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The Beast and the Magic Sword (Naschy, 1983)



When I saw Iron Maiden in concert a few years ago, what struck me was not just the power of the music or the extravagant prop-and-effects-filled stage show, but the sight of frontman Bruce Dickinson in a puffy shirt and pantaloons, galloping across the stage, throwing the full force of his body into the performance. I bring up this memory because Paul Naschy brings a similar energy to his performance in The Beast and the Magic Sword. Lots of bared teeth, lots of tensed arms, lots of jumping around. If you've seen The Kentucky Fried Movie, the gorilla rampage should come to mind. I say this not to insult the movie, but to note the endearingly goofy charm of the lead performance. I should also mention that he's playing a werewolf.

The Beast and the Magic Sword is the ninth or tenth of the Hombre Lobo movies Naschy starred in (I understand that the existence of one of the films is in question, at least in regards to a finished form) and the last one to have received a theatrical release. I understand that Naschy is best known for this character and that he'd directed a number of movies at this point as well, and there is a degree of assurance in the finished product I can detect despite this being my first experience with him as an actor and director. The movie neatly sets up an origin story for his hero's lycanthropy, involving a duel with Magyar invaders and religious persecution, and then shuttling off to Japan, where the werewolf material mixes interestingly with the jidaigeki and Japanese folklore elements. (I understand the exact origin story differs between installments of the series, but as a newcomer, I appreciated being given some kind of setup.) What transpires are not just werewolf attacks (always in a shiny black shirt and pantaloons), but sword fights, witchcraft, undead samurai and most memorably, a wrestling match with a tiger. And at the end, a Japanese pop song plays over the credits.

I watched this on a Blu-ray from Mondo Macabro, and to the extent that home video labels can be said to have house styles, this movie's blend of exotic, worldly delights and excitable, schlocky tone is firmly in that company's wheelhouse. The movie was shot open matte style, and due to its limited theatrical release, it was widely seen for years only in full frame on home video, despite not being the intended aspect ratio for its theatrical release. Due to probable production mistakes, the footage in the prologue seems to drift in and out of focus with some regularity and was giving me a bit of a headache, so I watched the full frame version where the issue didn't seem as severe. I actually think this works in the movie's favour, as the aspect ratio ties nicely into the stateliness of the Japanese sections and helps the horror imagery pop. Naschy was able to shoot in Toshiro Mifune's studios and I suspect getting access to local crew influenced the movie's style for the better. (If I wanted to talk completely out of my rear end, I would say that this is like if Ozu made a werewolf movie. Having finally seen my first few Ozus recently, I will say that if you sprinkle in a bit of Kobayashi the claim gets a little less dumbassed.)

There is a level of wish fulfillment here, which may or may not be off putting depending on how much you can identify with Naschy. If I were a not particularly charismatic and handsome dude (okay, that I am) and I had the ability to direct myself in a movie where I'm surrounded by beautiful women and can run around pretending to be a werewolf in some really nice looking sets, I sure as hell would jump on that opportunity. (All three elements are equally important in this hypothetical scenario.) Naschy's performance has some of that bozo quality, but at the same time, he clearly realizes that he comes up short as an actor against Shigeru Amachi and gladly shifts the dramatic crux of the movie over to the Japanese characters. (The Japanese actors are dubbed into Spanish, but it's done well enough that it was a non-issue for me.) And aside from a rampage through a brothel, the movie is less exploitative than the poster would have you believe, committing to its idiosyncratic vision of horror. If anything, that's what's most surprising about the movie. Naschy isn't just using the Japanese setting for flavouring, he actually seems to respect the country's dramatic traditions and folklore and makes a movie that's a true blend of those elements with his lycanthropic passions.




I am open to recommendations on which Naschy flicks to prioritize next. Is the one with a Yeti any good? Should I just buy both Shout Factory box sets and cry about them later? Please advise.



I'll write up more of a proper review later, but I would give a tentative recommendation to Hunter Hunter on Hulu.

Some questionable character choices, but the last 20 minutes are pretty effective and gruesome.



