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Author Topic: Tombs of the Blind Dead / La noche del terror ciego (Amando de Ossorio, 1971)  (Read 17361 times)

IL COMMISSARIO

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TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD 1971- aka LA NOCHE DEL TERROR CIEGO aka THE BLIND DEAD

Lone Fleming, Caesar Burner

This is a Spanish horror movie and they are usually not lumped in with italian horror pictures so if I have it in the wrong place, I can move it.

A young woman leaps from a train after being spurned from a former lesbian lover. She makes her way to an abandoned temple. She stays the night there. As night falls, zombiefied, skeletal creatures arise from their tombs and attack the young woman. She tries to escape but the zombie monks climb atop their likewise zombie horses, give chase and eventually kill her. Her two friends go looking for her and uncover a terrible legend. The Templars were Knights of Christ who were excommunicated for blasphemy. They were hanged and crows ate out their eyes. Centuries later, they occassionally arise from their graves to the hauntingly loud boom of a ghostly bell to seek new victims for their blood sacrifices. During the finale, the main characters and a couple of seedy bandits are cornered in the temple. One survives and boards a train as the Templars give chase. The Templars manage to also board the train where they systematically slaughter the passengers.

Amando de Ossorio's first entry in his popular quadrilogy was a big hit when first released. At the time Spanish horror was frowned upon and seldom attempted mainly because of the censorship laws in Spain at the time. The one who got it going was Paul Naschy and his Universal/Hammer homages. These films, amazingly, were not very popular in their homeland but more so in America and other countries.

Ossorio's movie was a bit different. Instead of using popular horror movie creatures as a template, he chose the historical Templar Knights who were soldiers of Christ. Their exploits are well documented and they were feared by the King who believed that their growing popularity with the common people would bring about dissent. Inevitably the Templars were hunted down and executed as heretics.

Ossorio plays with the facts a bit as well as changing the mythology from film to film. Ossorio even incorporates some vampire lore with a hint of Romero's slant on zombies from his NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968). After Virginia's body (the young lady from the beginning) is delivered to the morgue we see an eccentric morgue attendant playing with a turtle in a bowl. In the background you see Virginia's slashed and chewed body lying covered on a table. The sound of the eerie church bell can be heard. Shortly after you see the sheets move as the corpse of Virginia rises in the background as the attendant is unaware of what is transpiring behind him. The now zombiefied Virginia gets closer and closer until she puts the bite on the careless man. The scene is very creepy as is a similar scene soon after this one as Virginia's corpse attacks a woman in a manniquin shop. A blinking red light adds a sinister ambience as Virginia casually stalks the young woman inside the locked warehouse filled with mannequins.

As for the Blind Dead themselves, they are one of the most memorable and original creations in fantastic cinema. These monsters are blind so they find their prey through sound alone...even the sound of a heartbeat can alert them to a potential victims location. Their centuries old cloaks, their bony hands reaching out with swords drawn to slash, stab and skewer their victims before sucking the blood from the body and the long dead horses they ride whose scenes are shot in slow motion stick in your mind as they are quite a striking image. The Templars even have small tufts of hair dangling from their bony chins for an added effect. The soundtrack from Anton Garcia Abril is desperately in need of a CD release. It is one of the most frightening horror movie scores of all time.

One of the oddest aspects of the four films is the inclusion of a rape scene. Each film has one. In the first film, there is a lesbian sub-plot involving Virginia and her girls school friend who seems to now like the company of men. This is what leads to her jumping off of the train. Later in the film, the two main characters have to enlist the aid of a group of small time criminals that know the area around the temple as no one else is foolish enough to go there. During the conclusion, the leader of the gang rapes Lone Fleming's character, the former lesbian  who says she has never been able to enjoy the touch of a man. Then, the hoodlum forces himself on her, slaps her around a bit before finally stripping her naked and raping her. Afterwards, he non-chalantly hands her a cigarette! Each succeeding film features a scene like this. It is not known (to me at least) why Ossorio included such bits. Did he have some kind of emotionally destructive altercations with the opposite sex? Or was it just crass exploitation?

The films plot is nothing special. There really isn't any plot to speak of. The film is mainly just a series of drawn out set pieces--The opening bit involving Virginia exiting the train, her exploration of the decrepit temple followed by her death from the Templars. The middle portion is a brief search followed by two scenes of Virginia claiming victims and the explaination of the history of the Templar Knights. The final bit involves the cast making a trip to the temple to see if the legend is true and the final comeuppance of the train that refused to stop earlier in the film because of the strange occurences in the area.

The imagery, the atmosphere, the outrageously spooky music and the Templars themselves are the reason to watch. Ossorio wrings every bit of tension out of the set pieces he can and pushes the terror to the max. There are also numerous scenes of illogical behavior. During the final bit at the end, Lone Fleming takes an incredibly long time to get on the train (even with help) as the slow moving Templars have reached the train themselves and dismount their steeds. It could be said that she was nearly frozen with fright but nonsensical behavior is a mainstay in horror movies so it's nothing to really fuss about.

The US release had some of its scenes shuffled around and some of its violence was excised. The film was trimmed down from around 100 minutes to just under 80 minutes. The film was a mainstay on the popular syndicated show ELVIRA'S MOVIE MACABRE. Strangely, the bloody train massacre finale was shown intact on the Elvira program but was cut from the video release!

