Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Tombs of the Blind Dead

Tombs of the Blind Dead
La noche del terror ciego

Amando de Ossorio, 1971, 
writers: A. de Ossorio & Jesus Navarro Carrion

Which is one of those films that probably isn’t so good artistically – it’s the kind of thing that gives meat to parodies – but this doesn’t really matter as it is highly entertaining. The kind of thing that horror excels in. I saw it at a BFI screening with an audience happily laughing appropriately at moments of daftness and cliché. And it’s also always good to see these older films in bright and clean prints.

Amando de Ossorio’s ‘Tombs of the Blind Dead’ has its most winning attributes in the location of the medieval village ruins and the Blind Dead themselves, which are wonderfully Gothic and eerie. Set in Spain but filmed in Portugal. This location and those undead masks vividly carry the whole film, even when it’s throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks.

Some notes:

The skeletal hand falling into frame to set things off was surely the kind of thing in Peter Strickland’s mind when beginning ‘In Fabric’.
She’s taking her time, looking around.
Erroneous play with mannequins and flashing red neon, perhaps a nod to capturing some Mario Bava flavour. (Okay, Strickland must have seen this film!)
In the Seventies, lesbian intervals will be set to cheesy lounge music.
When bedding down in the deserted ruins of a medieval town in the middle of nowhere, a woman will take her clothes off.
Apparently being pursued by a zombie means you forget how a door works.
Eerie Gothic ruins won’t stop a vamp from trying her seduction techniques.
There’s a fair bit of lukewarm macho-posturing which stops being amusingly ridiculous when it escalates to rape.
There’s the creepy mortuary attendant with the inappropriate smirk who is maybe meant to be genuine comic relief, but it’s hard to tell when there’s a lot of unintentional humour in context.
So… can the Blind Dead can create other undead from victims?? Huh…??
Gangster fishermen?
The flashback history lesson takes away a little of the mystery of the Knights. Also, that seems a highly and unnecessarily convoluted sacrificial ceremony.
To locate their prey, the Blind Dead rely on the hysterics of their victims, which makes sense, but they also rely on victims moving really slowly, or backing themselves into corners or allowing themselves to be encircled, etc. Even the undead (?) horses move in slo-mo so these victims mostly only have themselves to blame.
Undead horses also provide escape steeds for victims.
Being descended upon by undead cannibal Knights is no excuse not to have a girl fight.

Tombs of the Blind Dead’s original Spanish title is ‘Night of the Blind Terror’, because it was the time where Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ was a hit and ‘Night’ was rather essential to any horror title; but Ossorio was insistent that his Knights were vampiric mummies rather than cannibalistic zombies. That’s all par for the cash-in course, but far odder is the fact that the American distributors added a prologue that would bafflingly tie this in to ‘Planet of the Apes’, to call it ‘Revenge of Planet Ape’ (?). I guess all genre can be "Frankenstein monstered" together.

Although moments like a loud heartbeat being enough to alert the Blind Dead are ostensibly silly (or it certainly made the audience I was with chortle) yet, like the slo-mo horses, it too can be seen part of the nightmare logic. And because the monsters and the atmosphere are so successful, it justifies everything until the budget runs out into a still frame.

And then there are Blind Dead sequels and Ossorio’s film boosting Seventies’ Spanish horror to also be getting on with.

No comments: