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Hanging Woman, The

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    Ian Jane
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  • Hanging Woman, The

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    Released by: Troma
    Released on: September 29, 2009.
    Director: Jose Luis Merino
    Cast: Paul Naschy, Stelvio Rosi, Maria Pia Conte, Dyanik Zuakowska, Aurora de Alba, Gerard Tichy
    Year: 1973
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    A Spanish-Italian co-production shot on Spanish locations and directed by Jose Luis Merino, The Hanging Woman follows Serge Chekov (Stelvio Rosi) who returns to his family home to collect an inheritance after his wealthy uncle passes away from a brain tumor. Things go from bad to worse when Serge comes across the body of his lovely cousin, hanging from the neck, a noose pulled over the arm of a tree on the family's property. While at first all believe she must have committed suicide, a quick autopsy proves otherwise and foul play is suspected.

    While Serge tries to figure out who would murder his cousin and why, he also starts to develop an interest in his uncle's much younger and fairly sexy widow, Nadia (Maria Pia Conte), who is a bit of a sorceress. Meanwhile, a certain Professor Leon Droila (Gerard Tichy) is going about trying to reanimate the dead using electricity, and a grave digger named Igor (Paul Naschy) is skulking around and getting it on with corpses. Droila's foxy but puritan daughter, Doris (Dyanik Zurakowska), and of course, the butler, Ivan (Jose Cí¡rdenas), are also involved, but exactly to what extent remains a mystery to Serge.

    The Hanging Woman takes its own sweet time to get moving but once the story is established and the characters are in place, it zips along nicely to a pretty satisfying last half. While Merino at times seems more in love with the locations than the cast members and tends to pad the film with a lot of footage of people wandering around spooky tunnels and creepy houses, there's enough zaniness in the picture to make up for that sometimes languid moments.

    Those expecting Naschy to headline will be disappointed as his role is a supporting one, though he does steal every scene he's in and plays the mongoloid gravedigger character quite well. For the most part, this is Rosi's show through and through - unfortunately, he's just not particularly likeable and comes across as a bit of a jerk. Thankfully the female cast members help in this department, and Merino makes sure they're always framed nicely and looking their best, whether in full dress or their birthday suits. It's also fun to see Gerard Tichy show up here as the professor, a role he seems to be having some fun with, particularly in the scenes where he's reanimating the dead.

    Originally titled Orgy Of The Dead (and presumably re-titled upon American release to avoid confusion with the Ed Wood movie of the same name?), this is a fun gothic horror film with some heavy science fiction overtones (something that the director seems quite keen on discussing in the commentary track) and some excellent make up effects. Judging by the gore and nudity quotient, including some female full frontal, it's likely that this is the full uncut version of the film.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Troma has gone on record stating that no suitable elements were available for this release and that all they had to work with was an old video master. So yeah, this looks like a VHS transfer, plain and simple. The colors are flat and faded, the image is soft and detail is often washed out. It's watchable enough, but don't expect anything coming close to the level of visual quality we got from the BCI Spanish horror releases a couple of years back.

    The English language Dolby Digital Mono doesn't fare any better than the transfer does. It's fuzzy sounding in spots and while you can more or less make out anything that's being said at any given time, there is noticeable some background hiss.

    Troma has done a fine job of making up for the lousy quality of the feature by loading up their release with some pretty decent extras starting with a commentary track featuring a moderator and the film's director, Jose Luis Merino. Presented in Spanish with English subtitles this is an interesting track in which the director talks about what he likes and dislikes about the film, about the various locations he used around Madrid for the movie and about the picture's cast. He even talks about some of the actors' romantic lives, about tension that existed between two performers on set that manifested itself during a fight scene, and about the gore effects and nudity in the film. There are a few spots where Merino clams up but the moderator does a good job of prodding him along, resulting in a pretty interesting discussion about the making of the film.

    Also included is an on camera interviews with Paul Naschy (14:30) and a second on camera interview with Jose Luis Merino (21:39). While there's some repetition here between what Merino covers in the commentary and what the two participants cover in their interviews, these are both worth skimming through, particularly Naschy's segment which gives us his own unique perspective on the film and this time in his career. Relating perfectly to the interviews is Paul Naschy 101, a featurette hosted by Shane M. Dallman that provides a welcome overview and summary of the celebrated horror icon's lengthy and unusual film career.

    Also included on this disc, for no discernable reason, is a complete second feature entitled The Sweet Sound of Death from 1965. This black and white fullframe presentation is a schlocky but enjoyable enough gothic horror film with romantic overtones made in Spain almost a decade before the main attraction. The picture follows a man named Pablo who is chasing a woman named Dominique who he is desperately in love with. They wind up at a cemetery and after a strange conversation Dominique explains to her beau that if either of them dies, they'll have to return to help out the other one and prepare them for what's on the other side. Of course, Dominique soon passes away, and then shortly after, Pablo gets a phone call from her.

    The second feature is complimented by The Sweet Sound of Dubbing: Dubbing 'The Sweet Sound of Death' which is a genuinely interesting interview with dubbing director Ben Tatar. Here Tatar explains how he started out working in the Hollywood system pitching in on various films shot on location in Europe before working for a decade in Spain dubbing primarily horror and exploitation efforts.

    Rounding out the extras is a rough looking American theatrical trailer, a great selection of lobby cards and international poster art, menus and chapter selection. countries.

    The Final Word:

    The quality of the presentation may be no better than an old VHS tape but at least the extras go some ways towards making up for that and you can't argue with the price. As far as the movie itself goes, it's not Naschy's best but it's entertaining and plenty enjoyable.
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