Maria Elena Arpon
101 mins (Spain), 86 mins (US)
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Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)
2nd Mar 05
After a young woman is killed by the long-dead Knights Templar and found dead near the cursed site of Berzano, four people go looking for her killers in order to convince the police that they are on the wrong track.
This Spanish/Portuguese production is well known in the zombie genre for the very original take on the undead traditions and conventions. It should also be known for being one of the most incredibly boring horror movies ever made. As the movie begins we are lulled into a false sense of security with the sight of two gorgeous Euro-babes, Betty and Virginia, who haven’t seen each other for years. Throw a big lovin’ hunk of Spanish macho called Roger into the equation and they embark on a threesome (don’t get excited) camping trip. The problem is, Virginia gets upset at Roger’s flirtations with Betty, and so decides to jump off the train somewhere miles from civilisation – Berzano to be precise, where the Knights Templar are rumoured to rise from their graves to hunt at night. Virginia decides to sleep in the ruins on her lonesome and in doing so seals her fate. The rest of the film involves her friends’ hunt for her at the Berzano site. It also involves a lot of talking and a lot of walking around, opening doors, then walking a bit further, opening another door, then wiping off dirty hands, then perchance a glimpse of nudity with no follow-through. I want my money back! It is here that the film’s main weakness lies. I swear to you right now that there were episodes of this film that were so slow and boring that I fell into a trance (yawn).
For me, some redemption was to be found in the only cool character in the film – Professor Candal - a standard issue ‘wise old man’ who gives the characters (and us) the low-down on the facts of the ancient Knights Templar; that 1000 years ago they sacrificed and drank blood of maidens in search of the life eternal, that they wore the Egyptian crosses to symbolise this eternal life and were about as popular as George W Bush throughout the local community. Whatever they did it worked because 1000 years later they still return at night, as skeletal figures dressed head-to-toe in white gowns, now darkened and decayed with the soil of centuries. If this film can be argued to have any power, then this is where it’s at…with the Templars. Their look is incredibly striking, usually lit by the light of the moon and for the most part their screen time is relatively engaging. Unfortunately they do move very slowly (about the same pace as most of the film) and so employ the use of horses. Where the horses come from is anyone’s guess – one can only assume that they are ghost horses – but when the Templars are galloping along on horseback in slow motion, one simply can’t fail to be impressed at the visually stunning spectacle.
The Knights only use their sense of hearing to hunt down victims. It’s a nice, original touch which works extremely well, especially in the last 10 minutes during the ‘heartbeat scene’. Once Betty realises that they hunt by sense of hearing, she tries her hardest to keep quiet but she is trapped in a small room, panicking with an increased heart rate. When the Templars stop and listen, moving their heads about in an effort to hear anything, slowly advancing on where the heartbeat is coming from, I was on the edge of my seat. From this point forward I found Tombs of the Blind Dead to be more than worthwhile - the ending scene set on board the train is really quite special and pretty brutal for 1971. The final images captured by De Ossorio really gave me the creeps.
Tombs of the Blind Dead mixes (very few) moments of sheer impact and tension with protracted episodes of that age-old horror plot padding i.e. people walking slowly around the old building in the dark for what seems like an eternity. If you like your horror dark, slow and stylish, Tombs of the Blind Dead will probably work for you. On the other hand, if you prefer the Dawn of the Dead remake to the original version, Tombs of the Blind Dead will probably disappoint.
Versions Also Known As:
A Noite do Terror Cego (Portugal)
Crypt of the Blind Dead
Mark of the Devil, Part 4: Tombs of the Blind Dead (USA)
Night of the Blind Dead
Noche de la muerta ciega, La
The Blind Dead (USA)
Tombs of the Blind Dead