Spanish director and writer Amando De Ossorio’s cult horror series began with La noche del terror ciego, Tombs of the Blind Dead in 1971, it’s three follow ups came in quick sucession ending in 1975, the plot is quite a novel idea, 13th century evil Knights Templar, quest for eternal life by drinking human blood and committing human sacrifices. They are then executed for their unholy deeds and crows peck out their eyes. Cut to modern day Portugal and a group of people stumble on the Templars abandoned monastery, reviving their zombified corpses.The Blind Dead series are stand alone fims each with it’s self contained story, almost remakes of the same concept, what they all share is the Knights rising from their graves and attacking the living.
Ossorio insists that the Templars are not zombies as they resemble mummies and that, unlike zombies, his Blind Dead are not mindless corpses. Still they share many of the same elements.
The Tombs of the Blind Dead is notably slow paced with a creepy atmosphere that set the foundation for the interesting sequels, forging their place in horror history.
Return of the Blind Dead,
El ataque de los muertos sin ojos (1973)
Evil Knights Templar are put to death, their eyes burnt out and bodies burned on bonfires only to return 500 years later on the anniversary of their deaths to have their revenge.
With moments reminiscent of Night of the Living Dead the rest of director Amando De Ossorio’s (follow up, remake or stand alone story of Tombs of the Blind Dead) is a slow burning, effective little Spanish horror.
The characters and story of El ataque de los muertos sin ojos are developed arguably further than it’s predecessor and while the pace is faster it’s still very slow. Your patience is rewarded with creepy visuals, killer blade welding zombie knights, fitting music, all with the backdrop of an eerie small town.
Although dated the idea of knights coming back from the dead is still appealing, there’s plenty of hammer horror-esque bright blood on display and it has a seventies charm about it, flares, huge collars etc. The cast
are more than adequate, notably unrecognisable José Canalejas as Murdo the hunchback-like village outcast.
The final act is satisfying enough and as the dawn arrives prior to the credits you’ll feel relieved in a good or bad way dependant on your feelings of this atmospheric gem.
The Ghost Galleon, El buque maldito
The living corpses of the Knights Templar must dispose of a few models, a professor and some unscrupulous characters on a 16th century phantom galleon.
An unnecessarily sleazy entry into the series replaces the seaside town settings to the high-seas. Blind Dead 3 Ghost Galleon is dense with creepy atmosphere aided by an abundance of thick fog, sound effects and eerie music. Unfortunately, this instalment lacks a likable character to latch onto. Director / Writer Amando De Ossorio once again manages to draw in the viewer with the concept of the dead Knights returning to life. Although the sets are less effective in this third film and the Knights take there time to appear, when they do there’s enough going on to give a few cheap chills.
Visually it’s the darkest (due to poor lighting), most mystical entry, on a positive note it arguably played a part in influencing John Carpenter’s The Fog. Nevertheless, poor production design, a jarring flashback, slow deaths, less blood, Scooby Doo-like investigations and the confinement of the Galleon stilts this instalment. Despite Ossorio’s usual faults the middle section is entertaining enough mainly due to the return of the dead. However, while the finale works conceptually, it is poorly realised with a model that lacks scale and a tame beach confrontation that lacks tension.
Given the strong predecessor and the refreshing direction with a new setting it’s sadly a missed opportunity.
Night of the Seagulls, La noche de las gaviotas (1975)
A doctor and his wife open his practice in a traditional coastal town, where they are met with distrust and hatred from the locals. The couple soon find out town harbours an ancient evil. Offering resident women for sacrifice to the zombie dead Knights Templar then to be eaten by crabs.
Although only connected by the Knights returning to life Night of the Seagulls (La Noche de las gaviotas) is the fourth and final zombie Templar film from Director /Writer Amando De Ossorio.
Although it takes about 20 minutes for the Knights to rise from their graves in the seaside town, Night of the Seagulls is the faster paced of the bunch. This borrows from H. P Lovecraft, clearly Dagon is has influenced this instalment.
There’s more fog, more eerie music and the dreamlike visuals come thick and fast, odd townsfolk, zombie knights on horseback and screaming seagulls. There are fewer leads, the couple and the village girl are adequate enough and there are plenty of worn and old faces on display, Amando De Ossorio throws in the obligatory slow ‘village idiot’ in that is hounded by the community.
Debatably I maybe being to critical here but as a standalone film it works better if you haven’t seen the other Blind Dead films, but for those familiar with them it’s old trodden ground, a remake of a remake, that’s it hard to enjoy fully without fresh eyes.
Dubbing and seventies jumpers aside this last Blind Dead retains it’s creepy atmospheric factor and trades the better sets for some character development. Technically it’s put together well but the closing act with a siege on the a house has been done and despite some good makeup effects is somewhat anti-climatic. That said, it redeems itself with the church showdown and conclusion.
All in all a mix bag of enjoyable bones.