Thursday, May 3, 2012

Paul Naschy is great in 'Devil's Possessed'

Devil's Possessed (aka "The Marshall of Hell") (1974)
Starring: Paul Naschy, Guillermo Bredeston, Norma Sebre, and Mariano Vidal Molina
Director: León Klimovsky
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

A one-time courageous and dutiful nobleman, Gilles De Lancre (Naschy) grows twisted and bitter because of perceived slights by the king, is led down the path of madness and Satanism by his lover (Sebre). When his crimes and brutality against the serfs in his domain reach monstrous proportions, his former comrade-in-arms Gaston of Malebranche (Bredeston) takes charge of a growing resistance movement and starts laboring toward ending his reign of terror.

Loosely based on historical figures, including Gilles De Rais who in the mid-1400s had as many as 600 children murdered in the name of "dark arts", "Devil's Possessed" is one of the best films written and directed by B-movie legend Paul Naschy. It's a heady cross between a Robin Hood-style adventure tale and a savage, gory Satanism-fueled horror tale that culminates in a "storming of the castle" sequence that's as exciting on a swashbuckling level as it is chilling on a horror level. Few villains get as neat a send-off as Gilles De Lancre gets here.

Paul Naschy gives a great performance as the increasingly crazy De Lancre, with Norma Sebre complimenting him nicely as De Lancre's cold, repulsively immoral lover. Guillermo Bredeston is likewise solid in the role of the righteous Malebranche, but he is needfully outshone by Naschy. Visually, the film is packed with excellent cinematography that takes full advantage of the natural settings and crumbling castles that serve as the film's locations. The action scenes--be they the jousting tournament at roughly the film's midpoint, or the sword-fights during its finale--are also expertly filmed.

If you like some daring-dos with your horror--or some horror with your swashbuckling--I'm sure you'll get a kick out of this one. While a number of Naschy's penned scripts have their roots in the sort of medieval Satanists of this film--with "The Return of the Wolf Man" and "Horror Rises From the Tomb" coming to mind immediately--this is one of the few where they are front and center in their own time. It's an unusual horror film that's well worth a look.

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