Retro-review: New on DVD in the UK from Maison Rouge and Black House Films and Screenbound Entertainment!
aka THE MAN WITH THE SEVERED HEAD, CRIMSON – THE COLOR OF BLOOD, CRIMSON – THE COLOR OF TERROR
Directed by Juan Fortuny
Written by Juan Fortuny (as John Fortuny), Marius Lesoeur (as A.L. Mariaux), H.L. Rostaine
Starring Paul Naschy, Silvia Solar, Olivier Mathot, Evelyne Scott, Claude Boisson, Gilda Arancio, Pierre Biet, Víctor Israel, Richard Kolin, Antonia Lotito, Roberto Mauri, Carlos Otero, Ricardo Palmerola, Jaume Picas, Muriel Renaud, Guy Verda, Jean Roville
Probably my favorite film of this week and mostly any other week is CRIMSON. First and foremost, look at that amazing cover up there with the muscular arm holding Paul Naschy’s severed head. I remember seeing this on the cover art in the video store as a kid and though my ADD addled mind wasn’t able to sit through the entire film since it was subtitled, I still always loved that image. Secondly, it’s got a hell of a horror story woven together with a crime tale. On top of that, it’s got Paul Naschy…nuff said!
A crime boss named Surnett (Paul Naschy) is shot in the head after a jewel heist goes wrong. His crew takes him to a underworld crime doctor who admits he is in over his head and refers the group to a reclusive doctor in the hills named Professor Teets (BWAH! His name is Teets!…ahem, played by Ricardo Palmerola). Because Teets (BWAH!) has suffered from a lab accident resulting in his hands becoming useless, he enlists his wife to help him. The crime doctor has a list of donors with the same blood type as Surnett and it just so happens that Surnett’s nemesis, another crime boss named The Sadist (Roberto Mauri) is a perfect match. So the gang head out to nab the Sadist and chop off his head so that Teets (BWAH!) can transplant the Sadist’s brain into Surnett’s head. Once the Sadist is abducted and the surgery occurs, Surnett finds himself overcome with bouts of mania, attacking any woman who crosses his path and ravaging, raping, and killing them. As the police close in, the gang must decide what to do with their batshit crazy boss.
OK, so obviously, not much medical research was put into this film. I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure brain transplants just don’t work that way. But aside from the wonky science, this is a pretty amazing little yarn about bad men doing bad things. It’s a crime story that takes a grotesque twist along the way with shades of both FRANKENSTEIN (with the brain transplant stuff) and THE SERBIAN FILM (with Surnett’s sexual rampage). I could definitely see this film get a modern remake and would love to see it happen as there are themes here worth delving into like what makes a man evil (the soul or the body) and how loyal bad men can be to one another before their own selfish desires ruin everything. These are themes at the heart of most heist movies and its front and center here in this intricately layered story.
Naschy is fantastic here, but really, he doesn’t have a lot to do until the last half of the film as he is unconscious on a medical table suffering from a bullet wound after the before credits sequence. Naschy is imposing here as the barrel chested crime boss Surnett. Sure he looks a little goofy with his head in bandages, but his heinous actions make him an extremely horrific threat. The actors playing Surnett’s gang are equally fun as they act like bumbling Igor’s trying to gather body parts for Teets (BWAH!) a la Dr. Frankenstein. Seeing these idiots contemplate on how to sever a head form a body is quite entertaining.
This being a French/Spanish exploitation film from the 70’s expect a lot of torn open dresses, a lot of love scenes with male buttocks doing an immense amount of pelvic grinding, and lots of nudity. There’s even a pair of weird dance numbers that really don’t add anything to the movie other than a few minutes of scantily clad women, just in case the multiple rape/sex scenes didn’t do anything for you. All in all, despite the high amount of masochism and machismo, CRIMSON is a top notch crime thriller with some deep horror connections. It’s an amalgam of horror and crime that really works and deserves a rewatch. Highly recommended for the sheer amount of awesome ideas and Naschy being the best Naschy he can be.