We’ve talked before about how actors sometimes take roles simply for the money. There’s no shame in that. Paul Naschy himself said that’s what he did when he made Crimson, the Color of Blood (1973.) I tell you, though, it’s hard to find anything redeeming in this movie. Much of the time, if you consider it a comedy, it has potential to work. However, I don’t believe it’s in any way, shape or form meant to be funny.
It starts with a glimmer of promise. Jack Surnett (Naschy, or Paul Nash) is cracking a safe when one of his bumbling partners in crime, Karl (Victor Israel), gets selfish and steals a necklace (that may be fake) and sounds the alarm. A police chase ensues and Surnett is shot in the head, barely bleeding at all. That’s the first, maybe, five minutes. It’s all downhill from there and there’s no hope the promise will be realized.
The film is horribly uneven, changing from thriller to soft core porn on a dime. It’s like two movies smashed into one. Even the music changes to emphasize the shift in tone. When we’re in the thriller parts… well, the music isn’t memorable. However, when we’re in the soft core porn part, it’s a happy, tap your heels tune. We’re not just watching simulated sex; we’re meant to celebrate it.
Backing up a minute, I don’t know if you’d call these scenes soft core porn or not. I will tell you that the people are naked and there’s a lot of thrusting of male on top of female, but not in a way that the parts would be fitting, if you know what I mean. Neither is there anything natural about these scenes. They all begin with dramatic ripping of the woman’s clothes before moving into sometimes consensual, sometimes not, sex.
The IMDb synopsis teases a mad doctor, and that’s surely what I thought we would get when the gang leader, Henry (Olivier Mathot), finds a disgraced mob doctor to help. Doc Ritter (Carlos Otero) recommends a medical school buddy, Prof. Teets (Ricardo Palmerola), to perform brain surgery. This is the most calm, level-headed mad doctor I’ve ever seen. Sure, he can further his experiments, but he’s doing it against his will.
Then this isn’t even the focus for much of the story. Instead, it’s on the disappearance of Le Sadique/the Sadist (Roberto Mauri), whom Henry and company abduct so Prof. Teets can harvest some of the lobes of his brain to transplant into Jack. This obviously kills him, leaving his right-hand man, Willy (Richard Kolin), to investigate and eventually send his gang to confront Henry’s gang at the big old house in the country where Jack is recovering.
It’s a speedy recovery, by the way. Within a day he’s sitting up and kissing on his girl, Ingrid (Gilda Arancio.) Immediately, he feels like he’s not the same person he used to be and wishes they didn’t try to save him. He now has the violent impulses of the Sadist, which I guess are different from the violent impulses of a normal, gun-toting, safe-cracking criminal. There are few victims for him, so luckily there’s a young woman who delivers the newspaper every day.
For a movie that’s also known as The Man with the Severed Head and has such incredible alternative poster/home video cover art (see above), Crimson is a huge disappointment. I guess I was hoping for a disembodied head movie. I mean, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is infinitely more entertaining. Instead, Jack wanders the grounds looking like one of the Little Rascals with his head bandaged because he has a toothache.
Let’s also toss in a full musical number at one of the Sadist’s hangouts, the more ridiculous it is, the better… or worse, because it's boring. Not only is the content uneven, so is the pace. I had to watch it over two nights, not because I was offended or found some of the scenes distasteful, but just because I was struggling to stay awake. The best news about all this for Naschy is that he’s hardly in the movie. That’s bad news for us, though.
Written by Juan Fortuny, Marius Lesoeur, H.L. Rostaine
Directed by Juan Fortuny
Starring Paul Naschy, Silvia Solar, Olivier Mathot, Evelyne Scott, Claude Boisson
RT 87 min.
Released June 7, 1976 (Spain)
Home Video Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
Rating 3 Waldemar Daninskys (out of 10)