Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tombs of the Blind Dead

Whatever you do, don't go to Portugal. The place is crawling with zombies. It's like Haiti, but these guys have swords.

When old friends Virginia and Betty run into each other at the public pool, Virginia's "boyfriend" Roger (César Burner) invites the two along for a weekend at a seaside resort. I'm no advice columnist, but when the guy you're trying to put the make on invites another girl along on your romantic getaway, you may want to think twice about going. It's not too long before Betty (Lone Fleming) and Roger's flirting gets to poor Virginia and she decides to jump ship, so to speak.

Okay, Mussolini never ran Portugal. If he had, maybe this film would have ended differently. But the trains out of Lisbon run slow. Very slow. Slow, like the little trains at Traveltown in Griffith Park. Slow enough for Virginia to safely hop off to her doom.

And to her doom she goes. Well, to Berzano actually, but it's the same thing really. "She doesn't know what she's in for," mumbles the conductor as he watches Virginia (María Elena Arpón) stroll away from the train towards the deserted monastery. No, she doesn't know what she's in for, but it seems everyone else in the neighborhood is. Too bad the locals keep the important info from the tourists.

Berzano is home to a murderous order of ancient Templars, once practitioners of the black arts, now immortal, and thanks to some crows, blind. That doesn't stop them from hunting. No, rotting flesh notwithstanding, they've developed their hearing quite keenly.

And the sound of Virginia's transistor radio awakens them from their slumber.

After much mayhem, after interference from the local cops, and after Virginia's corpse disappears from the morgue, Roger and Betty camp out at Berzano, to investigate. And they're not alone. They've brought along a local smuggler and his coquettish girlfriend, I guess for backup. The two prove a liability in short order.

There's a rape (these are supposed to be the good guys?), a catfight, lots and lots of name calling. And that's all before the Templars return. Now you'd think the Templars would be easy to escape from: They're blind, and they're dead, and they're on horseback. And if you scream too much, and everybody does, they'll find you no matter how dark it is.

Tombs of the Blind Dead is a fun film, mostly, in that early Seventies Euro-horror kind of way. If you can get past the rape scene. (There is, I think, a whole book waiting to be written on the subject of rape in horror films and how that relates to sexism and misogyny in Western culture. But alas, that will have to be written by someone much smarter than myself.) The Blind Dead are pretty neat. Seriously, they're zombies. With swords. How badass is that? And there is some interesting things happening in the morgue, and the set design is pretty cool. Check the scene with all the mannequins. What the hell is that all about? Who cares? They're spooky as all hell, and that's what matters.

Directed by Amando de Ossorio • Unrated • 1971 • 102 minutes

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