In Christian Molina's directorial debut, Spanish horror legend Paul Naschy appropriately enough plays an aged horror film star named Pablo Thevenet who, sadly, is having to come to terms with the fact that his glory days are behind him. Striving to earn a meager living in an industry that worships the young and beautiful while simultaneously shunning and disregarding the elderly, Pablo's down on his luck and not in the best of shape anymore. When his manager, Martin (Francisco Algora), finds one last gig for him working as a human statue/doorman at a strip club named Pandora's, he's hesitant but takes a shot at it anyway. The gig pays well enough that he takes it on and as such signs a contract with the owner of the establishment, Mr. Reficul (Miguel Del Arco).
Things start off okay for Pablo as he enjoys the new found financial freedom that his new position offers him as well as the fringe benefits (including but not limited to fancy cigars, free cutlery, and a romp in the sack with his designated personal assistant – a former lady of the evening named Tick Tock, played by Mehn-Wai). But soon something inside Pablo snaps, and boy does it snap hard.
After making short work of a few of the up and comers in the industry, Pablo's offered a chance to get behind the camera and direct some films that, according to producer Herr Fuchs (Guillermo Montesinos), will make great use of his talent he can't resist the offer. Things of course go horribly wrong when Pablo finds out he's been brought on board to direct a snuff film and he winds up enraged when things to go far and he's reminded of his own daughter's rape and murder from a few years back.
Eventually Pablo finds out that his fate is sealed, however, and that he really should have read the small print in the contract that he signed with Mr. Reficul – a contract he tried to break but couldn't.
Written by Naschy himself (and obviously influenced by Faust and, at least in terms of the murder sequences, Theater Of Blood), the film does a nice job of relaying the aggravation and frustration that aging genre stars have to deal with in their golden years. The Hollywood machine does tend to chew'em up and spit'em out so to speak and in all reality, many performers probably feel just as bitter about it as Pablo does in the film – Naschy himself included in that lot.
Molina's direction is slick and graceful. The transitions, which at times border dangerously close to overkill, are also quite interesting as the movement of a cane touching the ground gives way to a completely different scene almost seamlessly. The cinematography is carefully planned with plenty of steadicam action and a nice, distinctly European looking, lighting scheme on display throughout (particularly during the scenes that take place inside the club).
The real reason to watch the film though is for Naschy's performance. He's fantastic as the lead and is able to portray the frustration and the anger that his character experiences very well with nothing more than a simple glance. He makes the most of his intense facial features and the script plays to his strengths.
While at times the storyline verges on the absurd, Naschy's good enough in the film and Molina's direction accomplished enough throughout that the movie moves by at a nice pace and proves to be entertaining throughout. While hardly a gore fest, there's enough wanton bloodshed in the movie to keep us in tune with the film's horror roots even if at is as much a character study as it is a slasher film.
For whatever reason, the 2.35.1 widescreen transfer isn't anamorphic but that's the only major strike against it. Edge enhancement is minimal as is print damage (if you look really closely you'll notice both, but you have to really be watching for it). Mpeg compression isn't a problem and the colors look nice and rich throughout playback. Overall, the film looks quite solid though those who watch the film on widescreen sets might be irked a bit.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack is pretty good, with only one typo noticeable in the subtitles (Martin is referred to as Matin). Directional effects are used throughout the film but most noticeably during the last twenty minutes or so and this mix handles it all quite nicely. Dialogue is clean and clear and free of hiss or distortion.
The supplements start off with a solid making of featurette that contains some nice video interviews with director Christian Molina and Paul Naschy himself. Plenty of behind the scenes footage and clips from the film are spliced into this segment to add some visual flair to it and it works – the end result is pretty interesting and it's always fun to see Naschy interviewed as the man seems to be rarely at a loss for words.
A second feature contains a lengthy video interview with Christian Molina who gives a nice overview of his work on the film as well as some of the obstacles that he had to overcome to get it made and his admiration of his leading man.
Rounding out the extra features are a trailer for the feature, four other Shriek Show trailers, and a decent sized stills gallery that contains some promo shots as well as a load of storyboard artwork. Also worth noting is that the cover art is reversible with an English language version (which contains a glaring typographical error) on one side and a Spanish language version on the other.
Paul Naschy's performance makes this one completely worthwhile and Rojo Sangre is a fine directorial debut from Christian Molina. Despite not being enhanced for anamorphic sets, the Media Blasters/Fangoria DVD looks and sounds quite nice and has some interesting extras. Highly recommended for Naschy fans, and still recommended for everyone else.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.