I am open to recommendations on which Naschy flicks to prioritize next. Is the one with a Yeti any good? Should I just buy both Shout Factory box sets and cry about them later? Please advise.
The Werewolf and the Yeti? I think it's pretty decent and I've seen it like half a dozen times. It's probably the best Naschy I've seen (surprisingly, none of them have been abysmal).
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Counterpoint to my own point: SPOILERS
Couple of months ago I watched the entire series in sequence for the first time, and -SPOILER ALERT-
 

So maybe don't watch them all in one week is what I'm saying.
Yeah, you are spot on, some of that was pretty damn weak.



I am open to recommendations on which Naschy flicks to prioritize next. Is the one with a Yeti any good? Should I just buy both Shout Factory box sets and cry about them later? Please advise.
Naschy is a huge blind spot for me. I've only seen one, and it wasn't great. It was also marred by some on-camera animal cruelty.

So the answer is yes, buy both box sets.
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Captain's Log
My Collection



Naschy is a huge blind spot for me. I've only seen one, and it wasn't great. It was also marred by some on-camera animal cruelty.

So the answer is yes, buy both box sets.
Appreciate the even-handed advice.*


I will say that the one I watched seems very much up your alley.



minds his own damn business
I think my favorite thing about Paul Naschy is that he provides me with an acceptable template for imagining my long-sought-after fantasy of seeing a John Belushi werewolf movie.
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I think my favorite thing about Paul Naschy is that he provides me with an acceptable template for imagining my long-sought-after fantasy of seeing a John Belushi werewolf movie.
I think he's my favorite professional weightlifter turned into a filmmaker.



I will say that the one I watched seems very much up your alley.
Yeah I have no reason for avoiding him, he's just fallen through the cracks over the years. Looks like I can stream a few at the moment so maybe I'll make him a priority.

And after further review it appears I've seen two of his films. I remember nothing of Vengeance of the Zombies. Hunchback of the Morgue is the one where they set actual rats on fire. I remember that one as being entertainingly bad, apart from the rat snuffing.



Horror of Dracula -


We're off to a great start! Having seen Bram Stoker's Dracula and Nosferatu (both the 1922 and 1979 versions), I know this story like the back of my hand, but this version is unique and so much fun that its familiarity becomes a moot point. Besides, it has variations like excluding major characters, changing the role of Jonathan, etc. that may offend those who hold the original text sacred, but that I didn't mind because none of them detract from the story. I also love the look of the castle - I forgot to breathe when Jonathan went inside because I, like him, was taking it all in - and Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are perfectly cast. Finally, and most importantly, it's pretty freakin' scary! With all that said, there's no moment I enjoyed more than when Cushing enters the tavern and reveals his face to the suspicious crowd, his face saying, "that's right, I'm Van Helsing, bitch!"

Looking forward to Brides.
__________________
Last Great Movie Seen
Blow Out (De Palma, 1981)



A DARK SONG

Atmospheric, moody and effective. I was ready to love this film up until the climax, which isnít ďbadĒ per se but suffers from a bit of deflation.

I still liked it a good deal as itís well acted, nicely shot and has an acute focus on cult methodology that sets it apart from others of this ilk. A big recommend for slow burn horror fans.




A DARK SONG

Atmospheric, moody and effective. I was ready to love this film up until the climax, which isnít ďbadĒ per se but suffers from a bit of deflation.

I still liked it a good deal as itís well acted, nicely shot and has an acute focus on cult methodology that sets it apart from others of this ilk. A big recommend for slow burn horror fans.

I wasn't sure how I felt about you-know-what at the end, but it was such an out of the ordinary choice that I ultimately decided I was into it. Not that I thought that it was totally successful, but I just gave them credit for going there at all, if you know what I mean.



I wasn't sure how I felt about you-know-what at the end, but it was such an out of the ordinary choice that I ultimately decided I was into it. Not that I thought that it was totally successful, but I just gave them credit for going there at all, if you know what I mean.
I actually really liked the

WARNING: spoilers below
the guardian Angel. I just didnít think that her asking for ďforgivenessĒ was earned and felt like a pat ďitís really about her emotional growthĒ nonsense. I mean, itís implied they not only kidnapped and murdered her son, but did so for a ritual and now sheís done a ritual that resulted in her sexual assault, a loss of a finger and her guide dying from a wound she caused and it tried to justify this with her finding emotional solace? Bleh.



