Saturday, October 27, 2018

323. The Embalmer

323. The Embalmer aka Il mostro di Venezia(1965)
Director: Dino Tavella
Writers: Paolo Lombardo, Gian Battista Mussetto, Dino Tavella, and Antonio Walter from a story by Dino Tavella and Antonio Walter
From: Pure Terror (only 2 remain!)

A SCUBA diving serial killer is murdering women in Venice and embalming their bodies to keep as trophies.

Not a whole lot going on in this sub-80 minute feature. In Venice, a SCUBA diver hops out of the canals and drags away women he’s been stalking. He takes the bodies to his sunken lair to embalms and display them. The police don’t have any leads. In fact, they’re regarding the disappearances as accidents that they just haven’t found the bodies for. A local reporter suspects otherwise. His hypothesis is that there’s a sex maniac kidnapping and murdering the women. He has nothing to back up his suspicions though, so they’re dismissed.

The reporter meets a group of vacationing students and falls for their chaperone. She introduces him to an archaeologist at her hotel who's seeking out a sunken monastery. Meanwhile, the murders continue.

The archaeologist realizes the monastery must be below the hotel. When he goes into the basement to start looking for a door, he’s found and murdered. The reporter starts putting the pieces together and realizes, based on stories told to him by two drunken street cleaners, that there’s a SCUBA diver using a secret underwater passage. He goes diving looking for the entrance.

Meanwhile, the chaperone realizes her room has a two-way mirror and that someone’s been peeping on her and/or her students. She goes to the apartment of the hotel manager and finds a secret passage leading below the hotel. She finds the killer, is chased through catacombs, and strangled just as the reporter arrives. He chases the killer, they struggle in a piazza on the surface, and the police shoot the killer. It was the hotel manager the whole time (which was obvious because he appeared for only two scenes way back at the start of the movie and was never mentioned again). The police note they wouldn’t have believed the story if they didn’t have his body there. THE END

The movie doesn’t drag, but it doesn’t have any energy to it either. It’s just sort of nothing. A key problem is the characters we follow don’t have any investment in the murders. The reporter isn’t digging that hard, the police aren’t investigating, and the chaperone and her charges don’t even know anything is going on. It’s not until one of her students is taken by the killer that the main characters have a direct investment in solving the case, and then it's very nearly the end.

That’s not to say the movie doesn’t have a body count. The killer is consistently picking off victims. The issue is that the victims aren’t characters so we’re not worried about them and there’s no tension of the killer stalking and attacking them. Each victim only has three scenes: being spotted by the killer, taken by the killer, and embalmed by the killer. There are no misdirections, no near misses, and no struggles. Without those, there’s also no tension around the killer.

So it’s a bit of a curious film for that reason: a thriller minus thrills. As I said above, it’s short and, to its credit, doesn’t wallow in any seediness the way similar movies might. Even though you have a peeping tom, you don’t have any nudity and there’s no suggestion of sexual assault by the killer. So it’s inoffensive, but also unexciting, and I’d suggest giving it a miss.

Friday, October 26, 2018

322. Haunts

322. Haunts (1976
Director: Herb Freed
Writers: Anne Marisse and Herb Freed
From: Chilling (only 2 remain!)
Watch:archive.org

A murder in a small town sparks paranoia and awakens repressed memories in one young woman.

Our lord and savior, Cameron Mitchell, is here, but not even he can save this movie.

We open with the killer being spotted disposing of his victim in a barn. He gets away, but everyone in town is in a panic now. Ingrid, a woman who lives alone on another farm at the edge of town, is nervous about the attention she’s being paid by Frankie, an asshole who works at the general store, and Bill, a newcomer that’s joined her church choir. She keeps having imagistic flashbacks to something that happened before: we see gates closing, a girl sitting on a man’s lap while her leg is suggestively stroked, and a couple in bed. These get clearer as the movie goes on.

