A hunchback working in a morgue falls in love with a sick woman. He goes berserk when she dies and seeks help from a scientist to bring her back from the dead.
“Beware The Hunchback! A freak of nature whose crimes go beyond your wildest terrors!“
I remember renting Hunchback of the Morgue (1973) on VHS back in the late ’80s or early ’90s – mainly because I thought it looked insane. I don’t think I was disappointed. This was before I’d seen movies like Bloodsucking Freaks (1976), so my bar for insanity may have been somewhat lower (or should I say higher…?) I had never heard of Paul Naschy at that point – or maybe only in passing. I was really just beginning to explore the video fringes, looking for the weirdest, most wanton and wonderful cinema ever produced… So this was probably a seminal viewing experience for me.
Having grown up watching movies like Halloween (1978), Terror Train (1980) and The Amityville Horror (1979), I was somewhat amazed and possibly even freaked out by the grungier, grimier cinema that I started to discover. I may have mentioned this when I talked about another film I saw back then called Scream Bloody Murder (1972). Hunchback of the Morgue (1973) is by no means the grungiest horror film out there, but it seemed, at the time, to be a little bit grungier than usual to me.
I liked it, but it didn’t seem like a movie I would watch over and over again like Halloween. Although, I think I saw it one more time a few years later when a friend of mine brought it over and said “Have you ever seen this?”
I’m not sure…” I answered. In reality, I was pretty sure that I had, but he can be funny about that and refuse to watch movies with me if he thinks I’ve already seen them. “If I have,” I continued, “I don’t remember much about it.” This part was true. The movie was a bit of a blur to me, and I was curious to take another look at it. So we watched it, and I think we both enjoyed it, too.
As the years went by, I read about Paul Naschy in various books and started to watch other films that he starred in – or sometimes directed. I’ve even picked up a few and added them to my collection. I bought a VHS tape called Human Beasts (1980) – which didn’t have much information on it all. It turned out to be a Paul Naschy movie called El carnaval de las bestias or Cannibal Killers – Human Beast and it was a truly mind-blowing viewing experience – but that’s another story…
For some reason, I had never picked up a copy of Hunchback of the Morgue – until quite recently when I found a reasonably priced copy of the The Paul Naschy Collection II on Blu-ray. The very first movie in the box is Hunchback of the Morgue, and I was excited to see it again for the first time in almost 20 years…
In some ways, it reminded me of a Jean Rollin film. I’m sure that hardcore Rollin experts would cry blasphemy and punch me in the nose, but to my fairly new-to-Roillin’s-oeuvre eyes, there were some definite similarities: the gothic European atmosphere, the tragic love story involving a monster, the hypnotic pacing, the almost art-house-movie-crossed-with-exploitation-movie feel – the list goes on and on.
I think that Rollin at his best is better than this – or at least more (more artsy, more exploitative, more hypnotic – MORE). But Hunchback of the Morgue (1973) is a pretty darn satisfying viewing experience for anyone with a taste for that kind of surrealistic horror cinema. I appreciated it more now than ever before, and I’m glad to finally have it in my collection.
For those who don’t know, Paul Naschy’s real name was Jacinto Molina Alvarez, and he’s been called the king of Spanish horror. He said that Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), which he saw when he was 11, was the movie that really inspired him and perhaps started him down the path toward playing those classic monsters in his own films. He was an athlete, and was at one time the lightweight champion weightlifter of Spain. This, I’m sure, helped him later on when playing monsters with superhuman strength. One look at Naschy and you could believe it.
I’m still a relative beginner when it comes to exploring Naschy’s oeuvre. He acted in over a hundred movies, wrote 52 and directed 23. That’s a lot of #NotQuiteClassicCinema to explore – and I’ve got a long way to go before I can say I’ve seen it all. If you’re also new to Naschy’s work, and you’re looking for a good place to start, why not consider adding Hunchback of the Morgue (1973) to your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.
Hunchback of the Morgue (1973) by #JavierAguirre
A hunchback tries to bring a woman back to life.
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) April 16, 2022