“Tombs of the Blind Dead” (1971)
Starring: María Elena Arpón, César Burner, Lone Fleming
Directed by: Amando de Ossorio
Running Time: 101 min.
Synopsis: When a young woman stumbles on an abandoned town to camp for the night, The Knights Templar rise from the grave and seek the blood from the living.
This masterpiece of horror directed by Amando de Ossorio is an eerie tale with great creepy atmosphere and some the most frightening scenes ever to come out of a horror film. Three years after Night of the Living Dead, the Spanish hit the screens with their own undead film that takes a different route to the zombie genre.
The film starts off with a couple (Roger and Virginia) in Spain. They meet up with a young woman who happens to be an old school friend (Bettie) of Virginia’s. Roger invites Bettie along with them on trip through the countryside by train. Virginia regrets inviting her due to the fact that Roger is attractive to Bettie and at one time Virginia and Bettie had an affair during their school days. She becomes upset with the two and jumps off the train. The conductor refuses to stop, because the place they are passing is cursed.
Virginia ends up in a small abandoned town where she sets up camp for the night. Little does she know what kind of horror lies in the graves of this forsaken place. As night falls, the tombs of the blind dead open and seek the blood of the young woman. She is awakened in terror from the walking dead. Dressed in hooded robes and skeletal remains riding horseback, the blind dead pursue Virginia. She tries to escape their clutches but is unsuccessful and she meets her frightening fate.
The next morning, Virginia’s body is found in a field close to the town. Roger and Bettie try to make sense of it all and find her killer. Locals around tell them that the town was cursed and they learn about the legend of the Knights Templar, where centuries ago they would sacrifice virgin women and drink their blood. Eventually, they were punished and killed for their crimes and their bodies were hung from trees where birds pecked their eyes out.
I first saw this film back in the 90’s and recently bought it on DVD. It’s an excellent film and a must-watch. There are three other blind dead films, I’ve only seen the first one and the third, Horror of the Zombies, which I saw before Tombs in the late 80’s on Commander USA.
The film has so many great moments. The atmosphere alone just captures you into its haunting world. The film has a style of the old classic horror films and the feel of European movies of the 70’s. It’s a great ghost tale of a place that is forbidden. No one will stop there no matter what. Town folk talk about the legend of the Templar and warn people to stay away.
There’s an awesome scene where Virginia comes back from the dead and goes to a mannequin factory (owned by Bettie) and attacks a girl working there. Some great scenes where she almost blends in with the mannequins, a Bava-like zoom moment, and the stylish look of everything in that part as she chases the girl through the factory, just a good scary scene.
Others that stand out are the creepy assistant in the morgue. He’s got this shit-eating grin on his face and he likes to play with a frog he has in a fish bowl. He eventually meets his end when Virginia feasts on him when she comes back to the dead. The lesbian flashback scene with Virginia and Bettie is good. Very tame but still very good, it kind of has a soft focus look to it and since the two are remembering this from the train, the steam from the train carries on to the flashback scene. And any scene with the blind dead is the highlight of the film. To the history of them, to them rising from the grave and attacking the living, all very scary stuff here.
If you get the DVD, there are two different versions of the film, one American and one international. Watch the international one. The American one cuts out all nudity and some gore and even cuts a good twenty minutes out of the original. They even change around the order of the film. In the American version, the sacrifice scene from the Knights Templar is shown in the beginning instead in the middle of the film. There’s also a trailer to the film under the name Revenge From Planet Ape. I guess some distributor tried to cash in on the Planet of the Apes series by trying to say the blind dead were actually apes at one time, ridiculous.
A classic horror film all around and a very scary eerie movie that’s a must-see. Tombs of the Blind Dead will always be a stylish, frightening masterpiece.