brief cameo in Misterio en la isla de los monstruos (1981) which co-starred British horror legend Peter Cushing would sadly be the closest that Naschy came to co-starring with any of his British or American horror contemporaries.

Another return to gothic horror came with Latidos de pánico (1983), a sequel of sorts to his earlier El Espanto Surge de la Tumba (1973) but this time Naschy updated the plot and the feel of the film as well as focusing on the saleable exploitation elements to ensure the film was more successful. Despite the collapse of Dálmata, its co-founder and a man whom Naschy described as his closest friend, producer Masurao Takeda continued to find Japanese funding for Naschy's horror films and they again restored the venerable Waldemar, this time combining the wolf-man story with Oriental sword-fighting and sword-and-scorcery themes in La bestia y la espada mágica (1983), a production which many fans see as the last of the official Waldemar Daninsky films. The film made money and along with Takeda, Naschy formed Acónito Films and felt confident enough for a little self-indulgence in Mi amigo el vagabundo (1984) starring his young son Sergio Molina, while giving himself a variety of costumed bit-parts including a musketeer and a gunslinger.

Under his Acónito Films banner, Naschy made the hitman action film El último kamikaze (1984) before moving on to an elaborate spy spoof Operación Mantis (1984) for which Naschy was provided the biggest budget of his directoral career. Attempting to cash in on the popularity of spoof films like the Zucker brother's Airplane (1980), the film was instead a massive flop, marking the end of Acónito Films and bringing Naschy's film career to a crashing halt. Over the next years he would enter a lengthy period of depression, marked by the death of first his father and then his friend and co-producer Masurao Takeda, a period in which Naschy would seriously consider suicide.

Aside from a couple of short films and an appearance in an ultra-low budget DTV horror film Shadows of Blood (1988) filmed in Amsterdam, Naschy had been absent from the cinema world for several years when he emerged in full force with El aullido del diablo (1987). Recognising his own place among the icons of horror, Naschy (whose classic 1970s works had been popular releases in the early days of VHS - amazingly, some even finding themselves on the UK's video nasty lists) he dedicates the film to Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi and Jack Pierce and for the only time in his career, uses his acting name Paul Naschy for the director's credit. The film, an allegorical story about a fading horror actor with plenty of opportunity for Naschy to appear as a variety of colourful characters from Rasputin to Fu Manchu, co-starred popular international actors Howard Vernon and Caroline Munro and was intended for international release - an English language version filmed to avoid the necessity for dubbing (so disliked by Anglo-American audiences). In a spectre of his early days however, Naschy's film was beset by production issues and would never get a cinematic release. His big comeback was a personal success, bringing him back into the film world, but he was not able to make the break he wanted, back into commercial cinema.

More tragedy struck 1991 when Naschy suffered a heart-attack and had to undergo emergency treatment, taking months to recover. The 1990s were a lean time for Euro-horror as a whole and throughout the decade Naschy made only a few films, supplemented by occasional cameo parts and a appearances in a few short films. La noche del ejecutor (1992) would be his final directoral effort, a small crime film in which he played one of the leading roles. Licántropo: El asesino de la luna llena (1996) was a low budget return to the screen for Waldemar Daninsky, although the film was poorly received, with Naschy accusing director Francisco Rodríguez Gordillo of removing the exploitation elements from the script to create a watered down production.

As VHS gave way to DVD at the turn of the century, Naschy's films became increasingly accessible to new audiences and he again found himself firmly associated with the horror genre, leading to a selection of appearances that helped to boost some otherwise undistinguished Spanish horror films. He played the ghostly killer in the effectively written slasher film School Killer (2001), followed by the comically over-the-top gore-fest of Mucha sangre (2002) and Brian Yuzna's robotic monster film Rottweiler (2004).

