Seventy-five years ago in Madrid, he was born Jacinto Molina Alvarez, but to millions of horror fans the world over, he was known as Paul Naschy who, over the duration of a five-decade career, well earned the sobriquet "The Spanish Lon Chaney." No other role brought him more acclaim than that of tortured soul Dr. Waldemar Daninsky; with a dozen performances as the lupine character, he holds the record for portraying a werewolf more often than any other actor in cinematic history.
But when he succumbed to cancer earlier today, it was no mere actor that passed from our view. Naschy also wrote over 40 pictures and directed 14, a horrific Renaissance man who eschewed the glamor of elaborate special effects. "Now there is an excess of technology, and (it) is not good. I'm tired of special effects, which...give no fear. The real fear is caused by humans, which is much more frightening..." To this end, for all their luridness, Naschy's films have a genuine innocence. The make-up, crude though it may be by Hollywood standards, never obstructs the performers underneath -- or the passion that is always on the verge of consuming them, body and eternally-damned soul.
Here in America, Naschy's heyday was the early 1970s, as grindhouses routinely unspooled such exploitative fare as Frankenstein's Bloody Terror, Assignment Terror, House of Psychotic Women, and the film that is routinely considered his best, Horror Rises from the Tomb. They would also find their way - heavily edited, of course - onto late night television, their carnality and gore trimmed for the delicate of spirit. Many of his titles were possessed of a loopy sense of fun, the notion that they could spin off in any narrative direction at any time, even veering into science fiction. Small wonder that these movies were often viewed through the haze of non-nicotine smoke -- and are arguably more effective when seen that way.
Though wheelchair bound and wracked with disease his final years, he continued to work, and his latest opus, La harencia Valdemar, a Lovecraftian tale, is slated for a January 2010 premiere in Spain. He is survived by his wife of 40 years, as well as two children. His son, Sergio Molina, has also worked in the Spanish film industry as an actor and production manager.