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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Horror Rises From the Tomb (1973) review


Paul Naschy (Alaric de Marnac/Hugo/Armand), Emma Cohen (Elvira), Vic Winner (Maurice Roland/Andre), Helga Line (Mabille de Lancre)

***WARNING! This review contains pics of gore and nudity***

Alaric De Marnac and his evil follower, Mabille, are executed by decapitation for their alliance with the Devil and despicable crimes against humanity. Before Alaric is killed, he places a curse on the descendants of his brother Armand and another relative, Andre Roland. Centuries later, Hugo De Marnac and a group of friends interested in his lineage, partake in a seance to speak with his long dead kin. They learn of the location where his decapitated head has been buried and dig it up. For Alaric to live again, his head must be rejoined with his body. Mabille, his wicked lover, is also resurrected and the two apostates unleash their revenge on the descendants of Marnac.

As in many of his other movies, Naschy plays multiple roles essaying three here. Naschy plays the wicked Alaric, Armand, the brother of Alaric seen during the opening and Hugo, the disbelieving descendant of Alaric. During the seance, odd things happen and Hugo passes them off as parlor tricks. His main interest in locating his devil worshipping relation is the rumored buried treasure. As in his other movies, Naschy shows little interest in his human performances reserving his vivacity for his non-human or demonic roles. In these scenes he truly shines. He also shows lots of interest when he's bedding down the beautiful women that often adorn his movies.

Carlos Aured returns to the helm after directing Naschy in three other pictures released in 1973 (among them BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL aka HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN and VENGEANCE OF THE MUMMY, one of Naschy's goriest movies). TOMB is a redressed version of half a dozen other Naschy vehicles-devilish villains are executed post swearing vengeance only to surface in modern times after being brought back into existence by curiosity seekers. Then there's the requisite special talisman being the only means of destroying them.

There are some good scenes here such as one involving Hugo's relative, Maurice Roland, a painter. He has a nightmare in which he sees Alaric in his dream. He awakens and immediately paints a portrait of the warlock holding up his head (the scene is a bit funny as the canvas is seen with messy brushstrokes then seconds later it's a perfectly detailed painting of Alaric). Suddenly, blood begins to pour down onto the canvas. The image of Alaric appears above and laughs maniacally until Maurice destroys it. The image vanishes.

The entire film contains the look and feel of a nightmare. There are long stretches with little to no dialog allowing the music and sound effects to create an unsettling mood. As with most of the man's films, it's not technically a great movie, but the atmosphere takes hold maintaining the viewers interest. It's possibly the bloodiest of Naschy's films, but it doesn't ever get too messy.

The murder of Chantel is quite violent even though you don't really see much but Aured handles it well enough. Another striking scene has Hugo and company robbed by some ruffians until some violent thugs come to their rescue. They kill the two robbers. One is shot in the head and has his ear cut off while the other is hanged in front of them.

The resurrection scene contains some subtle necrophilic overtones but the scene itself is kind of lazy in execution. There's no ritual or special rites involved in reuniting Alaric's head with his body. The mesmerized followers simply place the head against his corpse within his coffin and voila, Alaric walks the earth again. One scene that is a bit of a letdown is a sequence involving a number of corpses rising from a swamp to attack Hugo and Elvira. The scene is seen from afar and you're not sure what has happened until they show up on Hugo's doorstep. Still, the zombies are effective enough and look like they stepped off the set of HORROR EXPRESS between takes.

The destruction of Alaric is kind of abysmal as instead of having him stabbed with the talisman, it's simply thrown at him bouncing off his shoulder causing his body to smoke. Elvira goes over and places the amulet on his forehead by which his neck begins to bleed causing his head to once again leave his body.

Although the film is bloody, you only see the aftermath most of the time (save for one shot of Line ripping through a man's chest to tear out his heart) but there is plentiful nudity on display. There's probably more nudity than blood, actually. Helga Line is especially stunning in her flimsy gown and gets down with some tame lesbian groping of one of her intended victims. The other female cast members get naked one or more times throughout the picture as well. Line will no doubt be a welcome addition to fans of Eurocinema having starred in innumerable muscleman movies and assorted horror pictures during her career.

The script for the film was written in a day and a half and portions of the film were even shot in Naschy's parent's house. Despite its flaws, this movie holds a special place with Naschy and his fans. It's the first of several times the Spanish horror icon would pay homage to French madman, Gilles De Rais. One of the richest and most powerful men in France, he was once considered a national hero, but his darker side of dealing with black magic, the sexual violation and death of hundreds of young children (including young boys) keep him resigned to the category of one of history's most evil men. Naschy also essays his version of Gilles the gruesome in THE MARSHALL FROM HELL (1974) and PANIC BEATS (1983).

HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB was previously released in the US on Charter Home Entertainment. EDDE Entertainment released an uncut VHS of lesser quality in the early 90s as MARK OF THE DEVIL 4: HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB and Crash released a DVD a few years back which had 3 versions of the film but none of them looked as good as this version. The film looks better than it really should as like most of Naschy's movies, it's average but enjoyable if you take it for what it is. Not nearly as well done as some of Mexico's golden age of horror cinema nor a fair number of 60's Italian horror, it nonetheless provides a lot of exploitation value and as Naschy himself points out in his intro, it's not to be taken seriously.

This review is representative of the BCI/Deimos release.


Snipes said...

Personally Naschy kinda bores me, I've seen two of his films this and the Mummy, both I watched just because I love Helga Line, but overall I was rather bored with both. This one I did enjoy a little more, Line wasn't in it enough for me though.

venoms5 said...

I enjoyed his movies much better when I was a kid, but I still enjoy them now, just less so. If it weren't for the atmosphere inherent in them, I probably wouldn't even bother. However, I am very anxious to see these newly restored Naschy films, VENGEANCE OF THE MUMMY being one of them.

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