Vengeance of the Zombies: Naschy X 3

Vengeance of the Zombies directed by Leon KlimovskyVengeance of the Zombies directed by Leon Klimovsky

Vengeance of the Zombies directed by Leon KlimovskyPsychotronic-film buffs who watch the Paul Naschy films Crimson (1973) and The Hanging Woman (also 1973) may come away feeling a bit shortchanged regarding the amount of screen time allotted to the so-called “Boris Karloff of Spain.” In the first, Naschy plays a jewel thief who has been shot in the head following a botched robbery, and thus lays in a near coma for the film’s first hour, while awaiting a brain transplant; in the second, he plays a necrophilic grave digger whose screen time is brief in the extreme. No such drawbacks for the eager Naschyphile crop up in Leon Klimovsky’s Vengeance of the Zombies (1973 again … quite a year for Paul!), fortunately; in fact, in this one, Spain’s leading horror icon plays no less than three (3!) roles, and is marvelous in all of them.

In the film, a rash of killings has begun in modern-day London, perpetrated, it is soon discovered, by a quartet of recently resurrected women whose interred bodies had recently gone missing. When Elvire Irving (played by an actress only listed as Rommy) is almost slain by the zombie of her recently departed cousin, she hightails it to the country estate of her Indian guru Krisna (Naschy #1), soon to be joined by her psychologist boyfriend Lawrence Redgrave (Vic Winner, who had also costarred that same year with Naschy in the excellent film Hunchback of the Morgue). But, as it turns out, even this escape to the pastoral village of Llangwell is not sufficient to separate Elvire from the ghastly zombie predations, or the schemes of Krisna’s burnt-faced brother, Kantaka (Naschy #2)…

Basically a giallo film with large doses of the supernatural stirred in, Vengeance of the Zombies gives us a masked killer utilizing a small band of the female undead to do his bidding, as well as numerous other homicidal tricks. It features a nicely complex story line (courtesy of screenwriter Naschy) to keep the viewer guessing and a few genuine surprises toward its conclusion. The picture contains any number of startling moments (most notably a dream sequence, in which Elvire meets the Devil himself, played by — you guessed it — Naschy #3), and the quartet of pasty-faced, slow-moving zombie gals really is quite eerie to behold.

For the dedicated gorehounds out there, Vengeance of the Zombies should also prove quite pleasing, boasting as it does a battered bloody face, a hatchet in the head, a hanging, a throat impalement, several garrotings, assorted knifings, death by beer can (!), a throat slitting, a decapitation, a crucifix stabbing and — perhaps worst of all — the beheading of an actual chicken during a voodoo ceremony (as in Hunchback of the Morgue, with its live rats on fire, an animal WAS apparently harmed during the making of this picture!).

The film makes excellent use of its London locales (it was also shot in Navacerrada and Torrelodones, Spain, both sites being northwest of Madrid) and spotlights the most striking-looking gold-painted woman since a certain 007 movie from 1964. That’s the good news. The bad news is the film’s unfortunate soundtrack from Juan Carlos Calderon, a funk/fusion blend seemingly more apropos for a blaxploitation action flick starring Fred Williamson or Pam Grier. The juxtaposition of zombie risings with this funky junk seemed highly inappropriate to me — almost non sequitur — as it did, apparently, for many other viewers, as well. Still, Calderon’s music IS occasionally effective here, most especially the discordant, outré jazz that accompanies that above-mentioned dream sequence. For the most part, however, it almost torpedoes what is otherwise a well-put-together horror outing; Vengeance of the Zombies is hardly essential viewing, but surely a must-see for all of Paul Naschy’s many fans.

As for this DVD itself, from the always dependable folks at Deimos, it sports a great-looking print of this obscure film; the so-called “export” version, with all the nudity (deemed too risqué by the bluenosed Franco censors of the time) left intact … although whether we need to see a zombie in a see-through nightie is another question! The DVD is introduced by Naschy himself, a few years before his death from pancreatic cancer in 2009 (oh, if only HE could be resurrected!), in which he tells us, with lovable immodesty, “It is a strange movie, a really shocking movie … one of the most horrifying movies in the Spanish horror cinema!” Who am I to argue with the Boris Karloff of Spain?


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SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

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5 comments

  1. When the zombies get too rambunctious in the city I always flee to my country estate with my psychologist boyfriend, so I can completely relate to Elvire in this film.

    Can I talk you into writing a short column about giallo and its history? I think it’s worth more than a response in Comments. I know a little bit because of the Word Horde anthology, but I bet there are others who don’t. (For instance, I think of it as primarily Italian, but the Spanish seem pretty big on it too.)

  2. Sandy Ferber /

    For now, Marion, please be content that several of the films coming up for discussion this Shocktober DO fall squarely into the giallo category. Even a short discussion of the history of the genre would be worthy of a large book! I believe Tim Lucas’ book on Mario Bava is well over 1,000 pages itself!

    • Sandy, I believe you could abridge that and still create an interesting column.

      • Sandy Ferber /

        Perhaps you’re right, Marion…but HERE, on the FanLit page? I’m surprised that I can get away with reviews of regular horror films here, on a website that deals mainly with fantasy and sci-fi. Wouldn’t gialli be pushing it a little? And, oh…I’m afraid that I misspoke above. Although many of the films that I have reviewed for this month’s Shocktober fest DO hail from Italy, none of them, other than perhaps “A Blade in the Dark,” are what I would consider gialli. In the past, however, I HAVE reviewed such classic giallo fare here as “Phenomena,” “The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave,” “Opera” and “Deep Red.” Not to mention several Italian Gothics from the ’50s and ’60s (including some featuring “The Queen of Horror,” Barbara Steele) and just straight-out Italian horrors…many of which will be featured in the coming weeks here….

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