While at a Spanish night club, Lucy meets a darkly tall and handsome gentleman who takes her back to his luxurious yacht and spends a romantic night with him inside his cabin on the sea. The next morning, Lucy suffers from a terrible case of amnesia, unable to recall where she’s met this mysterious man before or even remember her own past and as she relaxes in her hotel room after a soothing bath, a past life vision of herself entangled with her one night stand, otherwise known as Dracula, establishes her place amongst Dracula’s side as his undead love, but vampire hunters, Doctor Van Helsing and his faithful assistant Seward, are hot on Dracula’s scent toward his brooding castle in order to save Lucy from succumbing to Dracula’s cursed evil forever.
“Apostle of Dracula” is a Spanish retelling of the classic Bram Stoker “Dracula” tale, versed in Edgar Allan Poetry, and is directed and co-written by Emilio Schargorodsky. Also known more in other parts of the world as “Dracula 0.9,” Schargorodsky’s film boldly tiptoes through a minimalistic approach regarding the mythos of the legendary vampire that dabbles in some special effects when required and uncomplicated imagery that still relishes in wondrous imagery. The “Spirits of the Dead” poetic works of American macabre writer Edgar Allan Poe reinforces the Gothically garnished settings and costumes and heightens the gloomy sensationalism in Schargorodsky’s melodramatic horror soap opera that redesigns slightly Dracula’s origins and his infatuating love interest that isn’t Mina Murray.
Instead, Dracula’s focus is resuscitating the undead cursed life into Lucy dreamily and elegantly portrayed by model-actress Nathalie Le Gosles. Le Gosles has ghostly grey eyes that pierce vividly on screen through her Lucy Westerna performance that’s quite different than what audiences might be typically used to in the character. Lucy is the titular character, being the “Apostle of Dracula,” and Dracula (Javier Caffarena) spares no expense or time and effort in making Lucy his forever. Caffarena’s Dracula is very much overshadowed by Le Gosles’s beauty and performance as Caffarena’s acting experience before his freshman film only credits him in on other role in a short film directed by Schargorodsky, but Caffarena’s a busy body on this feature, delving into many facets from cast to crew as also one of the three co-writers and also donning not only the cape and fangs of the vampire but also creating a composing soundtrack, editing the film, and acting as a producer. In all honest, Paul Lapidus stole the show with his role as the most famous vampire hunter that was ever created – Van Helsing. Virtually embracing every facet of his time hopping character, along with the rest of the cast, Lapidus’s steadfast approach toward a more conventional Van Helsing relieves many anxieties of jumbling up Dracula’s mythology. Antonia Del Rio, Francisco Del Rio, Jose Luis Matoso, and Virginia Palomino round out the cast.
Schargorodsky’s indie Gothic Dracula feature is not immaculate; however, because Schargorodsky is an experienced photographer, a silver lining in his filmmaking playbook is his impeccable eye for cinematography. Whether in the framing or capturing the organic beauty of the landscape, Schargorodsky blends a dream with classic styles that had once scared the pants off people by incorporating shadow imagery that pays a dear homage to that of F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” alongside Caffarena’s Dracula shaving his head and extending his fingers to be a lookalike Max Schrek. Captivating as many of the frames might be, the juxtaposition to the story doesn’t hold water as the story hops from one century to another without much regard for exposition. Lucy’s passionate yacht fling with a daylight walking vampire not only raises many vampire mythos questions, but also leads into Lucy displacing much of her memories of herself and her past. She then goes into a trance after returning to her hotel room, envision her great lineage self intertwined with Dracla and that story unfolds for a good portion of the film from the time Lucy’s bit to when Van Helsing and Seward interject at Dracula’s Castle. The story then returns Lucy’s back to present time where she then fights to urge to be a bloodsucker, but can’t stop her desires to be with her undead beau all the while a modern day Van Helsing and Seward, sporting sleek Secret Service-issues shades and wardrobe, seek to protect Lucy at all cost. Lost somewhere in the midst of the story is an important pice of the puzzle that goes unexplained.
