Thursday, December 2, 2010

El Hombre Mofo: Paul Naschy, Supporting Player

There is no doubt Paul Naschy had an incredible screen presence.  Hell, we wouldn’t have this amazing blogathon going on if he didn’t.  We all know him for his versatile lead performances, so today we’re going to examine a few of his smaller, supporting roles.  No doubt the filmmakers on these projects were well aware of the man’s charisma and reputation.  As a testament to his professionalism, he brought an undeniable quality to every role he took, be it large or small.

THE KILLER IS ONE OF THE THIRTEEN (1973) is a Spanish murder-mystery with some obvious Italian giallo influence right down to the black gloved killer and that “killer” title.  Widow Lisa Mandel (Patty Shepard) has assembled 12 friends of her late husband Carlos on the anniversary of his mysterious plane crash death.  Mrs. Mandel believes that one of the guests drugged him before his flight causing him to fall asleep at the controls and she plans to uncover the culprit over the long weekend at her isolated country home.  This is a pretty routine thriller that is very talk heavy with the first murder not happening until an hour into the picture.  Senor Naschy has a small role as the Mandel’s chauffer.  I firmly believe director Javier Aguirre, who previously directed Naschy in COUNT DRACULA’S GREAT LOVE (1972), cast him with the intention of exploiting audiences’ perception of the man as a horror star to offer one of many red herrings.  Naschy gets a “and the special participation” opening credit and has roughly 4 scenes (including a love scene and fight scene).  Unfortunately, poor Paul ends up on the wrong end of a wrench to the skull. 

Nearly three decades later and we have Naschy cast in another small but important role in a Spanish horror-thriller.  SCHOOL KILLER (2001) is your standard horror slasher film with a group of kids heading to an abandoned school to spend the night while looking for some ghost hunting thrills.  The school was the site of a massacre 27 years ago and it was perpetrated by the strictest of security guards (Naschy).  The bulk of Mr. Naschy’s performance is during an extended flashback to the massacre roughly 50 minutes into the film.  Director Carlos Gil obviously had a sense of respect for Naschy and his horror history to cast him in such a pivotal role.  Just a few years shy of 70 when this was made, Naschy gives the role his all, proving he still has the acting chops to be a sinister villain.  Naturally his performance is the highlight of this so-so film. 

ROTTWEILER (2004) appeared a few years later and was one of the few films Naschy made for an American director.  Co-financed by Filmax and filmed in Spain, the film centers on a young prisoner who is forced into a sadistic game of cat-n-mouse across the country with the robotic titular beast.  Behind all of this is slime ball Kufard (Naschy), whose authoritarian demeanor has no qualms separating young lovers so he can get his kicks.  Director Brian Yuzna delivers quite possibly the world’s most convoluted killer cyborg-dog picture, but he gets points for casting Naschy in the juicy supporting role.  Yuzna stated in interviews that he was a fan of the actor’s work, so it is nice to see him get the attention.  Naschy is once again appropriately menacing in his role and, despite having only two scenes, gives the best performance of the film.  Wait, I take that back.  The scared, soon-to-be-rottweiler-lunch rooster in one of the film’s funniest scenes should get that nod.    

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