On Ingrid’s way home from choir practice, a drunken Frankie propositions her and drives off in a huff when she turns him down. Meanwhile, Bill is at a bar turning down the advances of a local woman. He leaves (both the bar and the movie-). As Ingrid walks home alone, the killer tries to attack her, but she manages to hit him in the head with a rock and escape. Ingrid’s Uncle Carl (Mitchell with dark hair) tells her to calm down and not call the sheriff, but she calls anyway. The sheriff dismisses her concerns because he’s been getting calls from women all night.

Frankie picks up his girlfriend and she notices an injury on the side of his face. They fight and she leaves. The woman who’d been flirting with Bill at the bar gets in her car and is murdered by the killer. Her body is dumped at Ingrid’s farm. Now the sheriff suspects he was wrong to dismiss her concerns.

As far as the audience is concerned, there are three suspects: Frankie, Bill, and Uncle Carl. Ingrid has increasingly vivid hallucinations (that we don’t realize are hallucinations until the end of the movie) including Frankie breaking into her house to assault her. She goes to church to tell the priest about Frankie, but can’t bring herself to say what happened. Frankie comes in to talk to the priest and, from what Ingrid overhears, it sounds like he’s admitting to the assault. They both leave separately and the killer attacks Ingrid in the graveyard. While she’s in the hospital getting checked out and accusing Frankie of the crime, the priest tells the sheriff that Frankie has gotten the sheriff’s daughter pregnant—that’s what he was telling the priest.

While the sheriff goes to arrest Frankie, the killer is seen trying to murder someone else. The cops chase him down and kill him. It’s Bill (welcome back to the movie). Frankie is released and Ingrid goes home. She knows Frankie is the killer, though, and grabs a shirt that should have his fingerprints on it. When she gets downstairs, she finds Uncle Carl tied to a chair and Frankie threatening her with a pair of scissors. They struggle, Ingrid stabs Frankie in the back, and Uncle Carl says he’ll take care of the body. He tells her not to call the cops because they won’t believe her.

He buries the body and then walks in on her in the shower the same way Frankie had earlier. She flees, goes to the cops, and tells them the entire story. They don’t fully believe her, but go to her house anyway. It’s too dark to find the body and the sheriff spends the night on the couch to continue the search in the morning. They find the grave except it has her goat in it, not Frankie. Frankie’s still alive. When the sheriff goes upstairs to check on Ingrid, he finds her dead from suicide in the tub.

After the funeral, Uncle Carl (Mitchell with gray hair) arrives and gets the whole story from the sheriff. Ingrid had imagined the assault and everything else with Frankie and had even imagined her Uncle’s presence. Uncle Carl reveals that Ingrid’s parents died within a week of each other and that he hadn’t seen her since he’d had her sent to an orphanage. From the flashbacks we’ve had with Ingrid and the more detailed ones with Uncle Carl showing his face, we learn that he’d had an incestuous relationship with his sister, was caught in bed with her by Ingrid on the day of her father’s funeral, and that led to her mother’s suicide.

The sheriff drops Uncle Carl off at the house. He steps into the bathroom where the taps start pouring blood. He looks in the mirror and sees (I think) Ingrid standing in the shower. He turns and approaches her. THE END.

I don’t know what to do with this movie. I’d watched it before in the earlier attempt to see all these flicks and remembered most of it. The key things I remembered were that I didn’t like it because it made Ingrid’s rape accusation a false rape accusation. There were extra layers like her having to “confess” her sin of being a rape victim to the priest and then the priest seemingly hearing Frankie admit to it, but dismissing the admission. That Frankie is admitting something else and the movie is trying to make us misinformed the same way Ingrid is doesn’t help. Instead, it implies that accusing someone of rape is a sign of being unbalanced, not something to take seriously.

