In Spain, three young people, Betty, Virginia [who once had a lesbian affair back in school] and Betty’s ‘friend’ Roger take a trip to the countryside. When tension starts to run high Virginia runs away and decides to spend the night in an old monastery. Unfortunately this monastery was once where the evil Knights Templar used to abuse and murder women back in the middle ages. When Virginia doesn’t return home, her friends begin a search for her and discover the Knights Templar are well and truly alive……
This was the first of four films directed in the early 70s by Amando de Ossorio about zombie Templar Knights and if this is anything to go by I’m in for a treat, although I imagine the films are all pretty samey so successive reviews will probably be considerably shorter! This is a really atmospheric, chilling horror movie that should reward patient viewers but I mean it when I say patient viewers! The Blind Dead don’t show up for just over half an hour, and then don’t appear again until the last 20 minutes. For the first 20 minutes we have to suffer through lots of pointless sexual sexual tension between the main protagonists, including a very pretty and nice but irrelevent lesbian flashback, then Virginia wonders around the monastery for what seems like ages. Nonetheless, Ossorio works up some terrific tension in this scene, superbly using the eerie setting and almost lack of noise until you get to the point where every sound makes you jumpy!
Then the dead rise, in probably the best ‘zombies rising from the dead’ sequence I’ve ever seen, even beating the one in Plague Of The Zombies. Great use of very little sound but lots of fog! The Blind Dead are truly chilling menaces, and their partially hidden skeletal features make them unique amongst movie zombies. Accompanied by really freaky music consisting primarily of chanting and moaning, I reckon these would have scared the shit out of me as a kid. I also think some of the scenes of the Black Riders in The Fellowship Of The Ring are strikingly similar-maybe Peter Jackson saw this movie? One thing though, where the hell do their horses come from? Are they zombie horses who have also risen from the dead, or are they already tamed horses just waiting around until their masters wake up?
Between the first and last attacks there’s a great deal of padding, uncluding a really pointless rape scene which I found more uncomfortable than many a more graphic scene because it was so unjustified. Set against that is a really clever suspense sequence set amongst dummies where someone is stalked by one of the Templar’s victims come to life [an especially pointless plot point which is never explained, though isn't that sort of thing part of the fun of these kinds of films?], it’s extremely well staged and reminiscent of Mario Bava with it’s [chiefly red and blue] lighting and setting. This illustrates why this film is so odd. There’s a great deal of unnecessary and sometimes purely exploitative stuff in this movie, but some brilliant things in it too.
There’s little gore at first but it does eventually materialise with arm lopping and the like, and especially nasty is a really Sadean flashback sequence where the Templars tie a woman to a cross, ride around her slashing her with their swords, then drink blood from all the wounds. I do feel though the climax, with the Templars attacking a train, was disappointing and almost half hearted, you don’t really see anything so maybe the budget ran out? Still, despite some weak points and may I say some pretty shoddy acting, I found Tombs Of The Blind Dead a pretty interesting watch and there are bits and pices that will stay with me far longer than things in much better made movies.