Saturday, July 23, 2011

Paul Naschy's HUMAN BEASTS (1980)

Is it absurd to believe that negative actions or foul deeds can sometimes not have consequences? It really would be comfortable to know that some form of universal order exists that brings those who’ve escaped punishment for murder, genocide, and torture to justice so that no fiendish monster would ever truly be off the hook, in this life or the next. The message in Paul Naschy’s HUMAN BEASTS is that redemption in the universe is unavoidable and that no matter how you’ve managed to escape your unspeakable deeds you shall still eventually “reap what you sow”. 

HUMAN BEASTS can be viewed as an action/crime/heist film turned horror that features ghostly presences, nightmare sequences, man eating pigs, and family practiced cannibalism that fans of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE might dig. Scripted, directed, and co-produced by Paul Naschy who also stars as the protagonist, this film is definitely his baby and is still considered to be woefully overlooked despite a pristine DVD release in 2007 from Deimos Entertainment. 

Naschy plays Bruno Rivera who after double crossing his lover during a diamond robbery heist and escaping redemption (for the time being), ultimately finds himself trapped in a HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN. Yes, just like the American title of Naschy’s Spanish giallo better known as BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL. But unlike that film, these women really are psychotic, which just leads to some really great stuff courtesy of Naschy’s brilliant and ever versatile mind.  



 

The soundtrack to this film is very enjoyable and fits HUMAN BEASTS perfectly. There are 2 unforgettable and extremely bitchin theme songs worth mentioning here. My favorite of these 2 themes is from Ennio Morricone, and it’s a spine chilling but melodic choir chanting piece that supplements the beginning and ending credits of the film. The other is an unidentified action oriented piece with Morricone/Nicolai style female vocals that is well used during a chase scene between a bloodily wounded Bruno and his scorned and extremely pissed off (for good reason) ex-lover with a machine gun, Mieko (Eiko Nagashima). 

After the chase, Bruno passes out in the middle of the scorching hot forest before waking up in a wonderful mansion, bandaged up and surrounded by a doctor, Don Simón (Lautaro Murúa), and his 2 lovely daughters, Mónica and Alicia (Silvia Aguilar and Azucena Hernández). What sort of Karma is this one may think? Why are some of the worst men always so fortunate? Well the universe seems to work in strange ways…. 





The mansion in the film has been featured in numerous other Spanish horror films, and I personally like to call it “The Spanish House of Usher”. There, while recovering and having nightmares that include his ex in total vindictive mode, without any effort at all, Bruno manages to enjoy the sexy delights of both of Don Simón’s beautiful daughters, who happen to prefer living all alone in this isolated and claustrophobic mansion. 





Aside from all of the fun this film is, there’s a prevalent theme of misguided trust from beginning to end. This cynical portrayal of trusting the wrong people and concealed ill-intentions of so-called friends is a reflection of Naschy’s own outlook on life at the time of producing this film. 

Those who’ve seen a good deal of Naschy’s films may notice that he’s crafted a familiar but altogether different type of character that really is an interesting progression to what fans are used to seeing. Bruno is bad, but not Alaric de Marnac bad (A nasty satanic warlock that Naschy played in HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB and PANIC BEATS) and is sort of a gentleman with a polite and innocent side that makes it hard to believe that there is a violent and greedy human beast beneath the facade. Bruno also has this odd likability and ends up being the type one can’t help but still worry about even after knowing he is a double crossing killer. It’s not unusual for viewers to suddenly find themselves on the bad guy’s side all of a sudden. I mean who didn’t end up concerned for little Alex in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE?




The film does have its fair share of eerie moments with my favorite being the two close-up shots of actress Julia Saly’s beautifully creepy eye (which I’ve chosen to not give away with a screen grab, so just watch for it if you ever check this out). Saly plays the role of a hidden unknown character in the house whose significance to the story is revealed during the films climax. She’s played off as a possible ghost who silently watches Bruno, effectively adding an eerie feeling of being watched by a ghost while sleeping or making love. 




An unexpected and entertaining costume dinner party adds an element of comedy, which ends up transcending weird and outlandish and may not be to everyone’s liking, but nonetheless it should be thought of as the film's way of lightening up a bit and taking a moment to throw all standards of convention out the window. Who needs normal? I’ll take crazy batshit insane over normal anyday, and I just can’t help admiring when Naschy seems to purposefully share his hilarious resemblance to Napoleon.


 

Like a lot of great horror films, HUMAN BEASTS also benefits from a bloody and entertainingly dramatic ending, guaranteed to raise viewers' pulses.



10 comments:

  1. I really like this one. I do like CARNIVAL OF BEASTS better as a title though--HUMAN BEASTS is too on-the-nose, and gives away the game.

    The movie crosses about four different--and seemingly disparate--genres as it goes along, which is what gives it that batshit crazy feel, but it runs a common theme through all of them, and the madness escalates as it goes along. I didn't think the dinner party near the end was inappropriately outlandish at all--it's just the next stage of this mounting insanity. If the movie ran 20 more minutes, the cast may have played out the ending on a space shuttle in orbit, and it still wouldn't have seemed entirely inappropriate.