That was my impression the first time I watched it. This second time, my position has softened slightly, but only slightly. The sheriff believes Ingrid’s accusation. His doubt at the very end—the doubt that leads to her suicide—stems from having caught the killer in the act and killed him. So he’s confused about what’s going on instead of dismissing her claim. However, his explanation to Uncle Carl at the end doubles down on the movie presenting the perspective of rape accusations as something not to be trusted.

Narratively, the twist that Uncle Carl wasn’t really there and that she imagined Frankie’s assault becomes too much. All the details have to be revealed in an info dump at the end in the squad car. Not only does it kill any energy that may remain at the end of the film, it adds an extra 10-15 minutes. If Frankie had been a second killer, if he and Bill had been working in tandem (or even Bill, Frankie, and Uncle Carl), you’ve got a tight 81-minute feature that ends with a real bang. Instead it putters to its conclusion.

Oh, and the incest and implied child molestation. All of Ingrid’s flashbacks are literally flashes of scenes that are carefully blocked to hide who’s doing what to whom. I understood what they were because I’d seen the movie before, but we have to have the key provided by Uncle Carl at the end to explain all this stuff we’d been seeing throughout the movie. Even then, he’s lying so we don’t know how much really happened and how much was imagined by Ingrid because the movie’s just told us we can’t trust her claims of sexual assault!

The implication from how Mitchell delivers the lines is that he maybe murdered Ingrid’s father, was definitely having an affair with her mother/his sister, and when they got caught by Ingrid, Ingrid’s mother committed suicide. However, while he’s providing voice-over for the flashback, we also have his hand stroking young Ingrid’s leg. So did he molest her? Did the mother find out leading to him murdering her? Because there’s a shot of him coming out of the bath, standing over the mother’s corpse, dripping which seems to contradict the shots of the mother seemingly having committed suicide.

And the ghost he sees in the mirror—is it Ingrid, the mother, or his own imagination? And why’s it called Haunts? There are no ghosts until the end, if that’s even supposed to be a ghost.

Anyway, it’s not good. If it lost about twenty minutes from the end, it’d be a fine Saturday afternoon thriller to stumble across on Retro TV or something. What it actually is isn’t worth watching. It is in the public domain, though. I uploaded a copy to archive.org here almost exactly four and a half years ago. With some creative editing, you might be able to make something better from it.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

321. Naked Massacre

321. Naked Massacre aka Die Hinrichtung (1976)
Director: Denis Héroux
Writers: F.G. Ranger with contributions from Denis Héroux and Clenn Wood
From: Chilling (only 3 remain!)

A man breaks into a boarding house full of nurses, gathers them together, and gradually tortures each of them to death before escaping.

Nope. That’s literally all that happens. Torture, rape, death. One woman survives by hiding under the bed all night. The killer hangs around town a bit, reporters ask questions of passersby, and the killer gives away all the things he stole. A cop guarding the house feeds the women’s cat and watches the news reporting on all kinds of violence throughout the world, implying that they’re all related. The killer tries to commit suicide by slitting his wrist, but fails. The doctor cleaning him up realizes who he is. THE END

I can be glib about some of these movies, especially when they offend my politics (Pink Angels) or enter this area of torture porn. In my defense, there’s rarely anything more to these movies than my glibness.

I watched this movie well over a decade ago when I was trying to go through all the movies on the Chilling collection in sequence. In fact, I was visiting a friend and let them pick the movie. We decided on this one because of its salacious title thinking it would be laughably titillating. Instead, it’s really dull and relies upon your enjoyment of random women getting hurt. They aren’t characters, they aren’t particularized, and their deaths don’t mean anything. In the end, there’s no story here, just suffering, and I can’t even tell you that the suffering is inventive or novel. Watching it didn’t make me feel ashamed or angry, just empty.

And somehow, as of this writing, this holds a 5.1/10 on IMDB. That means, community-wide, this is ranked higher than nearly every other film in the Misery Mill.

