The first of Amando de Ossorio's Blind Dead series is effectively creepy and well directed, but poorly written. Blue Underground R1 DVD.
Old school friends Virginia and Bette bump into each other on a beach, Virginia introduces her friend Roger
and he suggests that the trio take a trip into the countryside for the
weekend. On board the train, passions flare between Roger and Betty,
and Virginia decides to jump off - she finds herself in the
abandoned medieval town of Berzano, but after settling down for the
night finds herself persued by undead knights who rise from their
tombs. At their destination, Bette and Roger become concerned about
Virginia and after heading of the legends surrounding Berzano, they
head to the town, only to find their friend dead. However, when a
friendly professor's son is accused of the murders, they return to the
town to find out just who killed Virginia...
Written and directed by Amando de Ossorio, Tombs of the Blind Dead
exists in the awkward space between art-house and exploitation
cinema. From the opening, the ongoing conflict between de Ossorio
(who wanted to make a sophisticated horror film) and his producers (who
felt that sex and blood would sell best) can be seen - an unnecessary
flashback to a lesbian encounter between Virginia and Bette serves no
purpose to the plot but is very effectively directed none-the-less,
with the sounds of the train continuing behind and even some smoke
wafting across the screen. The exploitation themes continue to plague
the script throughout, with some gratuitously illustrated violence, a
completely unnecessary rape scene, and a short sequence straight out of
a zombie film (a very unsubtle reference to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead
(1968) that inspired this film),
that makes no sense at all to the plot. The storyline around the
Professor's son is rather poorly written - the police seemingly
suspecting him of killing loads of innocent people, and yet doing
nothing to try and arrest him (or indeed explain why a smuggler would
bite someone to death). The background to the Knights (note:
they are not identified as Templar Knights in the Spanish cut of the
interesting, if rather brief (not explaining their non-virginal blood
lust, or night-time only appearances), and their rituals seem rather
On the plus side, characterisation is stronger than many films in the
genre (if rather cliché) and in one clever scene, bordering
on self-parody, Bette's workshop is illuminated by a flashing red light
(in reference to the Mario Bava school) which she explains away as the
result of a neon light testing centre upstairs. The film's climax and
ending are suitalby effective and fit well with the tone of the film. Fortunately,
the film does have some tense and scary sequences, thanks to strong
direction by de Ossorio, and a highly effective soundtrack. After
jumping from the train, Virginia spends almost 10 minutes exploring the
ruined town in complete silence, with just the sounds of the wind and
creepy music to help build tension - this very slow paced scene stands
as contrast to many of the more action packed horror films of the day.
The rising of the Knights is a particularly effective sequence, and
ranks as one of the best "undead rising from the tomb" scenes ever
filmed (to the extent that the same shots were used again in 2 of this
film's sequels, and "borrowed" in several other films) - and towards
the film's climax, as the Knights rise again, we get more similarly
effective scenes. The Knights themselves have a horrifying skeletal
appearance, very distinct to the more humanoid 'zombies' of the George
Romero film canon, and are shown in slow motion that gives them an unearthly
feel. Antón García Abril (who also scored Paul
Naschy's Werewolf Shadow
(1971)) gives this film a strong theme with demonic chanting set to
strangely atonal electronic music, although the lounge music used in
several other scenes is rather generic.
of the big names in cult cinema are here, and the standard of acting is
generally poor. María Elena Arpón as the short-lived
Virginia gives the best performance, while Lone Fleming and Bette and
César Burner and Roger give decent but rather unimpressive
turns. Francisco Sanz (recognisable from a variety of Spaghetti
Westerns, including Django Kill (1967)) gives a brief but effective turn as the Professor. 1971 was a good year for Spanish horror, with Paul Naschy's daft but entertaining Werewolf Shadow (1971) finding sucess across Europe and beyond. In comparison, Tombs of the Blind Dead
should have been a much better film, boasting a strong soundtrack,
effective direction and some geniunely scary scenes - however it is let
down by a rather poor script and some crudely inserted exploitation
elements (rather more subtly included in Werewolf Shadow)
and is generally less entertaining than the Paul Naschy film. However,
it was financially sucessful, and lead to a trio of sequels, and
inspired a variety of similar productions, most notioriously Jess
Franco's sex fueled Mansion of the Living Dead (1982). Partly recommended to euro-cult/horror fans in general, Tombs of the Blind Dead
is the second best film in the franchise (behind its sequel) and a must
see film for fans of Spanish horror, if only to see the missed
Anyone famous in it?
No-one of note.
Directed by anyone interesting?
de Ossorio - a lesser known Spanish director who shot all four official
Blind Dead films, as well as a variety of even more obscure horror
Is it scary?
are a number of atmospheric scenes that might prove scary.
Some very bloody deaths.
Some mild nudity in two rather vivid rape and torture scenes (still cut in the UK)
Who is it for?
Spanish horror fans will certainly want to see this, and it is partly recommended to all euro-horror fans.
A decent track, with a very good title theme from Werewolf Shadow (1971) composer Antón García Abril.
Werewolf Shadow (1971) - an enjoyable Paul Naschy horror released at the same time as Tombs.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour The
print is decent with good colours and minimal grain/print damage -
although some scenes are very dark and there is a general blurr and
some flickering on many moving shots.
Original Spanish audio - sounds fine.
English - translates the Spanish track and reads well. The text is yellow.
The disc includes:
Original American theatrical version of the film. Under the title The Blind Dead,
this print runs several minutes shorter, and has some noticable edits
(some of them superior to those used in the Spanish print). The print
is much grainier, although the audio (a decent English dub) sounds
Alternate Opening Sequence - titled Revenge from Planet Ape,
this is a short voice-over prologue added by one distributor to US
prints of the film attempts to daftly promote this film as a sequel to Planet of the Apes. Very interesting.
Original US theatrical trailer. Good condition.
A detailed poster and stills gallery. Manual scrolling.
as a single disc as detailed here, or the same disc is available as
part of the Blind Dead Collection boxset, along with a bonus disc and
Region 1 (USA, North America) - NTSC
Anchor Bay UK release contains the Spanish print of the film plus the
trailer/alternate opening, but is cut by 16 seconds - (two shots
of nudity during the rape and torture scenes).
film is believed to be uncut. The print used is Spanish language.
A well produced, but
rather poorly scripted film. Often effectively scary, but not as
entertaining as many other euro-horror entries,
good looking DVD with some interesting extra features (more substantial
extras are included in the boxset). Probably the best DVD release of
the film to date.