Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Assignment Naschy: Assignment Terror (1970)

Original title: Los Monstruos Del Terror

aka Dracula vs. Frankenstein

A group of aliens from a slowly freezing planet decide to take over Earth to ensure their continued existence after that thing with the artificial sun hasn't worked out for them. Their invasion plan has a certain whiff of Plan 9, what with them transferring alien minds into the dead bodies of scientists Dr. Warnoff (Michael Rennie), Maleva Kerstein (Karin Dor) and Dr. Kirian (Ángel del Pozo). These undead scientists then begin to gather around them various classic monsters to experiment on so that humanity can be conquered by their own fears, or to just build an army out of them, or something. The aliens first revive Count Dracula and/or Nosferatu (Manuel de Blas) - obviously found as a skeleton in a sideshow tent -, then everyone's favourite werewolf Waldemar Daninsky (Paul Naschy), then a surprisingly creepy looking mummy (Gene Reyes), and finally - coughing innocently - the monster of Farancksalan (Ferdinando Murolo), whom I'd imagined bigger.

Because the aliens leave behind quite a few dead bodies in these activities, Inspector Tobermann (Craig Hill) of the city police(!) is soon on the case. Alas, the good Inspector is really more interested in listening to exposition, sexing his mandated romantic interest Ilsa (Patty Shepard), and hallucinating "humorously", so he does not make much progress at all.

Fortunately, mankind is protected by something much stronger than Tobermann: human emotions that can easily influence a corpse-riding alien to become quite a bit nicer, especially if it is female (woman's intuition, the film explains). Well, that, plus Waldemar turns out to be quite a bit more heroic than the supposed hero of the piece in what I assume is one of the perks of being played by the scriptwriter.

After my last visit in Paul Naschy land lead me to encounter a surprisingly un-silly piece of filmmaking, I decided to go back a few years in the Daninsky cycle to a film directed by Tulio Micheli and written by Naschy and possibly (never trust the IMDB) a few other people. That's something easily done in a series of movies without much of a continuity. In this respect, the Daninsky films are on the same level as the equally free-form adventures of El Santo, with whom Naschy also shared his basic body form and favourite sport. Someone should really write a short story about El Santo and Waldemar Daninsky teaming up.

But I digress. Quite unlike El Retorno De Walpurgis, and even more so than the earlier Daninsky films, Assignment Terror is a full-time monster mash that uses what there is of a plot exclusively to put everything on screen your basic monster movie loving kid and adult adores. Body-snatching aliens, variations of all four classic Universal monsters, a bit of mind control, some happy mad science ranting by Rennie, a lab with more blinking lights than most Christmas trees, monster bashing and monsters mashing, chauvinist nonsense, Paul Naschy being irresistible to women, and even some slight eurospy stylings coming from Craig Hill - the only thing the film, at least in the cut I saw, leaves out is some friendly nudity.

Now I have obviously reached the point in this review where I should begin to criticize Assignment Terror for its non-plot, the sometimes cardboard-y sets, and the fact that it is utter nonsense. That, however, would be quite a bit more nonsensical than anything the movie itself puts on screen, for Assignment Terror was not made to fulfil my silly ideas of what a "good movie" is supposed to look like or do, nor to further my love for films peeking into the subconscious of Paul Naschy. The reason for this particular film's existence (apart from parting people from their money) is plain and simply to reiterate one important point that has been at the core of my philosophy of life for years now, and certainly had an equally strong influence on Naschy's thinking: monsters are awesome.



Todd said...

I always thought that Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolfman is the closest we could get to having Santo in a Paul Naschy movie, which is pretty damn close.

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

Good point. Only thing that's missing is a subplot about Santo's girlfriend falling for the Wolfman. Well, and Naschy.