As with all of these “oh, does it offend you?” flicks, it’s boring. The movie is about a massacre, but it takes over thirty minutes for him to get into the house. In the interim, he stops a sex worker from being attacked, but gives all her money to her attackers. Then he goes home with her, menaces her, and leaves. We also get drips and drops of his past and the general situation—Belfast, Vietnam, etc. It’s not implied, but explicitly stated that things could have been prevented if only other choices had been made. Not his, his choices don’t seem to come up for criticism. Instead it’s the irony of a barkeep not taking his knife as payment or, later, calling the cops as a drunk yells in the street. Oh, if only things had been different these women would have been saved.

In other words, it’s not the murderer’s fault, it’s the culture and the women. All the women. Cause they’re all whores who deserve what they get.

By the way, after the murders, the women’s purity and lifestyle is brought up.

So, yeah. Fuck this movie and don’t bother looking for it.

Friday, October 19, 2018

320. Night of Bloody Horror

320. Night of Bloody Horror (1969)
Director: Joy N. Houck Jr.
Writers: Joy N. Houck Jr. and Robert A. Weaver
From: Pure Terror (only 3 remain!)
Watch: archive.org

The romantic partners of a man with a disturbed past end up murdered. Is he having a relapse or is something else at work?

We open on Wesley having sex with his fiancée. When they finish, Wesley has what looks like a migraine attack and his vision is clouded by a blue swirl. When his fiancée asks if he’s okay, he snaps at her and leaves. She goes to church to make confession and the person posing as the priest stabs her through the eye with a knitting needle, killing her.

Then not much happens. Wesley spends the next year drinking, gets mugged by some guys at a bar, and is saved by a nurse. They start dating but, once again, he gets the blue swirl, snaps at her, and then finds her dead on the beach with an axe in her chest. Wesley is accused of the murder, but his handler/mother’s employee bails him out. When they return home, a female reporter is waiting for Wesley and invites him to a bar that night.

At the bar, Wesley is recognized from news coverage of the murders and gets into a fight. His psychologist is called in to get him out of jail which is when we learn that, thirteen years prior, Wesley was institutionalized for shooting his brother. We’re more than halfway through the film at this point. The doctor takes Wesley home, Wesley’s mom refers to conversations with her husband, and the doctor acts confused.

Wesley has a dream where he’s hooking up with the reporter, but she turns into his mother and he strangles her. Wesley seems to leave, someone kills the doctor, and Wesley arrives at the reporter’s house. They start to sort of hook up (?). It’s unclear because it seems like it is a romantic situation, and then like she’s accommodating him to protect herself, and then her sticking her neck out to protect him when they hear the police have issued an APB after finding another woman’s body.

She goes to the house to get the doctor who can provide Wesley an alibi, the cops catch Wesley at her place, but he convinces them to go to his house. The reporter has been captured by Wesley’s mother, the real killer, and is being held in a room with the corpses of Wesley’s brother and father. The mother explains she’s been taking revenge on Wesley for murdering her other son and driving her husband to suicide; since Wesley took everything from her, she won’t allow him to have friends. Cops rush in, shoot her, and she dies just before Wesley walks in and starts screaming. THE END.

That we don’t learn about Wesley’s past until more than halfway through the movie pretty much sums up what’s wrong with it: nothing is happening and nothing is telling us what to be worried about. The movie would be much better if we had a sense of any of the characters, but, despite all the time spent with them, none of them do or say anything that defines who they are.

Plus the mother being the killer the whole time and channeling her dead husband was kind of obvious. The movie gave off big Psycho vibes from the start so the twist wasn’t a twist at all. Normally, when you manage to recognize that there’s a twist you can start spotting all the clues throughout the movie. Here you have the mother, after the fiancée’s funeral, step into another room to talk with the father. Two characters having a conversation off screen? It’s one person talking to themselves and this is a Psycho rip-off.

