Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
The Hanging Woman (1973)
Troma Retro Video | Buy at Amazon | Review by Dan Taylor

Despite my long-time love of horror and exploitation I am most definitely a Johnny-come-lately where Paul Naschy is concerned. Brought up on a steady diet of 80s slashers and Italian splatterfests, I was often guilty of passing up the likes of HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN (aka BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL) and HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB under the mistaken belief that they were quaint and bloodless 70s yawners, unlikely to satisfy my trashy horror hunger.

I credit pals from the Eurotrash Paradise group over at Yahoo with not only encouraging my Naschy-fication over the past half-dozen years but also with feeding me a steady diet of the Spanish horror icon's best (and sometimes worst) work. Though I probably made a mistake by diving headfirst into Naschy's eclectic filmography with the one-two knockout punch of NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST and the aforementioned HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB, I have to admit that few Eurotrash stars have brought me as much pure cinematic joy as Naschy. In fact, only Klaus Kinski comes to mind and that is high praise, indeed.

Though Naschy's role in the new-to-DVD feature THE HANGING WOMAN is only a supporting one, the flick has all the earmarks of the classic "kitchen sink" approach that highlights some of the actor/writer/director's finest hours.

Cast here as Igor - a pervy gravedigger into necrophilia, photography and stealing ladies underpants! - Naschy immediately raises the suspicion of both viewers and a pipe-puffing inspector (Pasquale Basile) after the body of Mary (Aurora de Alba of VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES) is found hanging from a tree in the cemetery. (Hence, the UK/US video title used here, though it does little to explain another of the film's many alternate titles, DRACULA, THE TERROR OF THE LIVING DEAD!)

Killed by some off-screen monstrosity while digging through her father's coffin, Mary's death coincides with the arrival of her cousin Serge Chekov (Stan Cooper aka Stelvio Rosi), a generously couiffed man's man who is quick with his fists and smooth with the ladies. It seems that Mary's father left nothing more than the minimum to his black magic-obsessed trophy wife Nadia (Maria Pia Conte from IF YOU MEET SARTANA, PRAY FOR YOUR DEATH) and Serge is now heir to the family's estate.

Further complicating matters is the presence of Professor Droila (Gerard Tichy) and his beautiful daughter Doris (Dyanik Zurakowska). While Nadia uses her charms on her dead hubbie's nephew in order to convince him to unload the estate, the professor wishes to continue using his laboratory in the castle's catacombs to pursue his research into "nebular biology" or, in other words, bringing the dead back to life.

While certainly not some sort of lost masterpiece, THE HANGING WOMAN is charmingly schizophrenic and will easily keep your attention for its 95 minute running time. Naschy definitely gets the flick's juiciest role, including peeping on and bedding Nadia, professing his love to various decaying corpses, running amok after being wrongly accused of homicide, and attacking Rosi on more than one occasion. Speaking of Rosi, the flick's male lead comes off like a lighter version of genre vet Jack Taylor, dispatching villains with his fists and finding himself the object of desire from both of the film's fetching female leads.

An absolute bargain at less than $10, the new Troma DVD also includes a second feature (1965's THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH, also featuring Zurakowska) plus an interview with Naschy, interview and commentary from director Jose Luis Merino, trailers, featurettes and a chat with Ben Tatar, the man responsible for handling the English dubbing of many European horror flicks of the 70s, including both films on this disc and HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB.

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