Saturday, May 30, 2009

El espanto surge de la tumba (1973)

... aka: Horror from the Tomb
... aka: Horror Rises from the Tomb
... aka: Mark of the Devil 4
... aka: Terrore sorge dalla tomba, Il

Directed by:
Carlos Aured

The dubbing is awful, the story is all over the place and the editing is often choppy in this hard-to-follow, disjointed Spanish horror effort, but Tomb is still entertaining, stylish, fun and has a lot to offer diehard Euro horror buffs. In mid-15th Century France (a time when, as the narrator informs us "superstition and ignorance reigned almighty across the land"), a long procession led by Armand du Marnac (Paul Naschy, who also wrote the script) and Andre Roland (Víctor Alcázar, as "Vic Winner") is strolling along the countryside to a tree where two victims will be executed for indulging in the black arts. In tow is Armand's evil witchcraft-practicing twin brother, Ulric du Marnac (also Naschy, looking rough with wild hair and a beard) and his equally sinister mistress Mabille de Lancré (Helga Liné). Both are accused of drinking human blood, eating human flesh (of both the living and the dead) and sacrificing both women and children. Ulric is decapitated with a sword and it's ordered that his head and body be entombed separately (so his soul will never rest in peace) and Mabille is stripped naked, hung upside down, whipped and killed. Cut to modern-day Spain (Madrid, I think). Rich, skeptical, egotistical businessman Hugo du Marnac (a cleaned-up and shaved Naschy) and his handsome, troubled painter friend Maurice Roland (Alcázar again), both direct descendants of the 1454 executioners, plus their girlfriends, Silvia (Betsabé Ruiz) and Paola (Cristina Suriana), who have no character but do have different hair colors so you don't confuse them, are bored, so they decide to accompany an older couple to a séance.

After visiting the psychic, Maurice begins having odd visions (of Ulric's laughing severed head, his painting bleeding, etc.), so the four friends decide to go to Hugo and Maurice's hometown; a small, secluded lakeside village in the middle of the country, to investigate their family history. In route to the village, they're assaulted by some thieves, but saved by some local hunters, who make goo-goo eyes when Hugo flashes a wad of cash to buy a new car and punish the carjackers by shooting one (then cutting off his ear) and hanging the other right on the spot! Only slightly disturbed by this spectacle, Hugo, Maurice and the girls venture on to the large home of family friend Gaston (Juan Cazalilla), who has two inexplicably sexy daughters, Chantal (Maria José Cantudo) and large-eyed brunette Elvira (Emma Cohen). One thing leads to another and Maurice has another psychic vision that leads him to a locked chest containing the head of Ulric. They're unable to open it right then (they need a blowtorch) and bring it back to the house. That night, some more thieves break in and manage to open it, where Ulric's perfectly-preserved and still-living (!) head possesses a scraggly-looking fellow with a sickle. He chops up both his accomplice and Gaston and takes off into the night... but he'll be back the next night to strip Chantal naked, slash her throat and rip out her heart and to kidnap Paola.

Meanwhile, Hugo and Elvira find time for a little romance, as Maurice and Paola are both turned into mindless slaves for Ulric (who is revived when his head is reunited with his bones) and Mabille (who is also brought back to life when Silvia is sacrificed on top of her corpse). Both ghouls pay Dracula-like nocturnal visits to people in the village, seduce them and then rip their hearts out of their chests. Bloody, white-eyed zombies attack, there's a sacred talisman that can protect whoever has it from being attacked and can also reverse possessions (Maurice is saved after Hugo is surprisingly killed off), and the survivors learn that the only way to defeat the heavies is by using a silver needle and decapitation. Yes… the story is needlessly complicated, but it also has some surprises, plenty of foggy atmosphere, plenty of gore and plenty of female nudity. It also benefits highly from the good cast; particularly Naschy and Line. When watching a dubbed horror film, it's often difficult to gouge the actual performance given, so one must watch the faces closely. While he's not really that interesting as Hugo, Naschy really nails his evil Ulric role and is genuinely eerie enough as the pale-face, mad-eyed, aristocratic warlock to elicit chills. Auburn-haired Liné (who has less screen time than Naschy) is also great as Mabille, who sweeps around in a black, flowing gown while giving off some wonderfully sinister-seductive facial expressions. She slices people open with her fingernails and, in a standout scene, rips open a chest with her bare hand and removes a still-beating heart.

It's important to note that there are lots of cheap prints floating around that don't do this movie justice. The 2 disc DVD release from Crash Cinema is the version you want to watch and it even contains two different prints of the film. The "Clothed Version" is a pretty good-looking wide-screen, re-mastered print with a few problems. First off, almost all of the nudity and some of the gore has been trimmed out. Secondly, a few of the frames have not been cleaned up and are grainy, plus a few scenes have German subtitles. The second version (the "Uncut Version") does not have the fine picture quality, but does restore a lot of the missing nudity (the female cast members all have nude scenes), the most striking scene being Silvia's death. In the cut version she's placed in a coffin fully clothed and stabbed. In the uncut version she's put in the coffin, stripped naked, stabbed, has blood rubbed all over her chest and is then kissed by Naschy. Other restored nude scenes include Line's fully frontal nude seduction of a village boy, a topless Naschy victim, a nude Emma Cohen nocturnal visit and Naschy and Line stripping Paola and caressing her nude body before killing her. The film was obviously shot with alternate footage for different markets across the globe.


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