Devil's Possessed (1974)
Devil’s Possessed (1974) is Naschy November’s first historical drama, although it’s light on historical fact. As the first of this style of film, it isn’t perfect, but instead hints at better things to come. Another collaboration with director Leon Klimovsky, I’m not saying it’s bad. I’m simply saying I’ve seen subsequent movies and they’re better.
Baron Gilles de Lancre (Naschy) returns home from a journey to see the king, dejected that his request for a loan was denied. He declares he will be interested only in science, and learns from his new alchemist, Simon de Braqueville (Eduardo Calvo), that in order to turn glass into gold, he’ll need to collect blood from a damsel.
This is our first indication that Gilles is conflicted. He asks if there must be more killing; there’s been too much already. Tormented by nightmares, this is a rare moment of “good” for the Baron. He more frequently demonstrates “evil,” causing his subjects to say that he’s been possessed by the devil.
Gaston de Malebranche (Guillermo Bredeston) returns from prison in Normandy to learn a lot has changed in four years. He knew Gilles as a hero that saved his life during war, finding it difficult to believe he’s now a madman. In fact, when the two meet, Gilles offers Gaston the role of his right-hand man as he discovers “the great creation” and rules the world.
Devil’s Possessed focuses on Gaston leading rebellion instead of Gaston performing horrors. There are a fair number of torture and decapitation scenes; however, there are more scenes with sword fights and swashbuckling gymnastics. Unless Naschy was on a yo-yo diet and the film was shot over several months, Naschy seems to have used a stunt double for his battles.
When Gilles returned home at the beginning, he was met by the lovely blonde Georgelle (Norma Sebre.) I assumed this was his wife, but my research calls her his “lover.” Good, that means he’s technically not cheating when he rapes a maiden here and there before collecting their blood in a huge goblet.
Georgelle is the real villain of the piece, in cahoots with Simon, although I’m not certain to what end. She encourages the evil side of Gilles and winks an awful lot at Simon. However, I don’t know what she stands to gain. I suppose if he were to create gold and rule the world, she’d share in his riches, but she seems to know the alchemy isn’t real.
Either I’m desensitized by now, or Devil’s Possessed has the least sex and gore of nearly any other Naschy film I’ve seen. I don’t want to say that it’s missed, but I do wonder if I accidentally watched a Spanish “clothed” version. There are opportunities to show skin, but none are taken. I have come to expect more depravity. Without it, Gilles doesn’t seem as… well, evil.
Perhaps this is what Naschy wanted, a chance to play a historically-based character that experiences a wide range of feelings. Act-ing! To be honest, he’s better when resting in the middle ground than he is on the wider end of the emotional spectrum. Nevertheless, with its action sequences, rather than horror, the movie is still entertaining.
Written by Paul Naschy
Directed by Leon Klimovsky
Starring Paul Naschy, Norma Sebre, Guillermo Bredeston, Mariano Vidal Molina
RT 95 min.
Home Video Blu-ray (Shout Factory, The Paul Naschy Collection II)
Rating 6 Waldemar Daninskys (out of 10)