Saturday, 31 July 2010

Hunchback of the Morgue (1973)

Tormented and love struck hunchback involved in a whirlwind of grave robbing, corpse mutilation, decapitation, dismemberment and burning rats!

Director Javier Aguirre’s 1973 epic The Hunchback of the Morgue quite possibly represents the pinnacle achievement of Spain
’s one-man horror industry, the irrepressible and sadly missed Paul Naschy (Jacinto Molina). Playing to the strengths of his own script Naschy is the titular hunchback, Wolfgang Gotho, who passes his time between working in the Feldkirch Hospital morgue hacking up bodies for medical research or visiting his only friend, the terminally ill Elke (Rosanna Yanni).

Elke’s eventual and predictable death sends Gotho on a killing spree as he absconds with her corpse to the catacombs beneath the hospital. Professor Orla reassures Gotho that he can bring Elke back to life in return for Gotho’s assistance in securing materials for his research and relocating his laboratory - including the two items essential for any state-of-the-art medical lab; acid bath and iron maiden! After experiments involving dead tissue from exhumed corpses prove fruitless Gotho is soon dispatched to the local women’s reformatory in order to secure living flesh for the Professor’s nefarious purposes!Unsurprisingly Orla neglects any attempt at reanimating Elke focusing instead on creating a monstrous humanoid.

Needless to say with Elke’s corpse looking a little tatty round the edges courtesy of natural decomposition and providing the local rats with three square meals a day, Gotho takes great umbrage at the professor’s continued disregard of his beloved Elke and the stage is set for a final bloodbath in the bowels of the hospital…

There are some great moments to cherish here, ranging from some well executed carnage courtesy of Pablo Perez to Naschy being attacked by (real) burning rats as he protects Elke’s corpse! Naschy even allows himself the added bonus of a sex scene although manages to keep his sweater on throughout and the film secured Naschy the prize for Best Actor at the 1973 Paris Convention of Fantastic Cinema! It would be fair to say that 1973 was one of Nachy's busiest years and most productive, managing to cram in 9 other films into the year including Curse of the Devil, The Mummy's Revenge, Vengeance of the Zombies and Horror Rises From the Tomb!

Previously only available uncut on DVDR from Midnight Video sourced from Japanese VHS, Hunchback of the Morgue has since been unleashed on DVD in a sumptuous limited edition from German company Anolis, boasting book-style packaging, an anamorphic widescreen print, introduction and audio commentary from Naschy, 32 page booklet and much more. A pricey package but well worth the effort of tracking down. Also available on DVD from Mya Communications as a cheaper and less impressive alternative.

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