Friday, 10 May 2013

Review - Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972 - Dir. Amando de Ossorio)

This is a film that has been on my 'to watch' list for ages. The promise of hooded skeletal zombies charging about on horseback through fog filled ruins, all in glorious slow motion filled me with a palpable sense of anticipation. Surely this is an idea that can't go wrong...

Betty (Lone Fleming) is on a train trip with her 'just good friend' Roger (Roger by name...). They meet one of Betty's childhood friends, who just so happened to have had a lesbian fling with her, and Roger's trousers start to automatically unzip themselves in true Lupin style. Betty, not too happy with Roger's leering ways, decides to jump off the train and camp out in a creepy ruined temple where the evil Templar knights are buried.

The stars of this film are the zombies, funnily enough. They live up to their initial promise and are possibly the only reason why I would bother watching the other three films in the series. I never tired of them hunting down their prey and having a dainty nibble. Why there isn't a separate zombie-skeleton genre I don't know. Although it looks like Peter Jackson did a certain amount of homaging in Lord of the Rings

Tombs of the Blind Dead has that peculiar affliction of horror films where the behaviour of the characters can only be described as 'clinically mental'. When Betty finds that she is alone in the ruins. She takes off her hot pants, puts on her nightwear and hops into her sleeping bag. She relaxes with some music and a little read of her book. It's as if she's in a posh hotel for the night. Then she hears some strange noises. The hot pants go back on and she's ready for action. 

In true exploitation fashion, there is a completely unnecessary rape of the aforementioned lesbian by a moustachioed fellow. To make up for his wrongdoing he offers her a smoke. He's a true gentleman.

Again in true exploitation fashion, we are treated to a scene where a young woman (probably a witch, no doubt) is tied up and attacked by two knights on horseback. At first their sword swipes are pathetic. Barely tickling her, with not a hint of blood in sight. But the scene keeps going. And building. By the end there are some really nasty gashes on her stomach and other sensitive areas. 

Although it's not the goriest of zombie outings by a long stretch, there is just enough to keep the attention. There is an arm lopping (fair enough), an effective burning sequence and a climactic scene where a child gets covered in her mother's blood as the Templar's attack her. This is lingered on for a fair while and is not the most pleasant of things. From what I've heard though, the second instalment, Return of the Evil Dead, is a bit more on the bloody side.

I'm glad I've finally seen this due to some great atmospheric shots. But despite being pretty professionally shot, something seems to be lacking. Possibly a story. As the film drew to a close there was a definite sense that not much had really happened and that the Templars had a lot more to offer in terms of gory fun. I'm still in two minds as to whether to carry on with this series. We'll see... (And yes, that final image is from the film, despite looking as though it's crept in from a Mario Bava giallo.)

(Average rating for the season so far = 5.7)

If you like this you could also try:
Burial Ground: Nights of Terror, Return of the Evil Dead.


  1. I'll tell you right now, if you weren't sold on the first one, don't bother with the rest, since the first one is by FAR the best in the series.

    If you thought this one had no story...

    I should mention, that all of the films feature women having their shirts torn off and having a booby sliced. I think.

    1. That's made my mind up then. I won't bother. There are plenty of other zombie goods out there. Thanks for the warning.

      The booby slicing seems to be a theme common to quite a few of these European zombie films from this era...