Hunchback of the Morgue (El jorobado de la Morgue) is one of Paul Naschy’s non-werewolf horror flicks from the 70s. It’s a tragic horror movie about a man who is turned into a monster by mistreatment.
Javier Aguirre directed, with Naschy co-writing the script.
Naschy is Gotho the hunchback, who works in the morgue at the hospital. He is mildly retarded and is by nature a gentle and sensitive soul but he is continually teased and tormented not just by children but also by medical students at the hospital.
Gotho has befriended a patient in the hospital, a girl dying from consumption. In fact they’d been childhood friends and now Ilse (María Elena Arpón) has no family of friends to care about her. She only has Gotho. She is devoted to him, and he is equally devoted to her.
When some medical students mock Gotho for his attachment to Ilse he shows the first ominous signs of violence. He attacks the students. Fortunately one of the female doctors at the hospital has taken a liking to the unfortunate hunchback and treats his injuries after he is attacked by children.
Of course eventually the day comes when Ilse dies. Her body is to be used for anatomy lessons for medical students but Gotho steals the body and hides it in a subterranean labyrinth of tunnels that he has discovered, a labyrinth that only he knows about. Gotho cannaot accept Ilse’s death and he asks a famous medical researcher for help. Dr Orla (Alberto Dalbes) is a brilliant man but he is also, as we soon discover, a mad scientist.
Dr Orla promises to bring Ilse back to life in exchange for the use of Gotho’s underground lair as a laboratory (since the university has ordered him to cease his crazy experiments). In fact Dr Orla has his own agenda, a scheme for creating artificial life. Whether he ever really intends to try to bring Ilse back to life is somewhat uncertain.
Things don’t work out the way Gotho expected, and they won’t work out the way Dr Orla expected either. Gotho will seek a violent and hideous revenge for the wrongs inflicted on him.
Although the makeup effects aren’t that great Naschy gives one of his best performances. He’s both sympathetic and genuinely frightening. The relationship between Gotho and Ilse is touching and is rendered with sensitivity. The supporting cast is good with Alberto Dalbes making an excellent mad scientist.
The real highlight of the movie is Gotho’s subterranean labyrinth, a magnificent gothic setting for what is in fact a gothic horror movie despite its modern setting.
Mya’s DVD is light on extras but offers a very good anamorphic transfer.
Hunchback of the Morgue is a good old-fashioned monster movie with a sympathetic monster that raises the question who is the real moster, Gotho or the people who tormented him. In this sense it’s very much in the style of the old Universal monster movies that Naschy loved so much, but with 1970s gore. Highly recommended.