El Caminante (1979)
Directed by Paul Naschy
Starring Paul Naschy, David Rocha, Sara Lezana, Ana Harpo, Blanca Estrada, Silvia Aguilar
Recently released on Blu-ray from Mondo Macabre under the title The Devil Incarnate, this is noted as being one of the writer/director’s favorite films. But for those expecting the usual horror outing from Naschy, with vampires and werewolves, you might be a little disappointed. If you’re looking for a very unusual horror/comedy, one that had a very deep and personal meaning to the writer/director, then you might find yourself very intrigued by it. While I really did enjoy it, I sort of felt sad that its creator was ever in that dark of a period in his life, of not trusting many people in the business around him.
In his autobiography, Memoirs of a Wolfman, he stated “I wrote El Caminante in a very special frame of mind. Life had dealt me several harsh blows and I had gained a pretty negative impression of people. For me personally, friendships had been a lamentable disappointment. I knew all about betrayal and lack of loyalty and apart from my family – my parents, my wife and two sons – I didn’t believe there were many things worthwhile in this filthy rotten world. Later on three people appeared in my life who I consider true friends. However, the cry of anguish from the bottom of my soul which found expression through this movie is still valid today.” This film was made almost 40 years ago, and like Naschy wrote in his book over 20 years ago, the way society is still today, this message still rings true. Which again, is a pretty sad statement.
But even with all that negativity, one definite positive note to appreciate is this stellar release from Mondo Macabro. For a film that has never been released here in the states (or at least not to my knowledge) in any form, to have it now on a beautiful looking Blu-ray is definitely something that all Naschy fans can be happy about. It shows the talent and pure creative process this man possessed, taking his own emotions at the time, no matter how dark they might be, and creating an intriguing story around it for it to become a movie. The simple story deals with the Devil taking on human form and traveling the lands, showing a variety of people how they will succumb to the temptations of any of the seven deadly sins, no matter how noble or good they might be. Of course, he double-crosses them each and every time, laughing in their faces. I mean, he is the Devil, after all. Along the way, he meets up with a young man who he takes on as his companion, teaching him how man really is, showing that he really shouldn’t have any hope for the future.
One of the most famous scenes in the film, and one of the writer/director’s favorites, is with the Devil being hung on a cross and left for dead, right across from a statue of Jesus baring the same fate. He speaks bitterly towards the statue, questioning how he could give his life for such pigs, meaning mankind. While the tale might be a little pessimistic and not a happy one, it does give a powerful message here that is still important today as it was when he wrote it.
If it wasn’t enough to have this movie finally come out, the bonus features on this disc are incredible. First and foremost, we get an introduction from Naschy himself, where he talks about the films and how much it meant to him. Not sure when this was actually recorded, but it great to be able to hear his thoughts right before you see it. There is also a great interview with actor David Rocha, who plays his traveling companion in the film. He not only praises Naschy, but gives so many reasons why he enjoyed working with him so much.
The disc comes with commentary by European horror scholar Troy Howarth, who yet again does an exceptional job filling the running time with a ton of information about the making of the film, the people in the film, and of course, Paul Naschy. He gives us background information on many of the faces we see here, letting us know what other films they worked on, such as Blanca Estrada who appeared in It Happened at Nightmare Inn (1973) and well as the Blind Dead entry, Horror of the Zombies (1974), and the lovely Silvia Aguilar, who appeared in one of my favorite Naschy films, Night of the Werewolf (1981). Howarth has obviously done his homework and gives the listener plenty of good bits of trivia and insight here.
But honestly, my favorites of the extras are the two interviews with Naschy’s sons, Sergio and Bruno. Bruno gives us a little tour of Naschy’s home, his trophies from his time as a weightlifter, as well as from his film work, also getting to see his office where he did most of his writing. But the one with Sergio, which is considerably longer, we get to hear stories of his father, how he was treated by the Spanish critics and industry, and how that affected him. We also get to see a huge scrapbook filled with a ton of news clippings from over the years of his career. Even though it is all in Spanish, that would be an amazing book if they were to scan those images. I don’t care if I couldn’t read it, just seeing all those news clippings and press was amazing. I’m pretty sure there are more than a few Naschy fans that would invest in a book like that. Hint, hint. But really, hearing some very heartfelt comments from Sergio about his father and his work really means a lot to me personally, because he knows that his father’s work is very important to the horror genre throughout the world, and that all the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears that went into them, as well as the sacrifices that he made, have definitely made a permanent mark in the pages of horror movie history. And thankfully, Jacinto Molina knew that as well. Both Bruno and Sergio should be more than proud of their father. And from hearing them speak about him in these interviews, you know they are. So as dark as this movie’s subject matter might be, that makes me feel pretty good.