A DARK SONG

Atmospheric, moody and effective. I was ready to love this film up until the climax, which isnít ďbadĒ per se but suffers from a bit of deflation.

I still liked it a good deal as itís well acted, nicely shot and has an acute focus on cult methodology that sets it apart from others of this ilk. A big recommend for slow burn horror fans.

I was really pleasantly surprised by this one, and I would also highly recommend it.

Regarding what you put in spoilers, I actually think that
WARNING: spoilers below
she realizes through the course of events how dehumanizing it all is.

If she asked for vengeance, she would probably just stay in her cycle of grief. I get what you mean about "emotional growth", but I took her request as not just a way to forgive her son's killers, but as a way to forgive herself. No amount of revenge would take away the pain of feeling that she failed to protect her son.



I was really pleasantly surprised by this one, and I would also highly recommend it.

Regarding what you put in spoilers, I actually think that
WARNING: spoilers below
she realizes through the course of events how dehumanizing it all is.

If she asked for vengeance, she would probably just stay in her cycle of grief. I get what you mean about "emotional growth", but I took her request as not just a way to forgive her son's killers, but as a way to forgive herself. No amount of revenge would take away the pain of feeling that she failed to protect her son.
I would be okay with that ifÖ

WARNING: spoilers below
the film had done things to make that an explicit point. Perhaps I missed something but it never seemed to develop her internalized guilt for her sonís death but rather used her blaming external forces (RIGHTFULLY) as the ultimate driving force.

If they had either developed the kidnapper as mentally ill or anything even halfway beyond creepy witch that murdered a kid, forgiving her would carry more weight beyond the abstract concept of forgiveness for forgivenessí sake.

Similarly, if there were thematic beats of her coming to terms with going too far for a revenge she doesnít want outside of the climax, it would feel earned.

Instead, what remains is the sacrifice of narrative honesty for an extended metaphor for grief and forgiveness. One that ignores the further damage and cost she inflicted on herself and uses the guide as something mechanical to her emotional growth, which rubs me all sorts of wrong, even with what an ******* he was.

I think a more honest ending to this narrative would either be her getting her revenge and still feeling the pain and hole left by her son or her Angel simply flat out refusing to aid her and her being left with the damage. Either would communicate the futility of her mission without compromising the characters and the narrative.

This ending could have worked for me if the ground work had effectively been laid but I just donít see it.



Horror of Dracula -


We're off to a great start! Having seen Bram Stoker's Dracula and Nosferatu (both the 1922 and 1979 versions), I know this story like the back of my hand, but this version is unique and so much fun that its familiarity becomes a moot point. Besides, it has variations like excluding major characters, changing the role of Jonathan, etc. that may offend those who hold the original text sacred, but that I didn't mind because none of them detract from the story. I also love the look of the castle - I forgot to breathe when Jonathan went inside because I, like him, was taking it all in - and Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are perfectly cast. Finally, and most importantly, it's pretty freakin' scary! With all that said, there's no moment I enjoyed more than when Cushing enters the tavern and reveals his face to the suspicious crowd, his face saying, "that's right, I'm Van Helsing, bitch!"

Looking forward to Brides.
Yep, a classic. Despite my trash-talking yesterday, I've actually given this and Brides identical ratings. I just like to promote Brides whenever I can because it's the underdog.

The key to enjoying Brides is to accept beforehand that the main vampire is kind of a weenie compared to Christopher Lee. I'll save my comments until you've seen it but for me it's all about a couple of other characters, and of course Cushing.



I would be okay with that ifÖ

WARNING: spoilers below
the film had done things to make that an explicit point. Perhaps I missed something but it never seemed to develop her internalized guilt for her sonís death but rather used her blaming external forces (RIGHTFULLY) as the ultimate driving force.

If they had either developed the kidnapper as mentally ill or anything even halfway beyond creepy witch that murdered a kid, forgiving her would carry more weight beyond the abstract concept of forgiveness for forgivenessí sake.