Ossorio followed this success with three sequels each one lesser than the one before it. It should be noted that John Carpenter must have seen the second and third films before he made THE FOG (1979). That film, about the ghosts of wrongfully murdered lepers returning on a ghostly vessel inside an ominous fog to get revenge on the tiny seaside town that lured them to their death a century before. The idea of a 100 year celebration of the history of the town is similar to Ossorio's second film RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD (1972) in which a small township celebrates the 100 year celebration of the execution of the Templars by the townspeople. The ghostly, fog enshrouded ship features in Ossorio's third film THE GHOST GALLEON (1973). By the fourth film, the quality returns somewhat to the first and second entries but the ending feels a bit rushed.

All four present wonderful ideas and hauntingly surreal imagery involving the Knights Templar. Ossorio had planned to re-visit his most famous creation but died before he was able to do so. The Templars would later feature in a few other movies including the rarely seen John Gilling movie CROSS OF THE DEVIL and in Jess Franco's pornographic MANSION OF THE LIVING DEAD.
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Jonny

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Here's another box set I own but have yet to watch  :(

I need to seriously pull my finger out, I've had the BU Coffin sat infront of me on my desk since it was released and have never even taken one of the discs out..
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IL COMMISSARIO

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You should check them out soon. Supposedly there was some pressing issues involving the second film. BU replaces them for free. Don't remember what they were but I don't think mine had this problem. Here, I found this from the VIDEO WATCHDOG site...

Get Your Templars Fixed
Today's e-mail brought the following announcement from our friends at Blue Underground:

THE BLIND DEAD COLLECTION

TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD and
RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD – Replacement Discs

BLUE UNDERGROUND discovered a one-second audio dropout in the Spanish Version of TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD, and a one-frame video/audio glitch in the Spanish Version of RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD, included in THE BLIND DEAD COLLECTION. The DVDs have been fixed and remastered.

Replacement DVDs are ready now should any customers wish to replace their discs. Please mail the Disc(s) Only (do not send the plastic case or coffin box) along with the Return Address to:

BLIND DEAD Replacement
11271 Ventura Boulevard #500
Studio City, CA 91604
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Jonny

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You should check them out soon. Supposedly there was some pressing issues involving the second film. BU replaces them for free...

Cool, thanks for the heads up on that issue mate. I'll bear that in mind when I watch them. Hopefully in the next week or so while I'm off work.
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IL COMMISSARIO

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This is old news but I'm sure they'll still replace it should you have one of these. I didn't notice it. Then again, I had already seen these movies a handful of times so I didn't pay that much attention to it.
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Jonny

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I didn't notice it. Then again, I had already seen these movies a handful of times so I didn't pay that much attention to it.

If only a second's worth of dropout I doubt I'll notice either... I'm used to watching VHS dupes that have tracking rolls and colour drop outs that last for minutes!  :-\
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IL COMMISSARIO

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I still have numerous dupes that have this problem as well as many that I cannot make out much of what is going on at times. Others have subs that are not only cut off on the left and right, but are sometimes below the damn screen.
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R-T-C Tim

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I brought the set when released and it took me a while to get round to watching them - the slow pacing makes them very different to the Naschy flicks. I thought part 2 was the best and the others little more than average.

I reviewed the whole collection a while back - The Blind Dead
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Mondo Esoterica - Cult film and DVD reviews from Karl May to Bruno Mattei

Jonny

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I reviewed the whole collection a while back - The Blind Dead

Really cool reviews Tim! Damn, I really do need to get around to watching these films!
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Stephen Grimes

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Great reviews Tim,really need to give my set a watch again soon.
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IL COMMISSARIO

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I used to like the second film best too but I much prefer the original. Even though the Templars have more screen time in RETURN...than probably all the others combined, quite a bit of it is stock footage from the first movie. Nice reviews BTW.
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Peter Neal

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I end up with the original as my fave of the Blind Dead movies, though the second one improved quite immensely in my book when I finally saw the extended Spanish version, which is much nastier in tone than the previously English and German language versions.

Strangely enough, only the silliest and most bloodless installment, "The Ghost Galleon", got banned in Germany during the VHS witchhunts of the 80's. :-[
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Inspector Tanzi

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I end up with the original as my fave of the Blind Dead movies, though the second one improved quite immensely in my book when I finally saw the extended Spanish version, which is much nastier in tone than the previously English and German language versions.

Strangely enough, only the silliest and most bloodless installment, "The Ghost Galleon", got banned in Germany during the VHS witchhunts of the 80's. :-[
I enjoyed all of them and even thought Ghosy Galleon (The weakest one) was quite good.
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WilsonBros

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Nick & I got full review copies of the Anchor Bay UK box set.

Obviously we were pissed off that Tombs was cut and that you weren't able to choose which language you prefered, but what do you expect for nothing?

We were bummed last year when a certain moderator on another website deleted our concise review of Ghost Galleon - "fucking abysmal" - this was before the no swearing policy was introduced.  Can't think why he deleted the thing, after all, we were only putting the boot into a movie that was being sold by the company he worked for...  :D

Kev W
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Fray G

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I had all these on video before dvd and the first Anchor Bay release with the first 2 films was one of my first discs. These movies hold a special place in my heart especially Horror of the Zombies aka Ghost Galleon, it's a so bad it's good movie if ever there was one. The cheesy unconvincing effects are among the worst i've seen. But there's some great totty in this and the very last shot of the film is awesome.

The BU coffin set is one of my faves. I'd say the first film is the best too.
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