Color, 1992, 92 mins. 39 secs.
Directed by Jacinto Molina
Starring Paul Naschy, Manuel Zarzo, Paloma Cela, Sergio Molina, Jose Alvarez, Adriana Vega, Jose Gomez Zubisa
Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Filmax (DVD) (Spain R2 PAL)
While Charles Bronson was taking a time out between 1987's Death Wish 4: The Crackdown and 1994's Death Wish V: The Face of Death, Spanish monster movie legend Paul Naschy (a.k.a. Jacinto Molina) decided to fill the gap with his own rape-revenge / vigilante epic directed and written by and starring himself. Cutting a memorable figure trudging around in a trenchcoat with a variety of weapons, he's a treat to watch here in what would be his final complete directorial feature (and a wild change coming after Howl of the Devil and the unreleased Horror in the Wax Museum). Only seen for decades in bootleg versions outside of Spain and mostly off the radars of all but the most rabid Naschy fanatics, The Night of the Executioner (La noche del ejecutor) has finally been given a sparkling 4K-sourced presentation for its worldwide Blu-ray debut in 2023 from Mondo Macabro. Needless to say, it'll please not just Naschy fans but devotees of trashy crime films in the Bronson mold that leave plenty of punks littering the streets.
While celebrating a cozy 50th birthday dinner at home, Madrid surgeon Dr. Hugo Arranz (Naschy) is helpless to stop a home invasion by a gang of five knife-wielding thugs who sized the family up during a grocery store run. The attack leaves Hugo's wife and daughter sexually assaulted and murdered, and the criminals also slice out his tongue and leave him for dead. That turns out to be a huge mistake as the wronged doc turns to extreme weightlifting and a variety of violent tactics to track down and wipe out the scum who destroyed his family, along with other unscrupulous members of society as well.
Partially inspired by a real-life mugging Naschy faced against three thugs and other violent incidents around Madrid at the time, The Night of the Executioner is an effective and often brutal Spanish variation on the wave of vigilante thrillers that became staples in theaters and on home video in the wake of Bronson's influential hit. The formula is followed here fairly closely with plenty of innocent characters getting victimized throughout (some you might not expect later on), and the device of rendering Naschy mute is an interesting one that gives him an almost mythic avenging angel quality by the final 15 minutes. In a weirdly Kubrick-style touch, the film's soundtrack makes extensive use of a synthesizer version of the second movement from Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, earlier used in its traditional form in Zardoz and later employed in films like The Fall, Knowing, and The King's Speech.
For its first legitimate English-friendly release in any format, the film fares extremely well on the Mondo Macabro Blu-ray with a pristine a/v presentation presented at 1.33:1 (a la several other Naschy films). The detail and framing appear very satisfying, and the DTS-HD MA 2.0 Spanish track comes with optional English subtitles (which will get a big laugh early on with that "super dooper" line). A new audio commentary from The Naschycast's Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn does a thorough job of covering Naschy's own inspiration for the film, the violence Spain suffered during fascism that pivoted into the urban violence of the late '80s, the device of having a vivid female punk member in numerous films going all the way back to Last House on the Left, projects unrealized and not from the period, and the perception of Naschy at home and abroad, among many other topics. An interview with Sergio Molina, "The Executioner's Son" (36m17s), covers his dad's waning career by that point due to industry changes, the film's actual production in the late 1980s, the family's love for Bronson movies, and the real-life incidents (coinciding with a big rise in drug trafficking) that inspired the "politically incorrect" narrative. Then in "Working with Jacinto Molina" (20m38s), actor Pepe Ruiz, "the Spanish Dick Miller," gives an utterly endearing chronicle of his path to acting from childhood, highlights from his acting career, and his memories of working with Naschy on multiple films including rolling around in a pigsty for Human Beasts. Finally a 24m19s interview with actor Manuel Zarzo sketches in his acting-crazy childhood that led to theater and movie work at a young age, his work in numerous genres including westerns, a few favorite projects along the way, and the path that led him to Naschy.
Reviewed on July 29, 2023.