Naschy's fame had spread to cult film fans across the world and in 2003 he travelled to make his first and only films in the USA, although sadly these were little more than straight-to-video softcore erotica with horror trappings - Donald F. Glut's Countess Dracula's Orgy of Blood (2004) was considered harmless enough, but Fred Olen Ray's Tomb of the Werewolf (2004) marked a particularly inglorious end to the still lycanthropic Waldemar Daninsky, reduced to nothing more than filler between silicone-enhanced sex scenes. Travelling to Brazil, Naschy would play Dr. Moreau in a bizarre adaptation of the classic mad scientist tale in Um Lobisomem na Amazônia (2005).

Out of all of these films, one real gem however would emerge. The Spanish production Rojo Sangre (2004) took the idea from the now largely forgotten El aullido del diablo of casting Naschy as a horror star beset by the problems of being forgotten in a modern age, while experiencing horrors himself. Able to display his acting talents as well as a variety of superb costumes, the film was a real showcase for the veteran star and ensured that he, unlike his wretched character, was not destined for obscurity.

In 2009, Naschy would star in the two-part Lovecraft inspired horror film La herencia Valdemar (2010), but it would become his final film. In November 2009 Jacinto Molina Alvarez died at home in Madrid. His legacy however would live on and the following year saw the release of a feature length biographic documentary film The Man Who Saw Frankenstein Cry (2010) (the title referring to Naschy's encounter with Boris Karloff on the set of the I Spy television series in the 1960s) featuring interviews with Joe Dante and John Landis as well as many of Naschy's co-stars and colleagues, paying tribute to the true icon of Spanish horror.

DVD Reviews: Films starring Paul Naschy

Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll (1973)

Naschy co-wrote this surprisingly enjoyable blend of classic Spanish horror atmosphere with Italian giallo.
Curse of the Devil (1973)

USA Anchor Bay Region 1 DVD
A dark and strongly horror tinged period set Wolfman film with a good Naschy lead performance.
Recommended to all Naschy and Euro-cult fans.
Doctor Jekyll versus the Werewolf (1972)

UK Mondo Macabro Region 0 DVD
A sucessfully unique twist on the Wolfman mythos courtesy of a strong script and decent production.
Exorcismo (1975)

An enjoyable and far from inept take on the Exorcist themes, but rather slow in places with not enough horror.
One for Naschy fans
Horror Rises from the Tomb (1973)

One of Naschy's scariest films, an unoriginal but surprisingly effective mix of horror themes.
Human Beasts (1983)

A very unusual horror film with a particularly dim view of humanity and some strange ideas.
Partly recommended
Hunchback of the Morgue (1973)

A dark look at the life of the mad scientist's assistants with some very gory and disturbing sequences.
Partly recommended
Jack el destripador de Londres (1971)

Televista US R0 DVD
Naschy has a supporting role in this failed and uninspired attempt to mimic the Italian giallo films.
Not Recommended
La Marca del Hombre-lobo (1968)

Media Blasters Region 1 DVD
A dark and horror filled beginning to the Wolfman cycle, and Paul Naschy's debut lead role.
Of interest.
Night of the Werewolf (1981)

BCI USA Region 0 DVD
Naschy returns to his classic gothic horror films in this highly enjoyable Waldemar Daninsky film.
Panic Beats (1983)

Naschy writes and directs this original horror film with some good scares and plenty to enjoy.
Rojo Sangre (2004)

USA Fangoria/Media Blasters Region 1 DVD
Rojo Sangre is a unique film - mixing a personal rant against celebrity culture and with some ultra-stylish horror.
Highly recommended to all. Naschy fans MUST see this!
School Killer (2001)

Venevision Region 1 DVD
What could have been a generic slasher film becomes a little modern gem thanks to a clever script and Paul Naschy.
Recommended and certainly of interest to Naschy fans.
Werewolf Shadow (1971)

UK Anchor Bay Region 0 DVD
Naschy has the lead role in this Wolfman picture. Although the script is poor, the film looks good and is fun to watch.
Recommended place to start for Naschy newcomers.



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All text in this page written by Timothy Young - November 2010.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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