    This flick hit DVD as sort of the b-release to the much better known BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL (HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN is a much better title for that one), but I thought it blew that film out of the water in every way. They have vaguely similar premises, but whereas BLUE EYES... was merely trying to replicate the Italian gialli (of which I'm not a big fan in the first place), CARNIVAL OF BEASTS was, as a whole, an original, and a much better movie. It has become one of the flicks I make it a point to pimp every so often in various venues.

    Unfortunately, BCI went belly-up shortly after releasing it, which isn't going to help lift it out of the obscurity to which it has unjustly been consigned. I keep hoping someone like Synapse or Code Red will pick up and--even better--continue BCI's Spanish horror line (which was just incredible), but so far, no takers.

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  2. I wasn’t sure if BCI/Eclipse went belly up or decided to discontinue their Spanish horror series which really was a great time in my horror collecting career. I bought anything from that series even if it was a movie I had never heard of, such as THE DRACULA SAGA. I originally mentioned the possibility of BCI/Eclipse shutting down in an early draft, but I had a hard time confirming it, so I omitted it in fear of being incorrect, but it did seem pretty obvious. Thanks for confirming that by the way.

    I believe that this film is better than BLUE EYES as well, but not much better since I cannot get enough of the giallo film and I thought it was a formidable imitation to the epic Italian murder mysteries which, fortunately for me, there are more than enough to choose from. Even HUMAN BEASTS contains some giallo elements but I do agree that HUMAN BEASTS is very original and really is something special to me and was the film that finally made me interested enough in Naschy to check out his Werewolf films and really search for some of the rarer but equally enjoyable stuff, like EL CAMINANTE and THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE.

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  3. I read about Naschy's films for a lot of years before I got to see many of them. Before DVD, I'd only seen crappy grey-market prints of THE WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMAN and FURY OF THE WOLFMAN (which was in such bad shape, I never watched most of it). DVD opened up his work (and that of countless others) to me.

    I managed to get all of the BCI Spanish horrors except EXORCISM, which, honestly, didn't interest me at all (I hold even slighter regard for exor-sploitation than for even slasher flicks). From a business end, the line was mismanaged from the get-go, but they did quality releases of some really good movies, some that lived up to their stellar reputations, some that were little-known gems, and at least one that was insanely overrated rubbish (NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS).

    Shamefully, I still haven't seen either EL CAMINANTE or THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE yet (my very limited resources, at the moment, are committed to my own movie project). Have you ever seen FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR? A great little flick, tarnished only by some dumb moments designed to capitalize on 3D. And did you see DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE? It was supposed to be part of the BCI series, but ended up being shuffled over to a different line when Navarre pulled the plug.

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  4. I have seen FRANKENSTEIN’S BLODY TERROR (the birth of Waldemar Daninsky and a great film). I thought Aurora Alba was totally seductive as the female vampire and the cast just felt full of enthusiasm, given the modest production that the film was. I am familiar with DRACULA’S GREAT LOVE as well. I have 2 versions of this, a fairly good transfer known as CEMETERY GIRLS that is part of those EXPLOITATION CINEMA DOUBLE FEATURE DVDs (not sure if these are still around) and the other is part of the ELVIRA’S MOVIE MACABRE DVD series that I purchased for a couple dollars on Amazon. I don’t really favor the Elvira version because she tears it down pretty hard, more so than usual. I thought DGL was a little nonsensical, but still a very beautiful and enjoyable film.

    Going back to the BCI Spanish horrors, THE NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS was the first to catch my eye since Amando De Ossorio’s name was over the title (Ossorio got my respect for his BLIND DEAD series). The film wasn’t the best, but it introduced me to the quality that BCI was capable of. As for EXORCISM, Naschy claimed to have written the script for that film a couple years before THE EXORCIST was even released. This is a little hard to believe since EXORCISM does have strikingly similar moments to THE EXORCIST (or the script might have been modified at the last minute to capitalize on THE EXORCIST), but other than that it isn’t all that similar. EXORCISM is a bit slow though and is probably one of my least favorite Naschy films. So you haven’t missed much there.

    I feel like I’ve seen every one of Naschy’s horror films from the 60s and 70s but I am starting to read his autobiography MEMOIRS OF A WOLFMAN to learn more. It does have a very comprehensive filmography at the end, with little paragraph write ups for each film. Also, other than ROJO SANGRE I haven’t seen anything more recent from Naschy though. I’m not sure but I doubt that hardly any of the newer stuff has been dubbed in English or subtitled. I could be wrong though since I haven’t checked. I’ve been more interested in the older stuff.

    By the way, I wish you all the luck with your movie project.

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  5. Well, I wrote another comment, here, yesterday, but it seems to be missing--did I run afoul of the spam filter again?

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  6. I checked the spam filter and I don’t see any comments. I am really sorry, but it seems your comment did not publish for some reason. I hope you’re able to try again. I’m a little bummed that it didn’t show.

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  7. I haven't seen this movie but it seems like it would be awesome. I always enjoy a movie with a great soundtrack! Great review always, Giovanni. :P

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  8. Thanks Zena! Great music in a movie can go a long way for me, and I frequently rave about music scores when I review films.

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  9. A blog "gender" with great care and passion for Italian horror! Great!!!
    I add you at friends and read it with more calm time!
    Ciao! :)

    Luigi

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  10. Thanks Luigi! I hope this blog ends up being to your liking. You're definitely right when you say that I've got a passion for Italian horror.

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