Wild Eye Releasing MVDVisual present the 2012 “Apostle of Dracula” onto DVD for the first time in the U.S. The DVD, graced with a cover illustrating an unrelated naked female vampire crotched down and glaring outward, widescreen presentation sports a digitally shot transfer that fairly mediocre throughout despite soft details, faint aliasing, and spotty moments of digital noise during darker scenes. However, the worst technical aspect lies with the dialogue audio track that’s horrendously dubbed in non-optional English in such a flat, monotone voice that all the passion behind the actors is lost. If you watch close in the special features, clips of untainted portions of the film can be caught with the original Spanish track, bringing a whole new life into the scenes. There are no options to play the original language or even optional subtitles. Caffarena’s looming score comes out clean with subtitle details in the LFE emitting from Stereo audio which can be seen discussed on the bonus material about composing the score. Another special features contain a pleasant surprise with a never before scene interview with the late Jess Franco, who looked to be on his death bed, conversing his positive thoughts and praises on Emilio’s film that does have a faint resemblance to Franco’s work consisting of elements, but not limited to, the gothic, dream-like, and slightly sleazy. Bonus material comes full circle with Wild Eye Releasing trailers. Emilio Schargorodsky’s self-funded Dracula film proves any filmmaker can be a auteur without losing focus despite some flaws being on the grand stage of an iconic horror monster and while “Apostle of Dracula” flips the script on Bram Stoker’s telling of one of the greatest villains ever scribed, there’s something to be said for the multiple ways to skin a cat in this and still able to construct a solid story in this European horror.
Millionaire Oliver Bromfield’s drinking problem perhaps cost the life of his estranged wife Helen. Unable to bear the tremendous guilt, the now sober Oliver vacates his family’s mansion, leaving behind a widowed stepmother Sara who lusts after her step son Oliver and his lesbian sister Jenny whose love affair with Helen drove Oliver mad with jealously. Oliver returns with a newly eloped and young wife Ruth, immersing her into the peculiar and mischievous family who each carry a bulging enigmatic complexity about Oliver bringing home a new wife on the anniversary of Helen’s death and as Sara continues to seduce Oliver and Jenny still simmering over Helen’s untimely death, a sinister plot to murder Ruth emerges. The body count rises with a killer on the loose and everyone becomes a prime suspect inside the eerie Bromfield home that’s isolated from the rest of the neighboring village.
“Night of the Scorpion” aka “La casa de las muertas vivientes” is a 1972 Spanish Giallo film written and directed from long time spaghetti western filmmaker Alfonso Balcázar under the pseudo name of Al Bagram. The suspenseful mystery thriller was produced Balcázar own production company and collaboratively produced in conjunction with an Italian production compnay to give it that authentic Italian Giallo flare, but maintains a native Spanish cast and still maintains the element of the Spanish horror era of the 1970s. The simplicity of “Night of the Scorpion,” by not building too many suspect into the riddling web of suspicion, keeps a tight knit storyline and keeps focus on the characters confined to the Bromfield property and the casual pace of the story builds exposition, delving continuously into the background of Olive and Helen, Helen and Jenny, and Sara and Oliver, a love triangle built upon uncompromising guilt, lust, and desire.
José Antonio Amor stars in the biggest role of his career as the wealthy recovering alcoholic Oliver Bromfield and he’s paired with the lovely Daniela Giordano (“The Inquisition”) as his new wife. Together, Amor and the former Miss Italia winner are a night and day couple on screen with Oliver’s troubled grasp with reality as he’s plagued with visions of his late wife’s death and Giordano, as a Ruth on the verge of a nervous breakdown, offers a rational approach to in the midst of being introduced to new family members Sarah (Nuria Torray of the werewolf thriller “El bosque del lobo”) and Jenny (“The Feast of Satan’s” Teresa Gimpera). The tension fabricated by Amor, Torray, and Gimpera is inauspicious and thick with an uncomfortable dynamic between Sara and Oliver in a show of will power and determination that adds to the psychological terror on not only Oliver, but also on Ruth who witnesses first hands Sara’s desiring eyes for her stepson. Jenny’s attached attitude to her brother’s life provides a mysterious wonder about her; her year long depression bares an underlining grudge that Gimpera displays so very well with a blank, nihilistic facading expression.
