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Paul Naschy, 75, Spanish dean of horror films

By Margalit Fox
New York Times / December 15, 2009

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NEW YORK - Paul Naschy, an actor, director, and screenwriter widely acknowledged as the dean of Spanish horror films, whose dark web of credits includes “Night of the Werewolf,’’ “The Night of the Executioner,’’ “The Nights of the Wolf Man,’’ “Night of the Howling Beast’’ and “Good Night, Mr. Monster,’’ died Nov. 30 in Madrid. He was 75.

The cause was cancer, his son Sergio Molina told the Spanish news agency Efe.

A veteran of more than 100 pictures, Mr. Naschy retains an ardent cult following around the world, in particular for the films he made in the 1960s and ’70s, the apex of his long career. Acting in his films and those of other directors, writing many of his own screenplays and sometimes directing them, Mr. Naschy was responsible for a string of movies that cheerfully explored the lurid, the violent, the sexual, and not least of all the sanguinary.

Among them are “Werewolf Shadow’’ (1971); “Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman’’ (1972); “Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll,’’ also known as “House of Psychotic Women’’ (1973); “The Black Harvest of Countess Dracula’’ (1973); “Horror Rises From the Tomb’’ (1973); “Hunchback of the Morgue’’ (1973); “The Orgy of the Dead’’ (1973); “A Dragonfly for Each Corpse’’ (1974); and “Cannibal Killers - Human Beast’’ (1985). There are a great many others.

A review of “Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll’’ on blogcritics.org last year called it “an entertaining and somewhat bloody whodunit wherein an ex-con gets wrapped up with a trio of weird sisters in a remote French village,’’ adding, “Sex, murder, sex, sex, the actual slaughter of a pig, more sex, and more murder are just some of the highlights in this enjoyable thriller.’’

That film and four others were released last year as a boxed DVD set, “The Paul Naschy Collection.’’

Often described as the Spanish Lon Chaney or the Spanish Boris Karloff, Mr. Naschy out-Chaneyed Chaney and out-Karloffed Karloff when it came to the diabolical breadth of his résumé. In the course of his career, Mr. Naschy played - sometimes more than once - Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, Jack the Ripper, Fu Manchu, the Phantom of the Opera, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Devil, a spate of serial killers, and a welter of warlocks and werewolves.

He was best known for playing the recurring character Waldemar Daninsky, a mild-mannered fellow who turns into a werewolf at inconvenient times. Daninsky made his debut in 1968 in “La Marca del Hombre-Lobo,’’ known in the United States as “Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror.’’ The character reappeared in about a dozen films, most recently in “Tomb of the Werewolf’’ (2004).

His autobiography, “Memoirs of a Wolfman,’’ was published in English by Midnight Marquee Press in 2000.

Mr. Naschy was born Jacinto Molina Alvarez in Madrid. At the request of a film distributor, he adopted the Germanic-sounding Paul Naschy early in his career.

At 11, Jacinto saw “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man,’’ starring Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr., an experience he described as life-changing. If watching horror films offered a welcome escape from life in Franco’s Spain, then making them, as Mr. Naschy would find, was a spine-tingling act of subversion. Many of the screenplays he wrote were reworkings of the Hollywood horror classics that had thrilled him as a boy.

Trained as an architect, Mr. Naschy was also a highly ranked competitive weightlifter and wrote several pulp Western novels in Spanish as Jack Mills.

He began his film career in the late 1960s, appearing as an extra in pictures shot in Spain. Among them were two by the noted Hollywood director Nicholas Ray, “King of Kings’’ (1961) and “55 Days at Peking’’ (1963).

His most recent films include “School Killer’’ (2001), “Countess Dracula’s Orgy of Blood’’ (2004), and “Rottweiler’’ (2004).