Monday, March 24, 2008

Hunchback of the Morgue (a.k.a. Rue Morgue Massacres)

In celebration of not dealing with the Tomb of Terrors collection this week, I thought I’d indulge myself by spending the week reviewing rare horror movies that I got from the sadly soon-to-be-gone Midnight Video. First up is this weird little Paul Naschy gem, where he plays a hunchback that goes around acquiring bodies for his mad scientist friend in the hopes that the scientist’s experiments in creating artificial life will enable him to bring the hunchback’s love back from the dead.

If that sounds a bit similar to Frankenstein, well, it should, but the film diverges pretty severely, starting with how the bodies aren’t just acquired from graverobbing. While there are the obligatory scenes of that, the bulk of the physical specimens used are acquired fresh, with Gotho (Naschy) or the scientist murdering people for their work. There’s also the matter of the artificial life form the scientist is creating. While in Frankenstein the creation started and ended as a freakish, patchwork human, here we start with a single, overlarge cell in a jar that rapidly grows organs as it consumes more human prey until it grows large enough to escape the confines of its jar and must be locked up for the safety of the scientist. If all that sounds uninteresting to you, then why on Earth do you come to this blog?

It’s that kind of delightful over the topness that makes the whole film so fun to watch. Obviously Gotho and the scientist play things to the hilt, but they’ve enlisted everyone and everything in the film to join them in their madness. At one point, an exaggerated drunk is leaving a pub to go home and one of his friends bids him a fond farewell with the line, “Be careful, Hans, and don’t bump into the devil on your way home!” I’m sure you’ve all said similar things to your friends at the end of a get-together. There’s also a group of children near the beginning that see the hunchback and decide that the logical course of action is to start pelting him with rocks, as any normal children would do in such a situation. Even the animal life gets into the act, as on two different occasions Gotho is attacked by a swarm of rats that jump so high at him that they seem almost to have been flung through the air, before he fights them off with the natural enemy of the rat, a flaming torch.

There’s a fair amount of violence and nudity in the film, as one would expect from a Spanish horror movie from the 70s, and the look of all the different locations (when it’s not too damned dark to see them, at least) is quite nice. Like the rest of the films I’ll be reviewing this week, you’re going to have an uphill battle getting ahold of this, but if you should happen to find a place selling it, it will be well worth your money.

Rating: *** ½

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