As aforementioned, “Night of the Scorpion” is a simple Gothic tale of a puzzling murder mystery and with that as such, under the guise of a fair amount of good thespian performances, the weak point for Balcázar’s film is the effects. In true Giallo fashion, only the killer’s gloved hand and gleaming blade arise into frame to bring a razor sharp steel from ear-to-ear on flesh. The first kill was remarkable with a very believable thrust and penetrate into the neck followed with a right to left motion across the unsuspecting victim. Proceeding kills bore the obvious lack of effort with the flat side of the blade up and a blood emerging at more of a smear than a seep through the layers of open skin. However, that’s the extent of the effects on a very low body count due to the very limited character roster.
Dorado Films presents for the first time on full 1080p high definition, all-region Blu-ray of “Night of the Scorpion” fully uncut and uncensored, despite Nuria Torray’s noticeably catered body double intercuts into the romantic moments with Oliver. Gioia Desideri, as Helen in the flashbacks, make up for Torray’s lack of skin with her own topless scene. In cut Spanish version of the film, Desideri’s topless scene is completely cut along with Torray’s body double because of the nudity ban during the 1970s, making Dorado Films’ uncut “Night of the Scorpion” an automatic must own export version. The rare-euro film distributor scans the 35mm negative to 4k and exhibits in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The negative is relatively clean with minor grain and little-to-no damage, but the coloring offers more of a sepia tone and there’s some noticeable overexposure to perhaps lighten up darker scenes suggesting that touch ups were done at a minimum. The Blu-ray back cover notes, due to fan requests, no digital restorations were made. The dubbed English 2.0 track has a bit of hissing in the dialogue and the soundtrack lacks range, but still a pretty good mix for the transfer with optional English, Spanish, and Italian subtitles available. The bonus material includes an audio commentary with Giallo expert Troy Howarth, author of “So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films” and 53 minutes of Spanish film trailers. Overall, Dorado Films provided a faithful version of “Night of the Scorpion” which the Spaniards, to my knowledge, have not had the pleasure of viewing and in a modern time of plot twists and intricate premises, the Alfonso Balcázar written and directed Giallo is a refreshing blast from the past, embodying a rich palette of Gothicism and noir.
Her night was supposed to be a wonderful occasion of celebration, a night to showcase her lustrous career as an established actress, a night where she was set to receive her crowning lifetime achievement award, but when the gowned Amanda stepped into a luxurious, fully-loaded limousine, the night that was to be a collective jubilee of the last twenty-years of Amanda’s life will be turned into a terror ride of unspeakable acts in the name of pure hatred. Once inside, the limousine’s inescapable locks detainee Amanda as a voice behind a voyeuristic camera commands her every subversive move and a sadistic chauffeur uses pain to thwart any of Amanda’s attempts of refusal in on an interrogation on four hellish wheels.
“The Glass Coffin,” aka “El ataúd de cristal” is a 2016 Spanish thriller from first time feature film director Haritz Zubilaga and co-written with Aitor Eneriz. From the moment Amanda steps into the limousine built like a tank, Zubilaga’s film goes from zero to sixty in a matter of minutes with thick tension and high horsepower suspense. “The Glass Coffin” is a depraved film. This isn’t a sugar-coated stuck in a glass box Hollywood thriller like “Phone Booth.” Oh no. Zubilaga and Eneriz hitch your emotions on a tow bar and drag them through the filthy muck without as so much of a care. Is this a game like Jigsaw would construct in “Saw?” No traps or snares here, but there’s an ominous shroud of mystery behind Amanda’s captor that could certainly give Jigsaw a run for his money. “The Glass Coffin,” in fact, goes more in tune with Joel Schumacher’s “Phone Booth” when considering the villain. Well, more like a Eurotrash, alternate version of “Phone Booth” antagonist anyway because aside from deriving the guilt and the sin from Amanda, there’s a sleaziness about the captor whose presence becomes more and more gothic the closer we learn more about them on top of their already extreme methods in the right-the-wrong stance.
