JULY 14, 2011
As I mentioned in my review for Ghost Galleon, I thought I had already seen Tombs Of The Blind Dead (Spanish: La Noche Del Terror Ciego), only to discover I had it confused with two others (my brain is now combining movies, awesome). And thus, despite pissing off most of the known world this week with their price hike, I’m glad Netflix had the film in its uncut, original language form on their streaming service, so I can start to right the wrongs.
A lot of folks told me that Ghost Galleon was pretty weak compared to this, but no one mentioned how similar the two movies are. Once again the plot concerns some folks looking for their friend, a girl who went off alone and was (slowly) killed by the Knights Templar, and once again it’s painfully slow. Hell there’s even another rape scene and other things that I guess were “shout outs” to the original in Galleon. Again, this is why you watch film series in order; the surprises were spoiled by an inferior film, and some of what I liked about Galleon were actually just copied from this movie.
But on the other hand, seeing that one allowed me to appreciate this one a bit more than I might have had I not already had some experience with this particular series. Again, it’s slow (maybe even slower than Galleon), but it’s also far less nonsensical – the characters largely act like human beings instead of falling asleep every five minutes, and there aren’t any out of nowhere plot turns. And it’s very well made; no terrible models and laughable continuity blunders here. Coupled with the transfer (I assume it’s from the Blue Underground disc), this is actually one of the best looking Spanish horror films I’ve seen from the period. Points off for the subtitles though – plain white, no border or drop shadow – very hard to read at times, especially as a good chunk of the film takes place in the daylight. No complaints on the actual titling though; it seems they were actually going with the real text instead of dumbing it down.
The subs also forced me to pay attention, something that might not have happened with a dub track, as the pacing is a nearly critical flaw at times. If I were to provide a synopsis, it might sound pretty exciting, but some areas are stretched out for far too long while others are rushed. When the girl jumps off the train and makes her way to the castle, it seems like we watch her entire journey in real time, and even after she’s inside it takes a lot of wandering before she gets offed. But after she dies, some of the scenes seem like they’re on overdrive, and we keep meeting new characters who ultimately serve no purpose because they don’t join the girl’s friends when they return to the castle to see if they can figure out what happened to her. I mean, when there’s only a half hour left of the 101 minute movie, we shouldn’t still be meeting new characters, period, let alone ones that aren’t even going to be important. I want all of these folks to meet up with some Knights Templar!
There are also two sexualized scenes that are both unnecessary and awkwardly placed. One is a flashback to how the Knights were “born” (involving whipping a naked woman and then drinking her blood), and that’s fine, but it comes at the halfway point of the movie, which is a bit jarring. And the rape scene is wholly pointless; even for this movie it just slows down the climax (it occurs 20 minutes before the end of the film, and that includes the end credits) and doesn’t really serve much of a purpose – we know the guy’s an asshole already and most likely a goner, why beat it into our heads this much? Apparently the US version cut these (and other) scenes; I gotta admit, I think they made the right call in this particular instance (they also moved the flashback to the beginning of the movie, which spoils the mystery a bit too soon but at least doesn’t harm the pace, in theory).
Another thing about that US version is more fascinating than anything on screen: it was reworked as a pseudo-sequel to Planet of the Apes! There was some editing and then a new (narrated) intro in which we are told that eventually man overthrew the apes, but the apes vowed to return from the grave. So in that version, the Knights Templar are supposed to be zombie apes. Amazing. Oddly enough, it seemed to me that the film was directly influenced by another 1968 genre classic: Night of the Living Dead. Keep in mind, pre-NOTLD there wasn’t much about undead flesh eating monsters, and that’s exactly what our slow-moving horde does here. The end of the film also recalls NOTLD, showing some still photos over source audio.
But what really made it work for me were the little moments. There’s a bit where our hero tells the heroine and the boat captain “if I’m not back in an hour, call the cops.” The captain waits until the guy is out of earshot and then says “We’re leaving in a half hour!” – what a dick! Love it. I was also endlessly charmed by the transition at the top of the film, when a girl at the back of a smoky train has a flashback to a lesbian experience in college (hey-o!). For whatever reason, director Amando de Ossorio took the time to set up a fog machine inside the girl’s room, so that the white smoke billowing around the train would also be seen in her bedroom, making it easier to cut back and forth I guess. Amazing. And any movie that more or less ends with a woman being eaten in front of her kid is automatically a success in my book.
In addition to the three sequels, there have been a few spinoffs and ripoffs over the years, but never a true remake, which I think might be a good idea. The concept is cool and there’s a lot of room for improvement (as long as they don’t CGI the Knights!), plus it’s a great title, which half the time is all these remake producers are going by anyway. Something to think about, Hollywood!
What say you?