However, that happens really early in the movie. We don’t get another nod to the mother imagining conversations with her dead husband until the doctor shows up and looks confused when she says she’s been discussing Wesley with her husband. The doctor is about to say something, then decides to wait. Those are the only two clues. Nothing else happens to suggest the twist so nothing else in the movie is pointing toward the ending. With nothing pointing toward the ending, there's no sense of motion or matter in the movie.

So it’s not a recommend because it’s pretty dull. No energy, no wit, no mystery, it just plods along to its inevitable and obvious conclusion. The only thing in the movie’s favor is that it’s in the public domain. I’ve added a copy to archive.org here.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

319. Terror in the Jungle

319. Terror in the Jungle (1968)
Directors: Andrew Janczak, Tom DeSimone, and Alex Graton
Writers: Richard Ogilvie and Enrique Torres Tudela
From: Cult Cinema, Pure Terror (only 4 remain!)

A boy flying to see his mother in Rio becomes the center of several adventures as the plane crashes and he’s rescued by villagers who think he’s the son of their god.

Opens with a precocious child running across a beach and waving good-bye to a duck. Oh boy, am I going to love this flick?! No. No I’m not.

I’d complain about the child, because he’s pretty annoying, but I can’t really blame him. He looks to be about four years old, which by definition means he can't act, but he's crying in just about every shot. I sincerely suspect the producers smacked him just before every take. Keep that image in your head because it sums up the moral tone of this picture.

Yes. It is Christian propaganda. How did you guess?

Anyway, the kid is flying on a plane to Rio to see his mom because his parents might be getting a divorce. Shock and horror! How could such a thing happen? I don’t know because the mother never appears in the film. A series of wa-acky personalities are also on board—an aspiring actress, a groovy band, and a woman who allegedly murdered her husband and stole all his money. Also two nuns with a coffin, one of whom comforts the alleged murderess.

We get a little bit of these characters talking to each other on the plane, but that doesn’t matter because the plane is going to crash and I hope y’all are ready for high comedy! This is hands-down the best part of the movie. People are tossing luggage to help the plane stay airborne and one of the nuns falls out of the plane! But we’re not done! The plane crashes in the Amazon, everyone starts jumping in the water, but they’re all attacked by alligators! The kid is thrown into the river by the staff who promise they’ll follow in a moment, but the plane explodes killing them all! Of the entire flight, all that’s left is this little kid floating down the river in a coffin with his stuffed tiger. Sobbing and calling out for his daddy.

I was laughing and laughing and thought I would never stop.

Unfortunately the movie hits the brakes hard at this point. The kid flags down a plane, but his would-be rescuers are attacked by locals who take the kid instead. One faction wants to sacrifice him to their god. The other faction thinks, because of his blond hair, that he’s the son of their god. The king agrees with the second faction when he sees a halo around the boy’s head. The leader of the first faction really wants to sacrifice him, though, so he keeps working on the king until he agrees to maybe think about agreeing to it. Dude takes that as a yes and arranges to have the kid sacrificed. Just before the priest is about to put the knife in, he sees the halo around the kid’s head and refuses. So the faction leader kills the priest.

At this point, members of the second faction arrive and set the village and temple on fire. Someone escapes with the kid and the king refuses to do anything because he’s found a god stronger than INTI, somehow. So he gets killed. Meanwhile, leader of the first faction is chasing after the kid.

While all this is going on, the dad has flown down, visited the local Catholic church, and asked them for help—not the government or airline. He’s eventually led to a village the day before his son is supposed to be sacrificed and sees the villagers seemingly convert to Catholicism and agree to help find his son. Then they hit a certain point in the jungle and the villagers tell him and his priest friends that they’re on their own.

So the kid is being chased, drops his stuffed tiger, and the man chasing him finds it. The tiger transforms—first into a different stuffed tiger and then into a giant stuffed cheetah which, depending on the shot periodically transforms into a real cheetah. The man is attacked and killed by the beast, declaring with his dying breathe that the boy is the son of god. INTI, not Jehovah. That'd be blasphemous.

