‘Tombs of the Blind Dead’ is the first instalment of Amando de Ossorio’s four part blind dead saga. Considered as a classic and hailed by many as an equal rival to the zombie genre as Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’. That of course is a matter of opinion, however what most people will agree on is that de Ossorio has delivered unto us (and carefully re-mastered by Blue Underground R1/Anchor Bay R2) is a very ‘artful’ addition into the zombie genre.
Now those under the delusion that this is another scenario where the dead are reanimated only to bumble around and attempt to eat the nearest victim have your misconceptions cleared, it is not. I must point out, there is nothing wrong with that scenario, but it does not have a place in this film. What de Ossorio has created are some of the most sinister and dark looking living dead I have ever seen.
The plot is not too strong, but no weaker than what we have got used too from the zombie genre. In this case the ‘zombies’ are reanimated Templar Knights (horses and all) who in their lives sought to obtain eternal life by messing with the occult, including ritual sacrifice and cannibalism. It would seem that it worked, in a fashion. The blind part of the title comes from the fact that when the knight’s secret allegiance to the occult was discovered they were hung and left to have their eyes removed by ravens. The story is set in modern days where the ruinous citadel of the Knight’s remained and is avoided by all locals for fear of the templar myth. The dead stay dead until one unfortunate victim jumps train and decides to camp out in the nearest shelter. Guess where that is?
As I have said this is not a film in which the dead go on a feeding frenzy and as a result the gore and violence are not very strong at all, although there is the infamous breast slash/eating scene (although this is cut from the R2 release I believe) and much of the film is set away from the citadel and little is seen of the zombies by comparison to other titles. The pace at times is slightly slow, but to be honest it does feel as if it adds to the atmosphere more than gets boring. Again this is going to be a matter of opinion.
So then why do I like it so much? Well probably because what this film does have plenty of is a keen eye for style. The locations, especially the citadel are really creepy looking and the Knight’s look absolutely awesome. The make up is really effective and rather than looking stupid and goofy the costumes make the creatures look very cold, sinister and evil in a skeletal type of way. The slow motion movement of the mounted nights gives them a realistic ethereal, otherworldly look. The characters and dialog have the typical ‘euro’ approach to life, something that really appeals to me in films. The girls are all pretty and pretty stupid, good job there’s a macho man present to keep them alive ;). Of course there is the silly element of such films that no matter what the peril or situation there’s always time for a bit of sleaze, in this case a rape scene in none other than the graveyard of the Templar’s Citadel! The final scenes are fantastic and the ending is very apt.
Overall it’s going to be a love or loathe film. It’s definitely not a film for casual viewers and the slightly slow pace may even put some fans of the genre off. Now I’m not going to rant on about how you have to be really intelligent to get this film, but if you enjoy films for things other than plot, gore and tits then you will probably find plenty to analyse within this film as it’s a fine example of ‘euro-horror’ cinema, especially when compared to its American counterparts.