Similarly, if there were thematic beats of her coming to terms with going too far for a revenge she doesnít want outside of the climax, it would feel earned.

Instead, what remains is the sacrifice of narrative honesty for an extended metaphor for grief and forgiveness. One that ignores the further damage and cost she inflicted on herself and uses the guide as something mechanical to her emotional growth, which rubs me all sorts of wrong, even with what an ******* he was.

I think a more honest ending to this narrative would either be her getting her revenge and still feeling the pain and hole left by her son or her Angel simply flat out refusing to aid her and her being left with the damage. Either would communicate the futility of her mission without compromising the characters and the narrative.

This ending could have worked for me if the ground work had effectively been laid but I just donít see it.
Maybe my memory is misleading me, but isn't she basically
WARNING: spoilers below
haunted by demons, including her own son? Isn't it possible that these represent her guilt (albeit in a very literal fashion)? Maybe I just need to rewatch the last act. Isn't it after the demons torment her that she arrives at the angel?

I also think that it's significant that they spend so much time in the house. Isn't it weeks? That's a lot of time to churn over your emotions.



Maybe my memory is misleading me, but isn't she basically
WARNING: spoilers below
haunted by demons, including her own son? Isn't it possible that these represent her guilt (albeit in a very literal fashion)? Maybe I just need to rewatch the last act. Isn't it after the demons torment her that she arrives at the angel?

I also think that it's significant that they spend so much time in the house. Isn't it weeks? That's a lot of time to churn over your emotions.
WARNING: spoilers below
Yeah, thatís about right. The problem is that the meaning of the demons is fairly opaque. Her (righteous) rage is developed, thoroughly. It is the defining element of her determination to suffer through all of this and itís linked to her grief.

Having internal demons manifest as entities is solid material but they have to be developed in tandem with the thematic elements. Her feeling guilty or blaming herself really isnít expanded upon despite there being ample opportunity to do so: scene with her sister, multiple scenes with the guide, multiple conversations with the demon that taunts her as her son.

It IS brought up at one point, if I recall correctly, where she apologizes to the demon posing as her kid in their 3rd conversation, which is immediately preceding the climax of the film.

It forces me to retroactively develop the reading and meaning of the film after the third act but it just rings hollow to me. If the theme of forgiving oneself is going to be the defining conflict of the film, it should have de-emphasized that her son was abducted and murdered for a ritual, while setting up a scenario where she would have reason to hate herself and project onto the situation.

Making her kid die in such a terrible way, from such an unsympathetic character, really sucks the air out of the notion of forgiveness or even self blame. If it were an incident of letting a husband drunk drive with the kid in the backseat, it would gel better with those elements and underline HOW she could hate herself to this degree.

Itís like the ingredients are all there and it had wonderful presentation but the dish turned out bland. Maybe itís just my own cynicism clouding my judgment but I find her discovering wholeness and mental health through this ordeal to be a fairly egregious cop-out.*

Even as an allegory for learning to live with grief, it rings false. Prolonged suffering, both physically and mentally, especially AFTER severe trauma, donít often result in someone developing a stronger sense of self. It erodes, deepens pain and destroys.

And even if I accept all that allegory and root for her to get better, the reduction to the guide into just another hurdle in her road to self discovery just doesnít sit right to me. I suppose thatís because the film did such a good job developing him as a deeply flawed but very human character in his own right. For his death to be ultimately meaningless in the face of her ďforgivenessĒ has pangs of solipsism on the writerís unintentionally exposed world view. A **** though he may have been, was her learning to ďforgiveĒ worth somebody having a slow, agonizing death from an injury she caused? Or did she just forgive herself of that one too? The movie never really seems to care.

Iím railing on this movie a bit more than I care to but itís just because the movie was so close to being an ďI love this and Iím going to recommend it left and right!Ē

I thought Iíd found the next Kill List, the Wailing or the Witch. And instead, what I got was just a really good movie.



Starting today, I'm getting a free weekend of HBO Max. So what did I watch?
Amityville Horror '79. I make good decisions.

This, of course, is the story of Boston lead vocalist Brad Delp as he struggles to get along with his stepchildren.