Directed by Carlos Aured
Written by Paul Naschy
Starring Paul Naschy, Emma Cohen, Victor Alcazar, Helga Line, and Betsabe Ruiz
Death is in the air in 15th century France. A cart pulled by oxen is flanked by a company of knights and other dignitaries on horseback. The two black souls in tow on the cart are the evil sorcerer Alaric de Marnac (Paul Naschy) and his equally wicked but oh-so-easy on the eyes partner Mabille (Helga Line). Instead of creating a wacky sitcom where the two Devil worshippers would get into one zany black magic antic after the other, the dabblers in darkness decided to stick with drinking the blood and eating the flesh of the innocent.
The kingdom hasn’t taken too kindly to their acts of debauchery and has sentenced each of them to death. Old Naschy has his noggin whacked off with a sword and it is ordered that the cranium be thusly buried separately from the body. Because every one knows that if you put a dead sorcerer’s head next to its old body (WOHOHO!) there’s gonna be trouble!
The lovely Mabille is tied up from a tree by those pretty little ankles of hers, and before you can cry “Barbara Steele!” the witch has placed a curse on the descendants of her persecutors, namely the family of Marnac’s decidedly less handsome, traitorous twin brother. The suggestively shaped swords are then removed from their scabbards and the knights lay waste to Mabille’s erotic form in a traditional game of “Ring-Around-The-Dead-Bitch.”
We are then catapulted into the heart of Paris, modern day. Satan-beardless descendant Hugo Marnac (Naschy again) calls in on his artist friend Maurice (Victor Alcazar) who’s got a case of the supernatural blues. Maurice has been plagued by intense and frightening visions of a wicked face staring intently at him. When the two go out for drinks and Maurice is reunited with his long lost love (a reunion which includes extreme mouth wrestling), the group soon proposes to discover the hidden head of Hugo’s nefarious ancestor on the castle grounds. Forget going to a fancy restaurant or visiting the Eiffel Tower, these guys want something different!
Consulting with one of the Golden Girls at a séance, the group sees the visage of the mighty Jacinto Molina materialize before them and tell them that they can find his body in the castle crypt on Hugo’s ancestral estate. Maurice is visited by the cackling head later that night and is compelled to finish a portrait that depicts Hugo in medieval garb holding his own gory, severed head out in front of him. Has this vacation become a terrible idea yet?
Apparently not. While driving up the mountain road to the castle and undoubtedly playing Katy Perry songs on the radio, the group runs into a bit of trouble when they accidentally knock a dude over with their automobile. Turns out the bloke is A-OK, but he’s also packing a blade and happens to be part of a vicious gang of wanton criminals. The brawny fists of Naschy are able to pound some sense into these savages, but the car crashes into a tree in the process.
Luckily for them, the neighborhood group of vigilantes arrive on the scene just in time to blow one of the assailant’s brains out all over the snow and their rustic leader (who possesses a mustache of Biblical proportions) sells a car to the distressed group of friends. In that order. But the kids stick around long enough to witness first hand a brutal hanging when the other highwayman is suspended by his throat over the wintry road by the ragtag deputies. Merry Christmas!
Everyone gets to work right away upon arrival at the castle, despite servant Gaston’s superstitious warnings of a demon walking the grounds of the estate. A hefty chest is soon dug out of the freezing, molding earth with pick and spade. Could it contain the legendary gourd of one Alaric de Marnac? The only indication is an inscription that states that the bloody, palpitating heart of a human sacrifice shall serve as the meal of choice for the sorcerer. Therefore it’s painfully obvious that it’s treasure that’s hidden inside the chest, as opposed to the flesh-hungry maw of a devilishly handsome ghoul.
That’s exactly what two dirty, thieving workers suspect, so they greedily break into the wooden box to claim their gains. Unfortunately, the ominous scarlet glow that issues forth is enough to hypnotize one of the peasants, who then carves new bodily orifices into both his partner and Gaston who just happened upon the scene at exactly the wrong moment. The newly enslaved chap then steals away his prized box and places it on a bone-strewn altar in the castle’s crypt. You can bet that the drone’s bloody sacrifices have not yet ended, as indicated by the heavy petting he gives to his nifty looking blade.
Eduardo (you’re telling me that’s not his name?) then sneaks into the house and cozies up next to a black beauty who’s busy washing dishes. As if slitting her throat wasn’t bad enough, the jerk just has to make a mess of the kitchen by letting the girl’s wound leak all over the place. He really IS under the influence of evil! Much mayhem ensues, and Maurice is even brought under the servitude of the now-animated head of de Marnac.
Soon the talking head and the rest of its cadaverous remains are reunited again with the help of the mindless servants and Robert Stack of Unsolved Mysteries and there’s a whole mess of evil coming our way. Alaric de Marnac’s first order of business is collecting a screaming wench and sacrificing her to the bleached bones of Mabille the Magnificent. The transformation is a success and the two ne’er-do-wells are now in brand new flesh suits and ready to paint the village red. In order to protect themselves against the dark majesty of Jacinto’s facial hair, his equally attractive descendant Hugo and Elvira (Emma Cohen) retrieve a magical amulet from a well that can repel Marnac’s evil.