Very similar to most films with a slim-to-no cast, like the Ryan Reynolds’ thriller “Buried, “The Glass Coffin” fits the bill as a one actor film. Paola Bontempi stars as the targeted starlet Amanda and the Canary Islands born actress musters enough courage to accept such a punishing role where her character’s humility and pride stems from a base layered motivation in not wanting to become the masked Chauffeur’s punching bag. Amanda goes from high time to gutter low in an ugly show of stripping moralities and ethics in order to reveal one true self. A pivot does occur, turning the shredding of facade into plain and simple revenge that becomes the flashy bullet points of European horror and Bontempi changes with it in one fluid motion of character revival and redemption.
The diabolical game is, well, diabolical and sincerely rich in providing an attractive story, but the film doesn’t go without it’s problems. Whether lost in the Spanish translation or just simply unexplained, an opaque mystery clouds Amanda’s captors, especially with the maniac Chauffeur and his bizarre relationship with the planning perpetrator, that puts a sour afterthought into analyzing “The Glass Coffin.” The Chauffeur was one realistic element of an intriguing conglomerate that tipped the ice berg of sinister deplorability and I was yearning for more of that; instead the game turned, the plot transformed, and “The Glass Coffin” took an approach that routed far into left field. Not a bad route to take as, like much of Zubilaga’s film, the moment had me at an astonished state as the film continued to keep me guessing what was going to occur next.
MVDVisual and Synergetic Films distributes the Basque Films production, “The Glass Coffin,” onto DVD home video. Short in giving any sort of physical or emotion breaks, the 77-minute runtime feature is presented in a vibrantly engrossing widescreen presentation and while at times soft on the auxiliary background, the image quality is flashy and sharp surrounding Amanda. Darker scenes in the tail end lose quite a bit of definition that makes eyeing the moment difficult to capture. The Spanish 2.0 stereo mix does the job and profusely invigorates the voice behind the camera, a voice made of nightmares and all that horrifying in the world. The English subtitles sync well, but I spotted a couple of typos along the runtime. There are zero extras on this release and even though a smidgen of behind-the-scenes material would have been curious to view, the film is a simple bliss. “The Glass Coffin” arches over the niceties and lands right smack into obscenity to destabilize integrity in a cruel ride of exploitation. I wanted more, the unfiltered, fully unadulterated, story of Amanda and her polar opposite antagonist, but I’ll settle for the Cliff Notes version. For now.
In 17th Century France, the torturous and deadly persecutions of innocent lives at the merciless hands of the almighty Church coinciding with the vast number of ill-fated deaths from bubonic plague made the medieval era a ghastly and forsaken time. Religious pursuers, known as judges, sought to unearth those who hold contract with Satan, who lustfully weaponized their bodies, and faithfully serve the dark prince and burn them at the stake after vigorous torture to obtain a must-have confession. One particular and notable judge, Bernard de Fossey, travels to a small providence to serve similar inquisition standards, but falls in love for Catherine, the mayor’s eldest daughter who holds a secret affair with a passionate lover named Jean. When Catherine’s lover is suddenly murdered, Catherine’s uncontrollable melancholy thrusts her to shift loyalties toward the alluring power of Satan in order to reveal the person behind Jean’s murder. Bernard’s trapped between his brutal crusade and the love he has for Catherine and tries to protect her from persecution by his fellow judges and from the execution stake. While many innocent claimed women and the few who confess to witchery burn alive, the judge teeters carelessly through the conclave of trials as Catherine has her blazing eyes set to destroy the person responsible for her overwhelming grief.
The one and only Paul Naschy stars and directs, in his directorial debut under the moniker Jacinto Molina, the remarkable underrated “Inquisition,” an time-piece tale accompanied with Spain’s 1970’s macabre ornamenting from the beginning credits to the aflame tragic ending. Spanish horror generally has an unusual gothic knack that can’t be emulated. With the blunt visual cues and the in your face gratuitous sleaze that manages to be naturally appropriate in the same spatial existence, Spain’s horror scene was put on the worldwide map that cordially sat itself right next to Italian’s giallo and UK’s Hammer Horror. Putting aside the budget, Spain’s underground cinematic gems flourished in a time of governmental conservatism and, to the likes of “Inquisition,” were, If I may be so bold, well equipped with scenic locations and props, scored charismatically, shot beautifully, and even maintained some provocative acting from actors and actresses all over Europe and even the world who were willing to bare it all for the project.
