Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Horror Rises from the Tomb (1972)
BCI Eclipse | Review by Dan Taylor

BCI continues to pull out all the stops with their Spanish Horror Series and the latest entry – Paul Naschy's 1972 Eurotrash classic HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB – is no exception.

Opening in mid-15th century France HORROR RISES has all the earmarks of one of those Medieval witch-hunt/possession flicks. There's the loud, babbling brook, the ponderous narration about witches, plagues, pestilence and the dark powers of Satan. We've even got warlock Alaric de Marnac (Naschy) and his witchy woman (Helga Line as Mabille de Lancre) getting accused of all sorts of accursed things – celebrating black masses, eating flesh (dead and living) and drinking blood. No sooner do I realize that Naschy is playing the warlock and one of the accusers (Alaric's brother Armand) do they lop off Warlock Naschy's head and dangle Mabille topless and upside down from a tree! All of which happens before the credits, but not before Alaric puts a curse on 'em all.

Fast forward to the present day (well, 1972) where Hugo de Marnac (Naschy again) and his painter buddy Maurice Roland (Vic Winner aka Victor Alcazar) are getting all sorts of paranormal signs that things just ain't right. Maurice gets obsessed with a pair of dark eyes, paints Alaric and his decapitated head, a seance they're attending goes horribly wrong, and Naschy turns into John Belushi! No, wait, it's just that when he wears those button up sweaters he looks like Earl Keese from NEIGHBORS!

On paper, Hugo's idea to visit the old family estate to search for the legendary corpses of Alaric and Mabille seems like a great idea. Okay, I'm lying. Considering that Maurice is the ancestor of one of the guys that killed Alaric it doesn't seem like a good idea at all. And when they're accosted on the road by a couple thugs – who are then murdered in cold blood by the town's roaming vigilantes – it may have been time to turn the whole caravan around and call this The Worst Idea Ever. (Roadside thugs are a common Naschy plot device, turning up here as well as in PANIC BEATS, NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF and DR. JEYKLL AND THE WEREWOLF, just to name a few.)

Lucky for us neither Hugo nor Maurice is all that sharp and they head out to find Alaric's head with the help of a couple locals. Once they discover the chest containing Alaric's decapitated head everybody in the vicinity seems to go nuts. Locals start hacking up everybody in sight, chicks in costumes by Frederick's of Hollywood start walking around the woods, and creepy organ music starts playing. Constantly.

It's at this point that the flick – with script by Naschy – goes haywire. Alaric's decapitated head rejoins his body and he and the reanimated Mabille go cruising through town looking for victims. Nude victims. Hugo and Co. start looking for ways to stop the horny pair which results in everything from an ancient talisman that's like a cross to a vampire and supernatural girl-on-girl action to zombies (yes, zombies), shotgun blasts, and lines like, "You stay here. It's going to be disagreeable." Surprisingly, though, there are no trademark Naschy werewolves.

You have to admire a flick that feels like they took every single horror film idea they could get their hands on, put 'em all into a blender, and came up with this crazily entertaining concoction filled with warlocks, "vampire women", zombies, bared breasts, cheesy skeletons, dime store effects and more. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since Naschy wrote the treatment in a day, used his family's estate as a main location, and had friends portray some of the roles.

If I have any complaint about the film it would be the length of time it takes to dispense with the buildup and let Alaric and Mabille loose on the surroundings. The flick reaches its trashy peak when they're on the screen and Naschy seems to be having a grand time playing the laid-back Hugo and the wildly evil Alaric. A little more of the latter might have gone a long way to taking the film to another level of greatness.

The new BCI release looks great, presenting the flick in a letterboxed format with a new, clear and colorful transfer. Maybe too colorful at times as we can see just how fruity Maurice's purple pajama top is in one scene. Extras include an introduction by a weapon-wielding Naschy, audio commentary with the star and director, a trailer (which calls the film FEAR RISES FROM THE TOMB), deleted (clothed) scenes and more.

More Spanish horror is on the horizon including the oddball HUMAN BEASTS and legendary HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN, both due out after the first of the year. Keep on buying these low-priced, excellent slices of Eurotrash and hopefully they'll keep making them. HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE anyone???


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