Kid is running, falls into quicksand, and calls for dad. Dad hears him, finds him, and saves him. As the two walk away, the pilot and priest who’d been traveling with them marvel at the fact that everyone on the plane except the kid died. The priest says, “The lord moves in mysterious ways to perform his miracles.” THE END

HOW MANY DIED SO THIS BOY COULD LIVE? It’s sort of like people talking about “God-incidences” in regard to 9/11. “I was supposed to work in the towers that day, but slept through my alarm. God specifically saved me while letting 3,000 of my friends and co-workers die in a horrifying way. Truly God is good.” By the way, I’m not making that up.

The movie is saying, directly, that God specifically reached out to protect this child (and none of the other people in the movie including the two priests who died in their effort to save him), but protect him from what? Living with his divorced mother? Quelle horreur.

The movie is just dull and weird for it’s final hour. Sure, you can laugh at the production values—all the actors look like recruits from a community theater troupe whose only membership requirement was “BYO shitty wig”—but that’s such a short, fleeting pleasure. Really, there’s about 15 solid minutes in this movie: minutes 15-30. That’s when they start making preparations for the plane to crash and all the hilarious deaths occur. After that, it’s just the locals sitting around giving the kid dirty looks and the dad traveling to find the priest who knows where the village is. If you can find a copy, just jump to the 15 minute mark and turn it off when the kid is weeping in the coffin. I doubt you’ll have a more joyful cinematic experience this year than that. Beyond that chunk, skip it.

Friday, October 12, 2018

318. Metamorphosis

318. Metamorphosis (1990)
Director: George Eastman
Writer: George Eastman
From: Chilling (only 4 remain!)

A professor researching a means of altering genetics through mutation to make people immortal injects himself with his serum producing unexpected results.

Peter is a cocky genius studying genetics at a private university in Virginia and becomes outraged when an auditor arrives demanding documentation of his research expenditures and results. He’s been keeping the details of his work a secret from everyone including the other members of his department. When he does tell them about his work, they think he’s crazy and crossing all sorts of ethical lines. His work, by the way, is focused on finding a genetic way to halt aging. Both Peter and his work capture the interest of Sally, the auditor. Unfortunately, Peter has burned so many bridges in his department that they crack down on him, seeking to close his lab.

You know what kind of movie this is: of course he then performs the experiment on himself. Initially it seems successful, but then he’s haunted by visions of assaulting a woman in a hotel room. Turns out he did and the serum is having a Jekyll & Hyde effect. He’s also starting to age rapidly and needs to perform the experiment again to set things right. As his assistant preps the lab, though, the other self comes forth and Peter leaves.

He comes to outside the apartment of a student who had been flirting with him in class (ew). He realizes he broke in and assaulted her, specifically when he goes back in through the broken door and his bruised and bleeding student attacks him with a knife. He calms her down by saying he’s not a threat anymore, then turns and kills her. Don’t know how you want to unpack that, but I don’t know that there’s a way to do it without reading it as her rapist invading her home again, convincing her he’s not a threat this time, then murdering her. Her death isn’t brought up again and, even after it, we’re told to see Peter as a victim of circumstance, not as an egomaniacal creeper teacher who condemns himself and the people he’s drawn into his net.

He is caught by the police, though not seemingly in relation to the assault, and taken to the hospital because of how bad he looks. His colleagues realize he’s not aging rapidly but instead devolving into a pre-mammalian form of life. He breaks out of the hospital, killing his rival and his own assistant in the process, and heads to Sally’s house because she has the last vial of serum.

By the way, he and Sally hooked up, which is why she has the vial. Also, she has a shitty kid who shouldn’t be in the film. It shouldn’t be important, because he shouldn’t be in the film, but he has to be mentioned because he’s the core of everything else that happens.

