Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Human Beasts (Paul Naschy, 1980)

AKA, The Beasts' Carnival has Paul Naschy as hit-man/thief, Bruno Rivera. He is taken in by a Japanese mob to steal diamonds from a Dutch courier. The temptation to keep the loot overwhelms his sense of loyalty and he makes off with the spoils. The Japanese chase him back to Spain, wounding him after he kills most of their numbers, save his former lover, Meiko (Eiko Nagashima). She vows revenge, but is unable to find the wily Bruno. Bruno is nursed back to health by the family of Don Simón Valdez (Lautaro Murúa), who along with his daughters Alicia (Azucena Hernández) and Monica (Silvia Aguilar), hides Bruno in their mansion. Meiko is hot on his trail however. The problem is, there is a killer in the house as well as the ghost of Don Simón's late wife, Theresa (Julia Saly).

The film is in Spanish and a bit of Japanese with English subtitles. Naschy wrote, directed and was a producer. It is an interesting story, if not completely original. In many ways it calls back films like Spider Baby, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or even A Virgin Among the Living Dead, save that the bizarre family does not seem as such to the viewer. I liked Naschy much better here than his portrayal of Dracula. The Vicar of VHS was telling me Naschy was not as comfortable playing The Count, just as Lon Chaney was not. The reason for me is clear in this film. Naschy is a tank. He was a body builder in his youth, and he is far too muscular to be a vampire in my book. The Werewolf suits him better, as does this "man of action" role.

The rest of the cast is quite good. There is the pervy veterinarian, Don Serafín (Pepe Ruiz) and the masochistic African maid, Raquel (Roxana Dupre). The Valdez daughters are a mixture; Alicia is sweet and innocent looking while Monica is extremely hot. There are a lot of bit parts that are played with reasonable skill. Julia Saly is spooky, much like Sarah Keller in The Beyond. She has very little dialogue but becomes a driving force to the story.

Even though this was only my third Naschy film, I am going to recommend this one. It is very nicely done and takes an old story to a new place. For me, it felt very much like a Jess Franco film, which from me is definitely praise. As a matter of fact, there is a scene at the end that is very much like the finale of Franco's Ilsa: the Wicked Warden.

Netflix DVD / IMDb

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