|Horror Rises From the Tomb (1973)|
|Starring:||Paul Naschy, Emma Cohen and Víctor Alcázar|
|The Plot: Our story begins in France, 1454 when practitioners of black magic Aleric de Marnac and Mabille DeLancré are sentenced to death by Aleric’s brother Armand and his friend Andre Roland. Before they are killed, the warlocks curse the execution grounds and the names of their executioners, vowing to wreak their revenge when a relative of Armand de Marnac befriends a relative of Andre Roland. We then cut to France, 1973: Maurice Roland, a local painter, is attempting to piece together his latest work but he never comes close enough to finishing it. His good friend Hugo de Marnac and their girlfriends Paula and Sylvia eventually spend some time together with a couple who tell them of a great psychic. Hugo denies the abilities of the psychic so everyone else pitches in to prove him wrong by going to a séance hosted by the psychic. After a spiritual encounter with the severed head of Aleric de Marnac who tells them of his burial ground, Hugo is still unconvinced; to try and prove he’s right, he offers to drive the group up to his old country home where, according to legend, Mabille and Aleric were executed and buried. Maurice agrees to go as well after he finally completes the painting: A cloaked, decapitated figure holding the severed head of his friend Hugo. The two men and their lovers head out to the estate, following a trail drawn by the relentless curse that promises the rise of the two warlocks once the head of Aleric is unearthed. Will our intrepid heroes survive?|
First, I have to say it’s always a little odd watching a movie about people being accused of witchcraft and demon summoning being put to death. I always remind myself of how many innocent people in history were killed because of another group’s dogma and beliefs… but in these spiritual Horror movies it always turns out the people being put to death really WERE black magic users and they demonstrate this by cursing their executioners (see also The Devonsville Terror). I bring this up mostly because the opening narration in the movie leads us to believe Aleric and Mabille aren’t really evil doers and that many people in Europe were killed for suspected witchcraft. Well, inappropriate opening narration aside, this movie’s not too bad.
Most character reactions are relatively believable, though. If anything the character of Elvira (one of the house servants that Hugo grew up with) is a little stoic throughout the movie mostly when she has to show sadness. Hugo comes across as a bit of a jerk, but he’s a responsible one. Plus, Hugo is played by the film’s writer, the late/great Paul Naschy, a Spanish novelist/director/actor/light weight champion who produced and acted in several Spanish Horror films. The man had a competent screen presence, and he comes across as a somewhat likable hero in this. Granted, Paul also plays the villain Aleric de Marnac and once again proves to be a good performer in that role, too. He looks pretty intimidating in a cloak and spirit gum and he’s got the crazy eyes necessary for a mystically evil character. Honestly, seeing Naschy as the villain in this movie makes me think he’d play a Shakespearean character very well.
While the acting and dialogue is painless, exposition pulls a little overtime here. After the first spiritual killing spree in the movie, Hugo and Maurice talk about how the mayor and gendarme of the village won’t help them look into the crimes, how the local kids hate their arrival, how the town drunk knows something about what’s going, but we never see any of this.
The cinematography isn’t too bad. The director knows where to point the camera and there are a lot of decent shots. There are several moments though where the camera shakes around as if this were a shot-on-video movie. There are a few questionable scenes in it, like when Hugo and Maurice leave the house armed with a shotgun in hand but they do this for no reason; the next time we see them, they’re in their PJs! There is also one awkward scene near the end where Mabille and Aleric are heavily petting a scantily clad woman they have captive and the scene goes on for about two minutes, again, for no reason. The music that plays is really intense, but there’s no nudity in the scene or anything intensely sexual or any connection to later or current events; I know it’s just padding, but for a movie about warlock related phenomena, you’d think a scene like that would be something plot related.
As a European Horror movie from the seventies, the movie is quite brutal. Most of the female victims will end up getting their tops ripped off before getting killed (you may notice I can’t show most of the gore because of shots like that). The gore effects are pretty decent as well and definitely show a better budget in that department than the rubber bats used for the cavern scenes. However most other death scenes come down to throat slashing and a few off-screen heart-rippings. The death scenes do get a little cheap, though. The first time someone gets their heart ripped out in the movie it happens almost too quick; I can understand someone with mystical powers ripping into another person’s chest cavity and pulling their still-beating heart out (like when Mabille does it, or in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), but an ordinary person with a farm tool… that’s a bit of a reach, even for this movie. Truthfully, that’s nothing compared to when a human body gets reduced to a skeleton wearing a wig or when a guy dies from an intense back scratching; if the latter were the case, my ex would’ve killed me years ago!
Of course, this being a Spanish Horror film released in the states, it’s got its share of dubbing, but thankfully it’s decent. The dub actors play it straight throughout the whole movie, though occasionally, there will be one actor who sounds a little like a pirate. The goofiest performance out of them though has to be the monotone Hispanic voice for Aleric who is supposed to be dark and intimidating. It doesn’t help either that the first time we see him in the present day, he’s a severed head in a box giving orders to the possessed. *
Then there’s the soundtrack. The music in this movie is really something to behold. The soundtrack relies mostly on organ music not unlike Gene Moore’s work in Carnival of Souls, but without the talent. The organ music here carries many Roller Rink sounds to it and is often followed by a relentless wood instrument. The music gets so over the top and fantastical to the point where it sounds like soap opera music. The love theme between Maurice and Paula in particular was pretty goofy. Throughout the movie, I couldn’t keep myself from quipping: ‘Will Elvira be the next of Aleric’s victims? And Will Maurice ever change out of his pink sweater? Tune in tomorrow to find out on the next exciting and touching episode of Days of our Warlocks.’
Something I thought was unique about the movie was the ancient relic used to ward off the warlock’s evil. Instead of the usual crucifix, the heroes uncover a talisman from Nordic mythology. Okay, it’s kind of weird a holy relic of Nordic mythology would be in France, but it’s still a much welcome break from the standard. Now while the story is interesting and not badly conceived, I couldn’t help but wonder why Mabille and Aleric, two hated and despised Warlocks, were given tombs? I understand burying Aleric’s head from his body in a separate place, but cavernous tombs for criminals?