‘Tombs of the Blind Dead‘, or to give its original Spanish title ‘La noche del terror ciego‘, is a Spanish horror film directed by Amando de Ossori and was released in 1971.
The first of Amando de Ossorio’s four Blind Dead films (Return of the Evil Dead, The Ghost Galleon and Night of the Seagulls would follow), Tombs of the Blind Dead is a reasonably effective Euro-undead chiller elevated by the novelty of its original premise.
Like many horror movies, Tombs of the Blind Dead relies on its characters doing something immensely stupid to get the story moving. In this case Virginia White (Maria Elena Arpon) jumps off a moving train when her boyfriend starts getting a bit too cosy with her own ex-lover Betty (cue flashback to lesbian schoolgirls).
To be honest, Virginia probably would have been better off just changing carriages or getting off at the next stop, and she now compounds that error by deciding to spend the night in the creepiest ruined church she can find next to the even creepier graveyard. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that things do not work out well for Virginia. By night, the blind dead of the title rise from their graves. They are Knights’ Templar who were excommunicated for turning to Satan and whose eyes were pecked out by crows as their corpses hung from the trees on which they were displayed. Now they follow the sound of their victims’ heartbeats to track them down before drinking their blood. Now that’s a horror premise.
Despite their flaws, the Blind Dead films are not short on atmosphere, in fact they’re drenched in it. The graveyard scenes are smokily gothic, more like classic Universal than seventies schlock, and the Templars’ slow, inexorable pursuit of Virginia through the ruins is genuinely unsettling – The Knight Templar are part of the great tradition of monsters whose walking speed is always faster than you can run. Later on when Virginia herself rises from the dead there is an even better cat and mouse pursuit through a mannequin factory; truly the best place ever to have a semi-nude zombie girl stalking her prey!
The early part of the movie tries to provide context and glimpses of the back-story to the Knights Templar, and exposes the viewer to flashbacks to the Templars’ cult heyday, torturing a virgin sacrifice before drinking her blood (this scenes occurs at different points in the film depending on which version you watch). The Templars apparently target virgins but, to be honest, they don’t seem to be all that strict about that particular criterion.
With Virginia largely out of the picture the story follows her pervy boyfriend Roger and sometime lesbian lover Betty as they try to find out what happened to Virginia. One thing that really marks European horror, especially of this era, out from its English-speaking counterparts is the lack of sexual moralising. The ‘have sex and die’ cliché familiar from so many US films is completely absent here. Not that the people who have sex don’t die, but they do so alongside everyone else and there is no suggestions that they’ve done anything wrong, quite the reverse in fact. ‘Hero’ Roger has already inadvertently led to his girlfriend’s death by eyeing up Betty and now he makes out with a smuggler’s girlfriend while Betty is elsewhere. There’s also the obligatory girl-fight and a certain amount of nudity (again depending on which version you’re watching).
There’s very little meaningful plot going on here and that which there is does become rather side-lined. There are some promising discussions about relationships and the role that fidelity might play in them but that sort of thing is understandably put on the back burner when the Templars show up, never to be alluded to again. As for the Templars themselves, they have a fascinating back-story but very little current story. What they did in the past is way more interesting than what they do in the present and we see little of either.
That said, this is an entertaining enough film. The horror stuff works, the lack of moralising is a breath of fresh air and the atmosphere alone makes the film worth a watch. It also has a great soundtrack that was composed by Antón García Abril that heightens the tension and general eeriness of the film.
The Blind Dead films have garnered a cult following over the years, and ‘Tombs of the Blind Dead‘ was an unexpected success upon its release, at least with horror fans. Before making this film Amando de Ossorio’s previous films had been a mix of dramas, thrillers, and the odd comedy, and it was the success of ‘Tombs of the Blind Dead‘ that caused him to dive headfirst into the horror genre. He went on to make a total of four films in the Blind Dead series and almost made a fifth in the early 1990s called ‘The Necronomicon of the Templars‘ but he failed to raise enough interest or funding to get the project off the ground.
The Blind Dead series became Ossorio’s most famous work and in the later years of his life he even painted oil paintings of The Knights Templars from the films for fans of the series willing to pay for them (one of Amando de Ossorio’s other hobbies was painting).
Ossorio’s work is worth a look and it is a shame that there hasn’t been a renewed appreciation of his work (admittedly some of it was bad….but you could say the same about Lucio Fulchi) as he certainly left his influence on 70s Euro-horror. No-one created a thick and creepy atmosphere quite like Amando de Ossorio.
It’s not hard to track down the Blind Dead series, they can be found on YouTube on a regular basis, and a comprehensive boxset of all 4 Blind Dead films was made available on DVD.
Watch the trailer for ‘Tombs of the Blind Dead’:
Watch the full movie below:
|Get Tombs of the Blind Dead at iTunes|
|Get the Blind Dead boxset (4 films) at Amazon|
|Get the Tombs of the Blind Dead theatrical posters at Amazon|
Written by: Robin Bailes.