Written by Amando de Ossorio
Directed by Amando de Ossorio
Starring Lone Fleming, Cesar Burner, Maria Elena Arpon, Jose Thelman
Released April 10, 1972 (Spain)
RT 101 min.
Home Video Blue Underground (DVD)
Classic Horrors rating = 7 (out of 10)
In The Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972), it’s not what the Knights Templar do when they’re dead that’s so horrific; it’s what they do when they’re alive. In a flashback depicting their origins, they restrain a scantily clad woman and take turns riding by her on horses, first whipping her, then cutting her with their swords, as they “sacrifice her to darkness.”
This is the most graphic part of this first chapter in the Blind Dead Trilogy, written and directed by Amando de Ossorio. Their swords realistically slice her torso, particularly above the exposed breast. Then, the Knights gather around her and drink from her bleeding wounds. Interestingly, the close-ups of the aftermath are less realistic than the actual attack.
As resurrected skeleton/zombies, the Knights still like to drink blood from their victims. However, these wounds are inflicted by biting, usually on their necks like the vampires do it. Except for bony hands that seem to have no functionality, especially when opening the concrete lids of their graves, the Knights’ makeup is fantastic under their tattered robes.
The Knights are blind because, when they were living, they were “hung from the trees until the crows ate their eyes.” This was their punishment for the charges of witchcraft and heresy that were found against them in the 14th century. In the 20th century, they reside in the cemetery of a dilapidated abbey in the abandoned medieval town of Berzano.
Into this setting walks Virginia White (Maria Elena Arpon), who hops off a train to escape her old roommate, Betty Turner (Lone Fleming) who’s making moves on her “friend,” Rober Whelan (Cesar Burner). In a flashback to the boarding school that Virginia and Betty attended, we learn that her current jealously may be of Roger rather than Betty. The two women were involved in a lesbian relationship.
At night, the Knights rise. In a genuinely scary and suspenseful scene, Betty tries unsuccessfully to avoid them. They just keep coming, though, and she’s eventually overrun by them, riding on either ghost horses or skeleton/zombie horses that we never see rise from their equestrian graves. The same train from which she jumped passes by and sees her body lying in a field.
It’s a fairly simply story that becomes a little more complicated later with the introduction of additional characters. As Roger and Betty search for the missing Virginia, they seek knowledge about Berzano from Professor Candal (Francisco Sanz), whose son, Pedro (Jose Thelman), the police suspect is responsible. Oh, and meanwhile, Virginia rises from the table in the morgue, which is conveniently located…
…next door to Betty’s mannequin shop. Betty’s not working at that late hour, but her assistant, Nina (Veronica Llimera) has a deadly encounter with Virginia. Betty, with Roger, has instead recruited Pedro to help them investigate Berzano, convincing him that doing so could aid in clearing his name. If any part of the legend is true, I don’t know why they’d go there at night. But if they didn’t, I guess we wouldn’t have much of a movie.
Adding one more level to the story, which I honestly wouldn’t expect, Ossorio makes Pedro a real scumbag. He rapes Betty on top of a Knight’s grave, making us cheer even louder when he inevitably gets what’s coming to him. Soon the fog is pouring out of the ground and gravestones are moving back and forth. Again, the pursuit of our heroes by the Knights is scary and suspenseful.
With all this action, The Tombs of the Blind Dead still moved a little slow for me. I was never restless, but my mind had time to wander. This was nearly forgotten, though, with a terrific conclusion that wraps the story back to its beginning. Perhaps someone makes it out alive, but he/she may have inadvertently released the Knights into the world. The ending is clever, exciting and terrifying.
Today’s passport stamp:Part of the Countdown to Halloween. Tomorrow… more Spain!