When the budget's abandoned you
Anyway, Peter goes to her house, gets the serum, inadvertently kidnaps the kid (he’s asleep in the back of the car Peter steals), and heads back to the lab. Sally follows, kid wanders the lab, and eventually alerts Peter to his presence. Shitty kid breaks the final vial of serum, finds mom, and the pair try to avoid Peter. They escape him at the last minute as the cops arrive and open fire on Peter in his final form: a half-price rip-off Reptar costume.

Peter is reduced to a pool of jelly, shitty kid (who’s allowed into and then to run around a crime scene) runs off and grabs something in the lab, and everyone leaves. Sally is moving back to New York where shitty kid reveals the lizard he stole from the lab and Sally realizes it’s Peter. THE END

I was kind of digging this movie unironically until the scene with the student, and, to my shame, even that didn’t take me out of it. I’m not going to say that sequence isn’t weird or uncomfortable, but it initially felt like a moment where we were supposed to start seeing Peter more as a monster than hero and I also thought him murdering a young woman would come back up. That the movie seems unconcerned by it (in fact sees the mutual flirting between teacher and student as something cheeky) is to the movie’s detriment. Then you throw in the shitty kid and it’s a misstep too many.

However, shitty kid pushes the film fully into the realm of being hilariously bad. You can get a nice chorus of “fuck you, kid!” going with some friends through the last 20-30 minutes of this movie and it’ll be a joyful noise, let me tell you. Until the kid shows up, it’s a fine, low-budget flick that does its best to make you uncomfortable without too many special effects. It does the needle-in-the-eye scare twice in the first half-hour. It’s cheaply done, but still uncomfortable, and that’s good. It’s also sort of silly-bad throughout. It moves at an okay pace and the appearance of Peter in his final form is laugh-out-lout funny. So it’s a recommend. It’s definitely a good-bad movie.

New Tinder profile pic?

Saturday, October 06, 2018

317. The Devil's Possessed

317. The Devil’s Possessed aka El mariscal del infierno (1974)
Director: León Klimovsky
Writer: Paul Naschy
From: Pure Terror (only 5 remain!)

A baron hungry for power turns to black magic to expand his power. He kidnaps and tortures his subjects for the rituals inspiring a revolt.

A Paul Naschy film I didn’t know I had waiting for me. This is an unexpected pleasure.

Naschy plays an evil baron who returns from a visit to the king without the glory he expected. He’s the King’s greatest soldier, but left humiliated. He decides to follow through with his alternative plan: hire an alchemist to create the Philosopher’s Stone and become ruler of the world. To accomplish this, he’ll have to perform all kinds of black magic rituals.

Sic Semper Libertarian
Time passes, the people in his barony come to fear him as the Marshal of Hell because he’s resorted to kidnapping and torture to get his way. Meanwhile his alchemist and consort are conspiring to make him commit every greater atrocities.

Arrive: Gaston, a soldier held prisoner in England these past four years and friend of the Baron. He initially disbelieves the stories about the Baron, but is convinced when the Baron invites him to the castle, invites him to join in the black magic, and tries to assassinate him. Gaston leaves to lead the resistance and the Baron dedicates himself to defeating him.

Things go… not quite as expected, thankfully, which is just further evidence of it being a Paul Naschy film. All the films of his that I’ve watched deal in tropes, but twist them just a little bit. The Baron is slightly sympathetic, roped into this corruption by the people around him who he later turns on for failing him. He feels guilt and tries to seek penance, but his ego prompts him to immediately return to his murderous ways.

As we approach the inevitable final battle, there are a few twists and wrinkles that elevate this above similar schlock. I won’t give away the ending except to say it surprised me in a very satisfying way. It’s an ending that seems to reject both heroes and the aristocracy in favor of the common man and collective action. It could have used more black magic, but that’s a minor quibble. Good sets, visually interesting, and pretty good acting (despite the dubbing). I don’t know that I have to say it’s a recommend because it’s a Paul Naschy film: doesn’t that mean “recommended” all on its own?