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August 28, 2005

Blind Dead Double Feature

Tombs of the Blind Dead
La Noche del Terror Ciego
Amando De Ossorio - 1971
Anchor Bay Region 0 DVD

Return of the Blind Dead
El Ataque de Los Muertos sin Ojos
Amando De Ossorio - 1973
Anchor Bay Region 0 DVD

One of the most fun books on film is Cathal Tohill and the appropriately surnamed Pete Tombs' Immoral Tales: European Sex and Horror Movies 1956-1984. Since the book first appeared in 1995, many of the guilty pleasures described by the authors have appeared on DVD. One of the best aspects to this book are the plentiful illustrations, primarily stills from the movies, but also posters as well. Tohill and Tombs are partially responsible for what is on my Netflix queue, with the loopy Horrors of Spider Island as one of my first rentals.

Since first reading the book, I was intrigued by the poster and still from Tombs of the Blind Dead. I can't explain it rationally except to say that there is something fascinating about skeleton-like zombies in medieval armor, riding horses. I finally saw the first two films of Spanish director Amando De Ossorio's four film series through Nicheflix.

Even though there are four Blind Dead films, each films has its own self-contained narrative. If the two films I have seen are any indication, De Ossorio likes to repeat certain scenes. The two films also shared several of the same actors. The basic narrative concerns a group of 13th Century knights who are described as Templars in the English language versions of the films. These particular knights have learned Egyptian Black Magic and have blood drinking rituals. The blood is usually supplied by scantily clad young woman who clearly isn't attending the ritual by choice. The knights are killed by angry villagers and buried in an abandoned castle, only to come back to life to drink the blood of some modern day victims. These zombie knights are all blind, but somehow possess acute hearing. Even more amazing is that they are skilled equestrians, riding around on zombie horses. Both films show a young woman trying to escape on a zombie horse which got me pondering if someone should make a film called Night of the Living Seabisquit.

Where the first film lives up to the promise of the poster and the still is in the imagery of the knights on horseback. De Ossorio filmed the horseback riding scenes in slow motion, creating dreamlike imagery. It's likely that De Ossorio was inspired by the scene of the ghostly carriage in Mario Bava's Black Sunday. If not enough to sustain an entire film, these images provide a sense of cheap but effective visual poetry amid the narrative nonsense.

While it isn't a consistent source of information, re-checking the cast list on Return of the Blind Dead provided a little chuckle. Briefly appearing among the zombie knights and their victims is an actor who would lead the renaissance of filmmaking in Spain. Cast as Farmer #2 is a future director, Pedro Almodovar.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 28, 2005 04:10 PM