Film Review: Tomb of the Blind Dead (1971)

SYNOPSIS:

In the 13th century, evil knights known as the Templars — who sought eternal life by drinking human blood — were executed and left exposed so that birds could peck out their eyes. But when a group of people in 1970s Portugal stumble on the knights’ abandoned monastery, they unleash their rotting corpses to terrorize the land. This chilling film is the first installment of writer-director Amando de Ossorio’s four-part horror masterpiece.

REVIEW:

La Noche del terror ciego (original Spanish title)
“It will be safe if you don’t make a sound.”
~Roger

Growing up I would sneak upstairs and turn on the TV very low so my parents couldn’t hear and watch the late night horror movies that were so easy to find in those pre-cable days. For years I was haunted by an image of a woman being chased by slow moving skeletons on horseback. I wasn’t sure if my young mind had made this up or dreamt it but for years I tried to find the movie, what could it be?

Thankfully I found a movie book in the library about horror movies from all over the world and one of the pictures showed a skeleton on horseback. It look me a while to find the title at a video store that is long out of business and I rented it. “Tombs of the Blind Dead” was the name of the little gem I had been dreaming about. I found the image that had burned itself into my young brain: a woman running for her life (well she was riding for her life really) from skeletons on horseback all in slow motion. It was love at second sight.

Amando De Ossorio’s “Tomb of the Blind Dead” is by no means a great movie but it has a lot of things going for it. The villains are memorable; Templar Knights who have been in league with the devil come back from their graves even after being burned at the stake and having their eyes pecked out by birds. The Templars can hear their prey and ride their horses nightly near the ruins of their monastery to hunt them down. The Knights are only bony remains of themselves, eyeless and with very little movement. One victim breaks off the fingers of the Knight that is trying to holding her but still they just keep coming, relentless and deadly. For once the lack of expressions on a creature works to the benefit of the scariness. The makeup has its limitations and sometimes it is very easy to figure out why the Knights look the way they do, but it works more often than not. Zombies with no eyes have always been scary to me.

The Templars can’t be reasoned with, they can’t even see you, but they know you are there. Some of the nighttime scenes are filmed day for night, but with the charms of “Tombs” it is easy to overlook the issues. The climax of the film is non-stop attacks by the Templars on the rest of the cast with swords, claws and teeth. The ending of the film is surprising, very downbeat and you may find it hard to shake off (not bad for a low budget Spanish movie).

First of all what worked for me:
– The creepy location of the monastery
– The Templars rising from the grave. Lots of atmosphere. Very chilling. Very slow, with mist raising in the air as the gravestones crumple to the ground.
– The Templars. There is nothing human in those eyeless, expressionless faces. The wind blowing the hair still growing from what is left of their faces.
– The chase scene on horseback. The image is still burned in my head. – – The sound of the hoofs echoing in the stillness of the night.

What doesn’t work for me:
– The raping of the heroine. No reason at all for it. Aren’t the Templars enough horror for this movie?
– The lesbian flashback. What did this flashback add to the story? It isn’t even fun to watch.
– The overused sudden cut to a Templar with the soundtrack blaring is a little trying when it is repeated over and over again.
– The hero who does nothing heroic and dies quickly.

There are three more of the series of Blind Dead movies, this one being the best. “Tombs of the Blind Dead is a Eurotrash horror movie that could teach some current horror films how to do it right. This film is best watched late at night alone. I know I will be watching it again late into the night with some popcorn. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5. It is released by Anchor Bay (and you can but it with the second of the Blind Dead movies included “Return of the Blind Dead) and you can find it on Amazon.com.

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One Response to Film Review: Tomb of the Blind Dead (1971)

  1. Cathleen says:

    Wow! just Wow! I also found horror movies in the 1970″s and they were my favorite ones to watch. I always found one to watch every week, and most nights. It’s cool how it turns out there are quite a lot of us watching this back in the day and are still looking for them and enjoying them now. They are classic. I’m glad I decided to google ‘Movie with skeletons on horse back riding in slow motion’ that image has stayed with me all these years also. I don’t remember the entire movie and the details you give are quite excellent. I was not aware of the entire plot. Thanks. Will now have to watch this again. Very happy I found the title.

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