The talisman proves effective when the warlock appears in Elvira’s bedroom later in a Dracula-esque mist. Marnac leers over Elvira with diabolical intent, but one flash of the amulet has Marnac running for the hills in a rush of smoke and wind. But the war isn’t over yet; in a demonstration of his awesome powers, Marnac resurrects all of the slain bodies on the castle grounds who then lay siege on the cornered couple. The milky-eyed dead come in on all sides, but Hugo manages to ward them off with burning torches and pure testosterone.
The next day Maurice returns, completely free of any and all devotion to his Satanic master. Or is he? Hugo finds out the hard way when the two decide to go fishing for the fallen zombies in the castle lake. But Maurice has a better idea: he blows the drama right out of his best friend with the help of his double-barreled shotgun. Heading back home to take care of Elvira, Maurice instead gets a face full of amulet, the holy touch of which brings him out of his trance. Maurice then apologizes for killing Hugo like a gentleman and Elvira kindly forgives him. No hard feelings, Maury!
That night the final battle is mounted as de Marnac and his sumptuous accomplice attack the last two survivors. Maurice manages to chase the sorcerer away with his shiny amulet, but the poor sap didn’t count on the medieval magician being skilled in the ways of the lumberjack. The next thing you know it, puny Maurice has got a face full of axe blade and he has pathetically bitten the dust. But in a weird act of fate, the amulet flies from the dying artist’s fingers and strikes Marnac right in the kisser! The Devil worshipper is none too pleased as his head begins to steam like a kettle. Meanwhile, Elvira has just gotten the upper hand on the constantly teleporting Mabille and she stabs the icy witch in the heart with a steel blade.
She runs out just in time to see Marnac about to shrug off his mortal coil (yet again). Just a simple pat on the back is all it takes for the guy to go to pieces… literally. The sorcerer’s head tumbles away down the stone stairs and the torso soon follows, each crumbling into dust and hellish flames. Exhausted from her tragic ordeal (and probably ready to adopt a life of binge drinking), Elvira discards the amulet and heads away from her night of horror.
(Editor's Note: As you can see from the above description and scratchy visuals, the version I had of HRft was an incomplete print, most likely the one edited for TV. Although I missed out on some lovely gore and cleavage, my enjoyment of the film didn't decrease one ioata. One day, with the dark blessings of de Marnac, I shall possess the ultimate version!)
Known mostly for his famous werewolf saga detailing the hairy exploits of Waldemar Daninsky, Naschy shows his finesse for horror outside the cycle of the werewolf. Horror Rises from the Tomb offers up one of his more memorable characters. Alaric de Marnac is an imposing and impressive figure, clad in a flowing cape and adorned with one of the most diabolical beards to have ever been seen by human eyes. Add to that Naschy’s natural charisma (the guy doesn’t even have to say anything… he can just stand there and resonate power), de Marnac stands as a dark figure in the actor’s hall of notable creations.
Paul even takes his usual double (and in this case triple) duty of appearing on screen as multiple characters. In addition to playing the unrepentantly evil de Marnac, Naschy stars as his modern-day descendant Hugo. This allows him to really shine and display the everyman qualities that made him such a sympathetic character in the Daninsky saga. The role also gives him the chance to act like a snob every so often and even unleash the fury of his flying fists against the roadside bandits. Mark that down as a huge plus.
Even Naschy’s bit cameo as de Marnac’s twin brother is noteworthy. And the guy doesn’t even have any lines! He just sits there on his horse, grinning like a guilty cat with that vicious scar ripped across his face. It really is a testament to Naschy’s thespian prowess that he can make a character that is glimpsed for literally a second seem like a fully-fleshed out supporting role. You remember him, and that’s one of the greatest things an actor can achieve.
One of the things I personally enjoy with Naschy’s films is his construction of mythologies. He gives his supernatural beasts and monsters rules to adhere to, giving his movies the feel of age-old legends passed down from one generation to the next. This can be seen in the Daninsky films, where silver is fatal to the lycanthrope and the fact that the monsters can only be killed by the hand of the One Who Loves Them Most (a theme lifted from the Universal films, particularly House of Frankenstein). This idea is resurrected for Horror Rises from the Tomb; Alaric is warded off with the magical amulet (similar to the vampire’s allergy to crucifixes) and Mabille can only be destroyed by stabbing her with a blade made of silver. It’s this folksy sense of tradition that Naschy instills in his scripts that gives them a classic quality.
Horror Rises from the Tomb is Euro trash at its best. The cheese in this film is warm and flowing freely, and I loved every damn minute of it. There was a fantastic, deranged atmosphere that was achieved in horror films released from the 70’s, particularly the ones imported from Europe. Where else could you watch a man in a turtleneck walk with robotic stiffness into a fetid cave, fainted maiden draped across his brawny arms, and led by a torch-bearing woman wearing only black lingerie and a ridiculously thin nightie? Only in Europe and only in the 70’s! If you’re a connoisseur of Eastern Hemisphere terror oddities like Horror Express and Tombs of the Blind Dead, then Horror Rises from the Tomb is a delectable glass of blood red wine. It might feel a little funky on the way down, but it’s guaranteed to leave a warm feeling in your heart.