aka The Blind Dead; Night of the Blind Dead
(La Noche del Terror Ciego)
Director/Screenplay – Amando De Ossorio, Producer – Jose Antonio Perez Giner, Photography – Pablo Ripoll, Music – Anton Garcia Abril, Production Design – Jaime Duarte De Brito. Production Company – Plata Films S.A./Interfilme
Lone Fleming (Betty Turner), Elena Arpon (Virginia White), Cesar Bruner (Roger Wholen), Joseph Thelman (Pedro Cantal), Maria Silva (Maria), Rufino Ingles (Officer Olivera), Simon Arriaga (Morgue Attendant), Francisco Sanz (Professor Cantal), Veronica Llimera (Nina)
Virginia White meets her old school friend and former lesbian lover Betty Turner at a swimming pool. Betty’s friend Roger Wholen invites Virginia to join them on a train journey away for a weekend. Virginia becomes irritated as both Betty and Roger make moves on her and jumps off the train in the middle of nowhere. She seeks refuge in the ruins of the monastery of Berzano. That night, hooded zombies rise from their tombs and pursue and kill her. Returning in search of her, Betty and Roger discover that the monastery of Berzano is haunted by the undead zombies of an order of Templar Knights who made a Satanic pact for immortality, something that requires them to regularly ingest human blood.
Spanish director Amando De Ossorio emerged in the early 1960s making various continental Westerns. He had entered the horror genre a few years earlier with the unremarkable vampire film Malenka/Fangs of the Living Dead (1968). However, it was with Tombs of the Blind Dead that Amando De Ossorio carved a reputation for himself. The undead Knights Templar became his trademark and De Ossorio would go onto make a number of other Blind Dead films plus several other works in the horror genre (see below for Amando de Ossorio’s other films).
Tombs of the Blind Dead was almost certainly influenced by the cult success of George Romero’s zombie film Night of the Living Dead (1969). As a film, Tombs of the Blind Dead is slim on plot – Elena Arpon’s reasons for getting off the train are highly contrived, for instance. However, Amando De Ossorio soon develops a remarkable atmosphere. The images of the rotting Templars rising from their graves, the slow-motion horse chase, the images of skeletal hands coming through walls and doors, all accompanied by a sepulchral, incredibly atmospheric score, comes with unearthly effect.
The climax of the film is superbly sustained – with a gripping scene where Lone Fleming manages to avoid the blind zombie Templars all around her by staying still and being quiet but they then managing to hear her amplified heartbeat, and a seat-edge slow motion chase across the open field to get to the passing train. The subsequent bloodbath aboard the train, which tries to copy Night of the Living Dead, is disappointingly bloodless.
There is a certain undertow of sadism against women in the film – in one scene, a topless women is tied up and whipped to death. On the other hand, compared to Amando De Ossorio’s countryman Jesus Franco’s extraordinarily sadistic output, Tombs of the Blind Dead is a model of chastity (something that De Ossorio certainly left behind in later films). The female leads remain clothed – when Elena Arpon undresses all we see is her bare butt and bra. There is a lesbian love scene but it is an enchantingly poetic one where the girls remained clothed and the steam and sounds of the train from where the flashback is occurring intrude into the scene with appealingly surreal effect.
The other Blind Dead films are:– Attack of the Blind Dead/Return of the Blind Dead/Return of the Evil Dead (1973), The Ghost Galleon (1974) and Night of the Seagulls (1975). Most of these hide under a variety of alternate titles and video versions so obtaining an accurate listing or even an accurate chronology can prove confusing. The series was revived with the Italian-made Curse of the Blind Dead (2020). Mansion of the Living Dead (1985) was a loose uncredited remake directed by Jess Franco.
Outside of the Blind Dead series, Amando De Ossorio’s other horror films are:- Malenka/Fangs of the Living Dead (1969), The Loreley’s Grasp/When the Screaming Stops (1973), Night of the Sorcerers (1974), Demon Witch Child (1975) and The Sea Serpent (1984).