In 1920s Hollywood there was a saying “Don't step on it – it may be Lon Chaney”.
I like to think that in Spanish cinema of the 1970s there was a saying “Don't step on it – it's Paul Naschy”.
The commutation from one actor and context to the other is, I think, justified by the essential similarity and the essential difference between the two men. They are similar in their preference for masochistic roles and the lengths that they would go to for their art, be it Chaney's 40lb rubber hump in The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Naschy's having rats thrown onto him in The Hunchback of the Morgue.
They are different in that whereas Chaney was the master of disguise, the man of a thousand faces, whoever Naschy played – the hunchback, the wolf man, Count Dracula, and the mummy amongst others – you could always tell that it was him.
It was partly that weight-lifter's physique, the one that he worked hard to achieve and maintain but which didn't look so impressive or open doors for him in the way that a body-builder's physique would have. It was partly that distinctive hair.
But it was also his star persona, the fact that no matter who the director was or what the genre was, there always tended to be the same scenes: Naschy stripped to the waist, engaged in vigorous physical activity; Naschy in a romantic clinch with his invariably attractive, if sometimes deadly, female co-stars; Naschy in a flashback, usually revealing some traumatic circumstances in his past; and, eventually, his tragic, inevitable demise.
It is also this that helps make Naschy the author of the films in which he appeared, far more so than such directors as Leon Klimovsky, Javier Aguirre and Carlos Aured.
The great irony in this regard, and also the thing that brings me back to my starting point, is that Naschy had apparently sought to recruit Lon Chaney's son Creighton Chaney, better known as Lon Chaney Jr, to play the role of Waldemar Daninsky in The Mark of the Wolfman. That Creighton declined the role meant Naschy himself took it and, in due course, became a horror icon in his own right.