A buff, and rather brutishly handsome, Paul Naschy stars as the ruthless witch hunter Bernard de Fossey, but that’s not all. Naschy dons another role as the formidable and all powerful Satan in a dual-role performance of good and evil, of sorts. As de Fossey, Naschy’s chiseled, if not slightly stoic, portrayal of a pious huntsman locks in that medieval aroma while as Satan, similarly stoic but often with a devilish charm that Naschy often pulls off well under the latex and makeup. “Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key’s” Daniela Giordano marvelously shapes her character. The leading actress’s Italiano dark features, piercingly cold eyes, and shameless willingness to bare it all, topped with an on-off switch of ferocity, makes Giordano a powerhouse antagonist against Naschy’s de Fossey. Mónica Randall, Ricardo Merino, Tota Alba in one of her last roles, Antonio Iranzo, Julia Saly (“Panic Beats”), Tony Isbert (“Tragic Ceremony”), and Loreta Tovar (“The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff”) co-star.
Supporting the remarkable cast is the incredible work of special artists Francisco Garcia San José and Pablo Pérez. These two aren’t widely known for their talent, but their grit behind “Inquisition” shouldn’t go unspoken. Naschy’s Satan wouldn’t be a glowing-eyed, skull-staff carrying Baphomet without them nor would there be that pec-tensing nipple severing during a great torture scene. There’s something very simple about San José and Pérez’s work that speaks volumes that virtually delivers in the heinous acts of the inquisition to life and that give Satan an embodiment that has inspired many films even to today. For 1976, I’m in awe of the caliber of the effects, especially being a Spanish horror film that’s notoriously inherited being low-budget.
Mondo Macabro’s widescreen Blu-ray release of “Inquisition” deserves to be one of the best home entertainment releases of the year as it’s spectacularly gorgeous with an upgrade to a 1080p transfer from the original source material. Vibrant, natural coloring charms the pants of the depth and range in the image quality from various obstacles including such as night and day scenes. For a first time director, Naschy had the eye for cinematography and capturing the moment; Mondo Macabro takes his vision a step further by reducing the grain to a minuscule amount and without completely enhancing “Inquisition” with zooming and cropping to offset source material garbage. The Spanish dialogue and English dubbed 1.0 mono track score a high bitrate with flawless integrity from the source. Extras include a audio commentary with Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn, an interview with Paul Naschy and Daniela Giordano, a retrospect on Spanish horror from the 1970’s entitled “Blood and Sand,” and a lengthy Mondo Macabro marketing trailer.
In my opinion, Paul Naschy is the greatest Spanish horror film icon ever and “Inquisition” is some of his primo work. Mondo Macabro works miracles with original source materials, one of the best video distributors of cult cinema in the business, and continues to be a leader in releasing hidden and well-known gems of the genre. Together, “Inquisition” is powerful, is scary, is gritty, is detailed, and is sexy without being campy and schlocky. The mammoth amount of production value is well worth the price of admission alone. One of my personal favorite witch hunting films from the same decade is Vincent Price’s “Witchfinder General” as it has that same barbarity in the air, those merciless persecutions that led to the anti-Church movements, and that undeniable lead actor providing a strong performance. Nothing is scarier than fact and the “Inquisition,” though just a story on paper and reel, was based off real facts and that’s the kind of horror that sears into souls.
I’m sad to say that yesterday, April 2, 2013, one of the greatest Spanish Sexploitation director passed away at the grand ole age of 82. The grandfather of horror and sex cinematic gold directed over 200 films and directed famous stars such as Christopher Lee (Count Dracula) and spreading his skin films across the international board.
While most of the time the money was no available, Jess Franco made movies that entertained and captured people interests using three important components – sex, blood, and horror. The cause of death is still unknown.