Retro-review: New this week as part of The Paul Naschy Collection from The Shout Factory!
VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES (1973)
aka REVOLT OF THE DEAD ONES, REBELLION OF THE DEAD WOMEN, ZOMBIE 9, WALK OF THE DEAD
Directed by León Klimovsky
Written by Paul Naschy
Starring Paul Naschy, Romy, Mirta Miller, María Kosty, Aurora de Alba, Luis Ciges, Pierre Besari, Antonio Pica, Elsa Zabala, Montserrat Julió, Ramón Lillo, Norma Kastel, Ingrid Rabel, Asunción Molero, Fernando Sánchez Polack, Alfonso de la Vega, Víctor Barrera
Man, do I love me some Paul Naschy. He is a manly man, former Circus strong man, who went on to become not only a horror icon, but a fantastic writer and director in his own right. Shout Factory has bundled a bunch of Naschy films together in a collection and this week I’ve been trying to catch up on all of them before the second PAUL NASCHY COLLECTION is released. So everything’s been coming up Naschy for me this week and that’s okay by me. Most people remember Naschy for his iconic portrayal of cursed werewolf Waldemar Daninsky, but in VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES, he plays a whole new kind of monster and it’s equally amazing!
A masked serial killer named Kantaka (Naschy) is murdering women and then resurrecting them through the mystical power of voodoo (Whodoo? You do…). Meanwhile, a troubled woman named Elvire (an actress simply known as Romy) takes solace with a charismatic Indian guru named Krisna (also played by Naschy), but that sanctuary is not what it seems that Krisna’s cult turns out to be less closer to God and more closer to the Devil himself (also played by Naschy).
Now, this film might not be politically correct in that Naschy is wearing makeup that darkens his skin and a wig darkening his hair to be more Indian looking. And this film mashes New Age guru-ism with Hindu religion and African voodoo practices in a way that simply makes anything that is non-Anglo an amalgam “other” culture that is something to be feared and weirded out by. But this was a different era and though that still doesn’t make it right, it prompts me to give it a pass as a relic of a more archaic age.
This is still a film worth seeking out due to the sheer oddity of the story and unconventional horrors at play. The various masks the killer wears are flexible (almost like a luchador’s) so it moves with the face of the killer and gives off a downright creepy feel. The use of ritual here is also quite odd with the burning of wax dolls, ritualistic chicken killings, and other strange practices swiped from all sorts of different rites being smooshed together. Adding to the odd feel is the soundtrack, which is at times creepy then suddenly cartoonish reminiscent of something “Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem” would belt out. It’s also pretty hilarious to watch the cops bumble their way through this case, trying to track down the killer and piece together the clues. It’s especially ridiculous seeing them storm into the cult’s sanctuary at the end, gunzablazin, and then just as quickly leave the scene with bodies laying everywhere on the ground.
Still, this film delivers in the chills department. Extreme shots of the nightmarish zombies (pale-faced women in black funeral gowns) looming toward the camera are extremely effective. As are the final trippy moments when Krisna reveals his true face in a psychedelic nightmare. Following Naschy in the different forms of make-up he takes—from the dark skinned and turban wearing Krisna to a scarred and burned form to a final metamorphosis into the devil himself, is a twisted and unsettling metamorphosis to witness.
VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES is a tragic moth to flame story where a peek behind the curtain leads to a horrific discovery. It’s fantastic to see Naschy play in his numerous diabolical forms. Sure some of the stuff going on in this one isn’t going to sit right with those sensitive types, but I feel that the quirk and horror of VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES offers up a lot to like despite of all of that.
Other films in the Paul Naschy Collection Vol.1!
NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF
HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB
Other Paul Naschy Films!
A WEREWOLF IN THE AMAZON