Naschy was the best werewolf you’ve never heard of. Or maybe you heard of him after he died. Or maybe you’re reading this in Venezuela and you’ve seen most of his films.
In addition to playing the wolf, he’s portrayed Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy, Quasimodo and Phantom of the Opera. He’s been called the Spanish Lon Chaney, but the fact that he never gained recognition in America makes him the Spanish David Beckham.
Born Jacinto Molina, he changed his name and became an international matinee star. His most famous role was Count Waldemar Daninsky, he appeared in 13 different movies as Waldemar. These sensual European films are unlike American horror counterparts. Sure, they’re schlocky, but they offer a Gothic aesthetic with Aristocracy and ancient castles, the kind you can’t find in the States. Nacshy’s tormented wolfman staggers around the moonlit cities, prowling through the fog in a pillowy white shirt. (NOTE: Much of this obituary first appeared in KEVIN GEEKS OUT ABOUT WEREWOLVES, with this video clip playing while Kevin read it aloud.)
When Count Waldemar is in his dormant state, he’s often brooding. And usually at the mercy of women. Vampire Women. Scientist women. Evil, icy-but-gorgeous women. The films typically contain multiple sex scenes with Waldemar being seduced by 2 or more ladies. They sexually torture him, which often results in turning him into the werewolf. Lycanthropy aside, these are some very unsexy sex scenes.
What’s most interesting about Naschy’s filmography is that even though he’s playing the same part, the movies do not piece together as sequels. Often his character is killed at the end of the film. But then he’s back in the next movie, alive with no explanation. Continuity is thrown out. Stranger still is the fact that Naschy wrote many of these films.
According to Naschy’s Autobiography (Memoirs of a Wolfman) director Jose Zabalza was a notorious alcoholic who would instruct his 14-year-old nephew to take over directing the films when he was incapacitated. So yes, these films were made by a 14-year-old. But that only accounts for sloppy continuity within a single film, not the body of work.
The first was in 1968’s NIGHTS OF THE WOLFMAN, a movie that has curiously disappeared (some argue the film was never even finished. But let’s give him credit, he’s dead and 13 is a nice spooky number.) The last time he played the role was in 2004, in a direct-to-DVD release titled TOMB OF THE WEREWOLF – a rehash of the older movies, but this one featured girl-on-girl action.
Probably his most well-know movie (in other countries anyway) was the elegantly titled THE WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN
The other films demand mention (if not an actual viewing) FURY OF THE WOLFMAN, DR. JECKYLL AND THE WOLFMAN, RETURN OF THE WOLFMAN, THE WOLFMAN OF COUNT DRACULA, THE WEREWOLF AND THE MAGIC SWORD (one of the first Spanish-Japanese co-productions.)
Over the course of these films you get a lot of brooding, a lot of dull sex, and plenty of scenes where Naschy’s werewolf is chained to a dungeon wall – only to break free. No matter how many times this happens, people keep chaining him to the wall thinking “this time, it’s gonna work!”)
Naschy also wrote a series of graphic novels about Waldemar Daninsky, simply titled WOLFMAN. It won an award for Best Spanish Comic Book (beating out Condorito!)
Do yourself a favor and visit Naschy’s Art websiteand view the gallery of original paintings, with titles like Zombie Samurai, The Conversion of Erika and Embrace of the Devil. This may be the best way we can remember the artist – looking at his oil paintings with the site’s music turned on.
My favorite Naschy film (if I had to pick just one) remains 1975’s THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI. Hopefully, Naschy’s death will inspire a wide-release of this hard to find film, where Waldemar battles the Sasquatch (after 70 minutes of wandering around a mountain and being sexually tortured by lesbian mountain-climbers.) SPOILER: The film has a happy ending, as the Wolfman is able to find a cure for his curse, a mountain flower (this plot-point suggests the Naschy knew his film history, the rare “marifasa” flower was the only known cure for lycanthropy in 1935’s WEREWOLF OF LONDON.)
For better or worse Naschy paved the way for generations of low-budget monster movies. There will never be another Paul Naschy, but we have his dozens of movies, which you should see one of, because like so many auteurs of foreign films, you should be able to say you’ve seen one.